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Bridge design gets mixed reviews

Claremonters got an early look at the Gold Line plans that could change the face of the city Monday evening.

More than 100 curious residents milled about the Padua Room at the Hughes Center on July 24 at the Gold Line Foothill Extension open house, put on by the city and the Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority. Residents asked questions and received information about the multi-year project.

The Gold Line’s plans for extending the light rail service from Azusa to Montclair were kicked into high gear last year when Measure M—a half-cent tax increase that would fund billions of dollars in transportation projects—was approved in November. This was Claremont’s first open house session since Measure M passed, according to Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority Chief Communications Officer Lisa Levy Buch.

The perimeter of the room was full of poster boards detailing the intricacies of the project, from the construction timeline to the Claremont station artwork. But two models in the middle of the room dominated the attention—one of the future Gold Line station and relocated Metrolink station, and the other of a possible overpass over Indian Hill Boulevard.

The overpass was an afterthought in Claremont until the June 26 Traffic and Transportation meeting, when Assistant City Manager Colin Tudor revealed a bridge may be required by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) due to traffic and safety concerns. The city council had rejected the bridge in June 2016, and the current direction of the council is to keep it at street level.

Monday’s meeting was the first time citizens caught a glimpse of a new alternative rendering for the bridge; one that was more open in design and was still under the $28 million price tag provided by the construction authority.

Gold Line Construction Authority CEO Habib Balian noted there have been several back-and-forth sessions between the construction authority and the CPUC over the possibility of a bridge and said he could receive a definitive answer, “at some point within the next month or so,” adding the decision could come informally, even via email.

The new design, which is still in preliminary stages, opens up an additional 75 feet on the east side of Indian Hill. Concrete guardrails on top were replaced with a wire material to keep the train secure while offering better views to the mountains. The concrete columns were also thinned out in the new design.

The city worked with local architect John Bohn on the design. Mr. Bohn said he has been listening to people in Claremont and trying to understand where they are coming from in terms of what kind of bridge, if any, they want.

“If we must have a bridge in the middle of town, let’s make it the best bridge we can get,” he said.

He noted the challenge was to “try to remove the mass of it,” and noted the bridge should be thought of, and treated, as another building constructed in the middle of town.

Mr. Tudor and other city officials said the new bridge design was getting a positive response from residents. Among those interviewed, however, emotions ran from optimistic to skeptical.

Jim Keith liked the new design of the bridge, highlighting its open concept and reduced guardrails. “It’s certainly moving in the right direction,” he said.

Doug Lyon, who has been against an overpass, noted the new design placated his concerns but only “a little bit.”

“There’s still a lot of wall, though,” he added. “There’s still a bridge.”

Despite the more open concept presented Monday, resident Donna Bedell said it “looks like something you’d see in LA” and preferred the original design.

Resident Tracy Dudart, carefully looking over the bridge design, said it reminded him of “the old People Mover at Disneyland.”

Another model at the meeting showed the upcoming Gold Line platform, to be constructed on the north east corner of College Avenue and First Street, just south of the current Metrolink parking structure. The station’s proposed location means the current Metrolink platform, located behind the Depot, would be moved to the east side of College Avenue, near the future Metrolink/Gold Line shared parking structure. The repositioned Metrolink station will offer a pedestrian tunnel connecting train riders to the platform and providing access to College Park, located south of the tracks.

A large parking garage will also be constructed on the current site of the Metrolink parking lot. It is proposed to be an elongated 1,260-space garage, standing four levels high and covering most of the block-long parking lot. By comparison, the proposed parking structure at the Pomona Gold Line stop will offer 980 spaces. The proposed La Verne parking garage, at 600 spaces, will offer a structure half the size as Claremont.

Ms. Buch noted the designs were still preliminary, and the size of the garage may change in the future as more research is done on how many cars would be using the structure. She did note, however, that Metro is looking into charging for parking at the garage. A cost has not been determined. However, the APU/Citrus Gold Line parking structure, for example, charges $3 per car each day.

It is undecided whether the lot can be used by residents not using the Gold Line, Ms. Buch explained. That possibility, she said, would be discussed at future meetings.

Another concern is gate-down time, or the time the safety arms are down while a train to passes through, at Indian Hill Boulevard. Initially, the city said the gate-down time would decrease with an overpass, but that may be up in the air, according to Mr. Tudor.

The issue, Mr. Tudor explained, is the sensors—devices that determine the gate-down time by how large and fast a train is moving, such as a Metrolink or a freight train. The gate-down time for a Gold Line train is shorter because the train itself is smaller. He explained that technology may be upgraded as the project moves forward.

“In a perfect world, we’ll be able to keep the gates open at Indian Hill, but we won’t know for sure,” Mr. Tudor said.

The CPUC has not yet seen the designs, according to City Manager Tony Ramos, but they will be submitted for review in the fall. Another community meeting will take place at the Blaisdell Center on September 11 at 6:30 p.m., and the Traffic and Transportation Commission will scrutinize the plans on September 28. The city council will take up the issue on October 10.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the project, which is estimated to take eight or nine years, is scheduled for October 21 at Citrus College in Glendora.

Mr. Balian said he welcomed the comments from the community, and said many people were anxious to see it built sooner. “We enjoy the input,” he said. “It makes for a better project.”

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com

 

[Correction: A previous version of this article identified Lisa Levy Buch as the Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority's COO. She is the Chief Communications Officer.]