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Funds needed to complete Gold Line project to Claremont

The Gold Line Construction Authority is calling on California state legislators to help bridge a $764 million funding gap that, if filled, will bring the estimated 24-mile light rail from Azusa to Claremont and beyond.

Resources needed to fund the Pasadena-to-Azusa segment—an estimated $810 million of the total $1.574 billion of the project—have already been allocated through Measure R funds, approved in 2008. Through Measure R, $40 billion was designated to fund critical highway and transportation projects throughout the county over the following 30 years.

While Measure R funds sufficiently cover the first portion of the Gold Line extension, not enough remains for the second Azusa-to-Claremont portion of the project. The additional funds needed to complete the rail through Montclair will be a separate deal, according to a Construction Authority news release.

Board members anticipate the additional funding would be needed starting in 2016, on completion of the Pasadena-to-Azusa segment currently set for 2015. The Construction Authority met last week to create an updated expenditure plan needed to help identify a solution.

“The State Legislature required the construction authorities receiving Measure R funds to prepare an expenditure plan to complete their capital projects,” said Construction Authority Board Chairman and Glendora Councilman Doug Tessitor. “It is important to recognize that the voters approved the project to Claremont, but Measure R allocates enough funding to complete the project only to Azusa. The expenditure plan allows a complete estimate of what funding is needed to complete the project.”   

After approval from the board last week, the expenditure plan, which includes a timeline and projected budget, will now be sent to Metro for its use in preparing a county-wide expenditure plan for Measure R. The board remains optimistic that additional funds will be sent to the Construction Authority for project completion.

Authority board members, including Construction Authority Chairman and Claremont City Councilmember Sam Pedroza, met with the San Gabriel Valley Caucus in Sacramento last week to provide an update on the progress of the 23-mile light rail and ask for support.

“We were there to push awareness, and it was very well received,” Mr. Pedroza said. “It’s important to remind Metro that, although the Gold Line is listed in Measure R all the way to Claremont, the funding doesn’t match.”

One proposal up for discussion, through Assembly Bill 1446, is to continue Measure R’s half-cent sales tax indefinitely. Currently, Measure R will sunset in 2039.

“We are supportive as long as it does include the funding for phase 2b [Azusa to Claremont],” Mr. Pedroza said.

While concerned with the continued half-cent sales tax, and calling for more clarification on what projects will be funded, members of the caucus urged Metro to include the Azusa-to-Claremont portion in Measure R funding, as stated in a  letter of support from Senators Ed Hernandez and Bob Huff of the San Gabriel Valley Caucus last week.

“There is no ambiguity in the state legislation that put Measure R to the voters. For this reason, we respectfully request that Metro incorporate the Construction Authority’s approved expenditure plan into Metro’s expenditure plan, along with the correct project definition (Pasadena to Claremont),” the letter states.

If goals are met according to the current timeline, an estimated completion date for the Gold Line Foothill Extension is set for 2021. The date is subject to change depending on the ease of locating the remaining funds, according to Mr. Pedroza.

“It definitely ties our hands in terms of finding the funding to construct,” Mr. Pedroza said. “There is enough funding available to finish the environmental [review] document and even to do some of the plans, but we definitely need to go after funding for the additional construction.”

With continued support from legislators and others throughout the Foothills, the Construction Authority remains hopeful that a funding source will be identified.

“There continues to be strong and unanimous support throughout the corridor to complete the light rail extension to Montclair and ultimately Ontario Airport,” Mr. Tessitor said. “The Construction Authority is committed to keeping the first segment to Azusa on schedule and budget, making it a success story for Measure R, while also preparing the second segment to Montclair for construction.”

—Beth Hartnett

[news@claremont-courier.com]

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