LA Mayor Garcetti Urges SBC Transportation Heads To Not Abandon Gold Line & Push For Funding Now

In what is likely to be his last public appeal on the matter, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Tuesday, July 12 called upon San Bernardino County’s transportation officials to embrace extending the light rail passenger Gold Line to Montclair.
The Metrolink train that runs between San Bernardino and Union Station and vice versa is the only rail commuter option between Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties that currently exists. The track for diesel-powered Metrolink, however is shared with cargo trains, and it does not have frequent departures or arrivals, with the shortest time between departures running 45 to 50 minutes at certain times of the day and as much as an hour-and-a-half at other times.
Consequently, Metrolink is not heavily used and it does little or nothing to alleviate heavy traffic on the freeways into and out of Los Angeles on a daily basis.
The Gold Line, which runs on a separate track dedicated to passenger transport alone from Downtown Los Angeles to Azusa, uses lighter cars and more fuel-efficient engines, with staggered departures and arrivals of as little as every eight minutes. The Gold Line is thus heavily used, with its cars nearing capacity on virtually every run.
The Los Angeles County-based Gold Line Construction Authority right now is in the first stages toward a nine-mile, $806 million extension of the light rail line from Azusa to northern Pomona, such that at present work on the leg between Azusa and Glendora is under way.
The track will reach Pomona by late 2025. Thereafter, the line was previously slated to be extended another 3.3 miles from Pomona through Claremont to Montclair at that city’s existing Montclair Transit Center. From there, the  intention had been to extend it from Montclair to Ontario Airport. According to the Gold Line Construction Authority, the extension of the line from north Pomona to Claremont will entail a cost of $450 million. Previously, the Gold Line Construction Authority in conjunction with the San Bernardino County Transportation Agency, when it was previously known as San Bernardino Associated Governments (SANBAG), intended to continue the line from Claremont to Montclair, and then from Montclair to Ontario Airport. SANBAG had accordingly dedicated $39 million in available transportation money toward the Gold Line project, and did a joint application with the Los Angeles Metro Transit Agency for a State of California Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program grant. That application was successful and it brought in $250 million on the Los Angeles County side, which made a significant but not complete inroad on the $850 funding deficit that jurisdiction had, and provided another $41 million of the then-projected $80 million cost for the San Bernardino County portion of the projected expense on the eastern side of the Los Angeles County/San Bernardino County border in terms of getting the line to Montclair.
Subsequently, however, when the project went out to bid, it turned out the cost of building the line from Claremont to Montclair would not contain itself to an earlier $73 million projection or the later $80 million estimate, but had escalated to $96 million.
In reaction to that projected cost overrun, San Bernardino County Transportation Authority Executive Director Ray Wolfe convinced a majority of the San Bernardino County Transportation Agency board in the fall of 2019 to pull the plug on San Bernardino County’s portion of the Gold Line funding. On October 10, 2019 the San Bernardino County Transportation Agency’s transit subcommittee, composed of representatives from the cities of Big Bear Lake, Chino Hills, Colton, Fontana, Highland, Montclair, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, Rialto, Yucaipa and the Third Supervisorial District, endorsed Wolfe’s proposal to dispense with constructing the new Gold Line track into San Bernardino County altogether and to instead have Gold Line passengers heading eastward from Los Angeles or the San Gabriel Valley load onto another train at the Claremont Station which will run on the existing MetroLink track. Only the representatives from Ontario, Montclair and Chino Hills dissented in that 8-to-3 vote.
San Bernardino County transportation officials declared their intention to return the $41 million State of California Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program grant that had been freed up to allow the county to overcome the gap between the $39 million in available revenue from the half-cent sales tax collected throughout San Bernardino County for transportation improvements for completing the Gold Line extension from Claremont to Montclair and the earlier projected cost of the 1.2-mile extension.
Garcetti, who is convinced that the Gold Line represents a far more viable and comprehensive intercounty transportation system that provides the most realistic means of reducing vehicular traffic on the 210, !-10 and 60 Freeways, said regional transportation planners, including those in San Bernardino County should not give up on the Gold Line option.
Garcetti was recently appointed by President Joseph Biden to serve as ambassador to India, and will be stepping down as mayor upon his confirmation by the Senate to the diplomatic posting.
In the meantime, he said, he is going to meet with Governor Gavin Newsom in an effort to free up state money to cover the cost of completing the Gold Line, ultimately, at the least, to Ontario Airport.
That will augment a letter to the California Budget Committee from 14 state lawmakers from the San Gabriel Valley and western San Bernardino County, co-signed by multiple municipal officials, seeking an additional $540 million from the state’s surplus to hasten the completion of the 12.3 mile extension of the line now under construction from Azusa to Pomona, and push on with extending the line to Montclair.
Garcetti said now is the time to press the state, which is functioning with a $75 billion surplus, to come across with the money to complete the entire Gold Line undertaking.
-Mark Gutglueck

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