Despite a recent article saying the opening of the Gold Line extension through Arcadia could be derailed until January 2017, Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority CEO Habib Balian told attendees of the monthly Arcadia Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Forum sponsored by Singpoli that the worst-scenario would be July 2016.
Still, that would still be nearly a year after everything on the 11.5-mile line, including tracks, stations, and crossings, are completed and ready for operation. The delay is due to the late order of train cars for the San Gabriel Valley rail line extension and the Expo Line out of Culver City, both nearing completion at the same time. Anticipated ridership on day one of the Gold Line is 15,000 passengers; trains are being tested on the tracks this month to check for appropriate clearances at train platforms, among other things.
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Speaking in the Chamber’s conference room sponsored by Foothill Credit Union, Balian said that it will be up to Metro officials to decide whether to assign cars to the Expo Line or the Foothill Extension as they begin becoming available in late 2015 and early 2016, or whether to supply a few cars to each line which could begin operations sooner but not with full service and not running as frequently — every 20-minutes instead of every five-minutes, for example.
The good news is that construction of the foothill extension from eastern Pasadena to Azusa is on time and on budget; something you don’t hear much these days. The project, fully-funded by Measure R, includes three design-build contracts totaling more than $550 million, with an anticipated construction completion date of September 2015, at which time the project will be turned over to Metro. Six new light rail stations are being completed in five cities, all with parking. A dedication service for the Arcadia station is expected next spring or summer, which will feature $1 million in upgrades from a federal grant.
The adjacent Arcadia Transit Plaza was dedicated last month.
Although construction will be completed soon on the two-level, 300-space parking garage with chargers for electric vehicles and bicycle racks, the garage will not open for use until the trains begin running. The City of Arcadia was given the option to open it sooner but officials were unwilling to pick up costly insurance liability coverage.
Habib really engaged the crowd with his in-depth of knowledge of the Gold Line construction project and his full grasp of best practices in getting such a massive project completed timely, on budget and in a professional manner.
The Construction Authority was created by state legislation in 1998 to plan, design and build the Metro Gold line from Union station east to Montclair. This is a light rail system consisting of three-car trains that hold up to two hundred passengers. The first leg of the line from Los Angeles to Pasadena opened in 2003. The trains can travel up to 55 miles per hour. The authority operates independently of Metro. The six new stations that the Construction Authority is building cost $5 million apiece compared to the ones that Metro has been building that cost as much as $25 million each.
Habib indicates that all 24 bridge structures are now complete. They are constructing a building operations campus on 24-acres in Monrovia that will be turned over to Metro in the Spring of 2015. It will hold 85 vehicles. Substantial completion of the overall project will be in September of 2015.
The next phase of the Gold Line, currently in the engineering phase, would run from Azusa to Montclair, but although that extension should be shovel ready in 2017, it has no funding at present. Another attempt at gaining approval by voters for a sales tax will be made in 2016, Balian said.
Further down the line, it is hoped that trains would eventually run all the way to Ontario Airport, which is in San Bernardino County, and therefore not under Metro’s control.
Also, in attendance at the Government Affairs Forum was Arcadia Mayor Pro Tem Gary Kovacic, who noted that Arcadia voters should be praised for approving a bond measure to pay to build a bridge for the Gold Line over Santa Anita Avenue, the only bridge on the extension path. He also said that the City recently approved painting large letters spelling out A-R-C-A-D-I-A on the Gold Line bridge over Second Avenue that was recently widened to carry a second set of tracks. In addition, the Route 66 logo will be added on both ends of “Arcadia” on both sides of the bridge to designate the landmark roadway that we call Huntington Drive.
Kovacic also indicates that the City is in the process of a Zoning Code Update and hiring a new Economic Development Manager.
Viola Van, from the Office of Congresswoman Judy Chu, thanked everyone for supporting the clothing drive to benefit women’s shelters. Nine thousand gallons of items were donated and will be distributed to area shelters.
Brian Mejia, representing County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, indicates that the Supervisor will be working with Sheriff McDonnell on increasing patrols, a jail plan for the mentally ill and a disarm program.
Linda Sells of the Monrovia, Arcadia and Duarte Town Council reports that they served 300 people dinner at Pamela Park for Thanksgiving. They expect 500 on December 18 for Christmas dinner. In addition to feeding 500 people they give out 300 toys to children under the age of 11! Now that is truly in the spirit of the holidays!
The public is invited to attend the free Government Affairs Forums at 8 a.m. on the first Thursday of each month (except in January 2015 when it will be on January 8 due to the New Year’s holiday) to hear informative presentations led by Chairman Jack Orswell from Orswell & Kasman, Inc. Environmental Assessments & Consulting, and co-chairman Pete Ulrich, former Arcadia City Councilman. RSVPs to the Chamber of Commerce office are appreciated – (626) 447-2159 or info@ArcadiaCaChamber.org. The next Government Affairs forum on January 8, 2015 features Mary Beth Hayes, Director of Arcadia Library and Museum Services.