By: Rebecca Mikkelsen
Gold Line Extension -- Phase One Update
A recent decision by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority regarding the Gold Line Foothill light-rail extension is raising eyebrows and causing heartburn for leaders of cities and businesses throughout the San Gabriel Valley. Specifically, MTA still wants to make permanent the half-cent transit sales tax known as Measure R, through a ballot measure slated for the November elections. But as of late June, the MTA no longer supports using those proceeds to fund the Phase 2-B of the Gold Line extension, from Azusa to Montclair.
While that controversy continues, we check in on the progress of the extension’s Phase 2A—from the Sierra Madre Villa station in Pasadena east over 11 miles with stops in the cities of Arcadia, Duarte, Irwindale, Monrovia and two in Azusa.
The Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority provides a construction update. Leaders in the cities that will become part of the Gold Line address the impact the extension could deliver and the lack of redevelopment funding they may have counted on to spark commercial and residential projects near the light rail stops.
Metro Gold Line
Habib Balian, CEO
The Gold Line Bridge under construction on the I-210 freeway is the most visible symbol of the significant progress the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority is making in bringing light rail to the Foothill communities of the San Gabriel Valley.
The bridge is expected to be completed this fall, providing a new “Gateway to the San Gabriel Valley” and achieving another major milestone in the construction of the Gold Line Foothill Extension segment linking Pasadena to Azusa.
Financed with funds from Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase Los Angeles County voters approved in 2008, this $735 million segment of the Gold Line Foothill Extension is on budget and on schedule to be completed in late 2015.
Construction Creating Much-needed Jobs
Its construction is expected to generate nearly 7,000 new jobs (2,600 in construction) and $1 billion in economic output for the region during its four-year construction period, according to the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation.
Using a design-build approach, the Construction Authority is moving forward faster than would otherwise be possible. For instance, construction on the Gold Line Bridge began months ahead of the final design’s approval. By using this process, the Construction Authority is creating jobs sooner, when they are most needed.
Foothill Extension Invigorating Local Economy
The Gold Line Foothill Extension also will generate significant long-term economic benefits for the cities it will serve. The cities are spending millions of dollars updating their streets, landscaping, utilities and general plans to take advantage of their proximity to the Gold Line extension. Some 1,200 acres of opportunities exist for transit accessible business, residential and mixed-use developments near the Gold Line’s future stations.
Already, much of Pasadena’s growth (part of the first phase of the Gold Line, the Los Angeles to Pasadena extension) in the last decade has been close to its Gold Line stations. The city boasts more than 1,800 new residential units within easy walking distance of the Gold Line stations and approximately 75,000 square feet of newly developed retail and commercial space. Together, these represent an investment of some $500 million into the local economy.
Construction Authority’s Strong Record of Accomplishments
Established in 1999 to complete the stalled light rail line project to the San Gabriel Valley, the Construction Authority already completed the first segment from Los Angeles to Pasadena on time and under budget. That 13.7-mile section opened to the public in 2003, and monthly boarding’s on the Gold Line have nearly doubled in just the last two years to more than 1 million in 2011.
The Construction Authority is now seeking funding to complete the future segments of the Foothill Extension, linking Azusa to Montclair and, eventually, to the LA/Ontario International Airport.
Working together with elected leaders, state and federal officials, local communities and residents throughout the region, the Construction Authority is on track to complete the light rail extension to Azusa in late 2015 and preparing the next segment (from Azusa to Montclair) for construction —easing traffic woes and helping to ensure a healthier and more prosperous future for all who live, work and visit Los Angeles County. For more information about the Foothill Extension, visit the Web site at www.foothillextension.org.
City of Arcadia
The Gold Line station, a public transit plaza, and a 300 space parking structure will be located near the center of Arcadia’s Downtown area. The City has re-focused on its Downtown in recent years, and the current development of the Gold Line has generated a great deal of anticipation among residents and business owners. A Downtown Business Association is now active in the area and the City recently went through a significant update to its General Plan to allow for mixed -use development, residential development options, higher floor area ratios, and parking incentives in the vicinity of the Gold Line Station. Integration of the station into Arcadia’s Downtown is the focus of our efforts as well as to ensure that the City’s premier attractions such as the Santa Anita Racetrack, Westfield Santa Anita Mall, Los Angeles County Arboretum, and Methodist Hospital are well connected and easily accessible from the station. For information visit: www.ci.arcadia.ca.us.
City of Azusa
Keith Hanks, Councilman
“Without a doubt, anticipation of the Gold Line has already begun to have a positive benefit on the City of Azusa, and Redevelopment was a key player in helping the benefits happen. The new Target store in Azusa and the refurbished Citrus Crossing shopping center are leading indicators of the benefits that are expected to continue to come.
The State Legislature’s action in taking away Redevelopment has definitely hurt our ability to bring in the projects that were being planned near the Gold Line. We continue to work at finding developers who are willing to talk about making projects happen.” For information visit: www.ci.azusa.ca.us
City of Duarte
John Fasana, Mayor
“Metro Gold Line will bring economic advantage to Duarte’s residential and business communities by establishing better connections and creating choices for commuters adjacent to the Metro Rail network connecting the Los Angeles region. Duarte’s rail station will be adjacent to City of Hope, a world leading cancer hospital and research center employing thousands of workers.
Station planning is underway to determine optimal land-uses and identify transit oriented development opportunities. While the state’s elimination of Redevelopment and seizure of funds will limit available capital and delay development, the site location and strategic access to the Gold Line bode well in the longer-term.“ For more information visit: www.accessduarte.com
City of Irwindale
John Davidson, City Manager
While the proposed Metro platform and parking structure are not part of a larger Transit Oriented Development (TOD) in Irwindale, the Gold Line extension has tremendous import for our overall business climate. With the I-210 and I-10 Freeways becoming more and more congested every day, gas prices holding high, and onsite parking at businesses a scarce commodity, providing an environmentally and economically friendly alternative mode of transportation is critical for major employers and small businesses in Irwindale.
Parking in particular is a growing issue in the City because facilities that were originally intended for warehouse/distribution with minimal labor are being used for other activities (e.g., manufacturing, administrative) requiring exponentially greater manpower and, of course, parking. The Gold Line extension, combined with intermodal connections with Foothill Transit's bus routes to key employment centers in the City, will provide greater flexibility for the City to be home to a diverse industrial and commercial business base.
Unlike many cities that were relying on redevelopment for property assemblage or financial assistance for TOD projects, Irwindale was not relying on redevelopment powers or funding to support the Gold Line. However, where there may be future opportunities to reposition facilities and businesses around the new platform, the absence of redevelopment as an economic development tool and financing vehicle will be strongly felt and, unless new tools and funding become available, those opportunities will become lost opportunities for the local community and greater San Gabriel Valley region. For more information visit: www.ci.irwindale.ca.us
City of Monrovia
Mary Ann Lutz, Mayor
“The City of Monrovia has been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Gold Line project for many years. The installation of the Gold Line will make it easier for people to travel to Monrovia and enjoy all the wonderful amenities that our city has to offer. We estimate that this project will infuse Monrovia with many new jobs and stimulate the local economy both during the construction phases and long into the future. We anticipate this economic stimulus to continue long after the completion of the project; due in part to the combination of the new train line and our planned ‘Station Square’ Transit Village development.
The Station Square project is an 80-acre development adjacent to the 210 freeway; which after full build out will be the home of the future 25-acre Maintenance and Operations facility for the Gold Line Foothill Extension, a future Gold Line stop, a public parking structure, open space and a mixed-use housing development. City staff estimates that the M&O yard will initially generate 200 plus new jobs. These employees will be new Monrovians, who will begin to live, work and play in our City as a result of the Gold Line Project.” For more information visit: www.ci.monrovia.ca.us