Light rail to Pomona ‘halfway there’ but proponents of extension to Claremont, Montclair ‘living on a prayer’

Construction of the L Line (former Gold Line) light-rail extension from Glendora to Pomona is 50% finished, a milestone celebrated by dozens of supporters Friday in San Dimas.

The 31-mile-long train line, extending from Azusa to East Los Angeles via Pasadena and Downtown L.A., will add the 9.1-mile extension to Pomona starting in January 2025, making it 40.1 miles long, the longest operating light-rail line in the LA Metro system.

Construction continues at the San Dimas Gold Line (L-Line) overpass, seen here during an event celebrating 50 percent completion of the Gold Line light rail (L-Line) extension project in San Dimas on Friday, June 17, 2022. The project, which started in 2020 during the pandemic, extends the light-rail system into Glendora, La Verne, San Dimas and Pomona. (Photo by Trevor Stamp, Contributing Photographer)

Construction continues at the San Dimas Gold Line (L-Line) overpass, seen here during an event celebrating 50 percent completion of the Gold Line light rail (L-Line) extension project in San Dimas on Friday, June 17, 2022. The project, which started in 2020 during the pandemic, extends the light-rail system into Glendora, La Verne, San Dimas and Pomona. (Photo by Trevor Stamp, Contributing Photographer)

Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority CEO Habib Balian, speaks during an event celebrating 50 percent completion of the Gold Line light rail (L-Line) extension project in San Dimas on Friday, June 17, 2022. The project, which started in 2020 during the pandemic, extends the light-rail system into Glendora, La Verne, San Dimas and Pomona. (Photo by Trevor Stamp, Contributing Photographer)

Los Angeles County Supervisor, Kathryn Barger, speaks during an event celebrating 50 percent completion of the Gold Line light rail (L-Line) extension project in San Dimas on Friday, June 17, 2022. The project, which started in 2020 during the pandemic, extends the light-rail system into Glendora, La Verne, San Dimas and Pomona. (Photo by Trevor Stamp, Contributing Photographer)

Los Angeles County Supervisor, Hilda Solis, speaks during an event celebrating 50 percent completion of the Gold Line light rail (L-Line) extension project in San Dimas on Friday, June 17, 2022. The project, which started in 2020 during the pandemic, extends the light-rail system into Glendora, La Verne, San Dimas and Pomona. (Photo by Trevor Stamp, Contributing Photographer)

Show Caption of

Expand

Built entirely during the pandemic, getting to half-way complete was an achievement not lost on Habib Balian, chief executive officer of the Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority. “The worldwide pandemic is not going to stop this train,” he said during his remarks before about 150 people.

The extension will have four new stations in Glendora, La Verne, San Dimas and Pomona, and 21 at-grade crossings, plus 19 new or renovated bridges — including a new concrete bridge in San Dimas that served as the backdrop for Friday’s proceedings.

Gold Line Foothill Extension approved to Pomona. To get to Claremont and Montclair, more funding is needed. State lawmakers who urged the governor and the state budget committees to fund the extension using state surplus dollars were disappointed on Sept. 9, 2021 when no bill was passed. But they will try again in 2022 when another state surplus emerges. Ed Reece of Claremont just took the helm as chairman of the Gold Line Construction Authority. His city, along with Montclair and the Construction Authority, sent letters in February 2022 to the governor and state lawmakers to ask for funding to complete the last leg and reach into San Bernardino County. (courtesy Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority).

As more than a dozen supporters from cities, Sacramento and Washington D.C. praised the project, many also spoke optimistically about adding a 3.1-mile Pomona-to-Montclair section that would be the first L.A. County light-rail line to reach across the San Bernardino County line, into Montclair.

That portion — once included in building plans — has fallen away without funding and is no longer in the builder’s contract. It will need a fund transfer from the state of about $748 million to resurrect it, plus either a new contract or an extension of the existing one.

While Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a $98 billion budget surplus last month including about $5 billion for transit projects, the hopes at LA Metro or the Construction Authority to tap the surplus for the Pomona-to-Montclair line remained as murky Friday as the weather.

After speeches and pep talks, a Bon Jovi song reflected the progress and also the fading hope that the twin cities of Claremont and Montclair will get the light-rail train. Heard from the loud speakers was: “Woah, we’re half way there. Woah, livin’ on a prayer.”

Last year, the chance of gaining funding from the state slipped through the fingers of the San Gabriel Valley caucus, who said budget negotiators could not agree on funding for the statewide High Speed Rail — and that sunk any hope of moving funding to local rail projects.

On Friday, it was not a prayer, but a dream that Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, referenced when talking about ever seeing the train pull into Montclair. “I got to bed at night and wake up in the morning with $748 million on my mind,” he told the crowd.

The bad news came in 2019 when the Claremont work ballooned in price, he said. The San Bernardino County Transportation Authority has set aside about $90 million to take it about one mile into the Montclair TransCenter, a transit hub equipped to handle the train.

Acting like a football coach declaring a Super Bowl win, he said to thunderous applause: “I guarantee we will get that $748 million to finish this project to Montclair.”

Why is an LA-based light-rail trolley connecting with the Inland Empire so important?

The numbers released by an LA Metro study say adding the two stations would generate more than 50% of the new ridership for the electric-powered trolley line, while eliminating 53% of the car trips and 60% of the vehicle miles traveled. In total, the extension to Montclair is expected to add 7,700 new L Line boardings each weekday by 2028 and eliminate 14,900 car trips each day, mostly from the 210 and 10 freeways, the letters said.

For “IE” residents who work in L.A., having a transit line that arrives every 7-10 minutes during peak times and between 15-20 minutes on non-peak times may convince them to leave their cars home. The train would become an alternative to 3 million vehicle trips made each day in the L Line corridor cities, of which only 3% are made by transit, the transit officials said.

The two cities, along with the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, as well as state senators and Assembly members from both counties, have been advocating for the cross-county line for decades as a way to connect commuters and weekend travelers with a more frequent, less expensive mass transit rail service that could remove cars from congested east-west freeways, such as the 10 and 210.

“The Gold Line is the most important project in our community,” said Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-El Monte, whose district includes L Line cities of Azusa, Duarte, Monrovia, La Verne and San Dimas.

Montclair City Manager Edward Starr, also at the halfway celebration, said the city has been planning for the project that was supposed to arrive in 2016, 2018, 2022 and 2024. If a second shot at state funding actually arrives, the quickest the extension could be completed is 2028, he said.

If the state says “no” again, Montclair is working on grabbing federal infrastructure dollars. That would require federal legislation allowing federal monies to be used on a state project, he said. “I’m hearing positive hope. The governor has not said ‘no,’ ” Starr said in an interview. He said legislators such as state Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge, and Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez, D-Pomona, have made it a top priority.

Supervisor Hilda Solis, chair of the LA Metro Board, and Supervisor Kathryn Barger, also a Metro board member, both commented on the state budget surplus and possible funding for the Claremont, Montclair stations. Solis said: “We do need a lot more support from our state officials.”

Barger got a big laugh from the audience when she added: “Our state representatives are sitting on a lot of money.”

Related links
Montclair, Claremont ask state leaders to fund light-rail extension using budget surplus
Backers of $670 million light-rail extension to Montclair eye state budget surplus
Gold Line extension delayed because of steel tariffs, runaway construction costs, authority says
L Line construction board puts focus on Claremont with new chairperson
Parking at light-rail stations along L Line extension could be cut in half
Related Articles
Local News |

Coming to Los Angeles: Air taxis that skip the freeways

Southbound 15 Freeway to close all weekend near 91 Freeway in Corona
LA Metro spends $10 million on roadside call boxes. Are they still needed?
Moreno Valley schools adding 42 electric school buses
Truck lanes open on 60 Freeway east of Moreno Valley