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Hundreds gather to see Gold Line officially break ground...see story

After years of planning, the Gold Line foothill extension is officially underway.

The light rail project, which will pass through Claremont, broke ground Saturday morning in an event attended by residents and numerous elected officials both local and national.

Over 700 people attended the event, according to Foothill Gold Line Construction CEO Habib Balian.

“Getting here took a lot of effort, some serious hard work and a bit of luck,” Foothill Gold Line Board Chairman Doug Tessitor said.

The groundbreaking ceremony signals the start of the nine-year, $1.5 billion project that will extend the rail line from Azusa through Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne, Pomona, Claremont and Montclair. The line is scheduled to open in 2026.

Metro CEO Phil Washington noted that the Gold Line extension is only part of a larger project funded by the recently passed Measure M that is set to change the face of public transportation in Los Angeles County.

“This is the transportation revolution that we thought about a year ago, and we’re in the midst of it,” he said.

Speakers at the event included Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, State Senator Anthony Portantino, and Congressional Representatives Judy Chu, Grace Napolitano, Adam Schiff and Norma Torres.

Many of the speakers, including Citrus College president Geraldine Ferri and State Senator Connie Leyva, heralded the rail as a “brain train”—connecting Azusa Pacific University, Citrus College, Cal Poly Pomona, University of La Verne and the Claremont Colleges.

Mr. Garcetti, who noted that he took the Gold Line to the event, said upcoming Metro projects funded by the recently passed Measure M could general over 700,000 middle class jobs, and highlighted improved transportation as a topic that could unite both political factions.

“We all are stuck in traffic, and there are certain things that unite us even these days, which is a commute that we want to get rid of,” he said.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, whose district includes Claremont and Pomona, noted the increased connectivity between all areas of the Southland once Metro’s upcoming projects are built.

“Once the Metro Regional Connector in downtown is complete, you’ll also be able to travel from Claremont to Long Beach on a one-seat ride,” she said.

A phrase reiterated by many of the speakers at the event was “On time, and under budget,” a mantra held by Mr. Balian as a way to expedite construction of the foothill rail system. The previous extension—from Pasadena to Azusa—opened in March 2016 to much fanfare and ridership.

While the ground has been broken, major construction in Claremont won’t happen until about three years from now, according to Metro. The first few years will be spent relocating utilities and doing pre-construction.

Major construction is scheduled to start in 2020.

The plan for Claremont is to build the Gold Line station on the site of the current site of the Metrolink station and build a 1,260-space parking structure on the current site of the Metrolink parking lot on the northeast corner of College Avenue and First Street.

Current plans are to relocate the Metrolink station to an area east of College Avenue, but a 60-day study is currently evaluating the pros and cons of eliminating that station. The initial findings of that study will be presented during a meeting at the Hughes Center on Monday, December 11.

The full plan is to extend the Gold Line past Montclair and into Ontario International Airport, which is located in San Bernardino County. Many speakers touched on this, and Ms. Napolitano called on LA County’s eastern neighbor to “wake up and do their job.”

Ms. Chu noted that there were doubters about the Gold Line when it was first being planned, and she worked with Congressman Adam Schiff to get the project going. Mr. Schiff was touted throughout the gathering as the “father” of the Gold Line.

“And now look at the results. Ridership has exceeded expectations by over 9000 boardings on weekdays,” she said.

When this line eventually opens, Ms. Chu said, ridership is expected to reach around 18,300 daily boardings.

Claremont Councilmember Sam Pedroza, who is also the vice chair of the Construction Authority Board of Directors, presented Mr. Garcetti with an unusual gift—a shovel full of M&Ms.

The reason behind the gift, Mr. Pedroza explained, was that throughout the campaign for Measure M in 2016, the L.A. mayor would hand out packets of M&Ms to riders in order to get out the vote.

Mr. Washington, in his remarks, said the projects completed under Measure M would last 100 years, ridden by generations to come.

“And I think they will thank us, 50 years from now, for having the intestinal fortitude and the political leadership and the management ability to get these projects done,” he said.

Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com