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VIEWPOINT: Major issues still loom to complete Gold Line

After years of uncertainty, the Gold Line to Claremont is becoming a reality.  The recent groundbreaking marked the official kickoff to phase 2B, bringing the Gold Line to Claremont.

However, with every major project there are some major issues that must be addressed politically, financially and with much public discourse. Discussions regarding the elimination of Claremont’s Metrolink station are cause for concern and a call to action. This move would impact Claremont’s opportunity to become a model for multi-modal transportation.

I strongly believe a Metrolink station must be maintained in Claremont. I would like to share my thoughts on this discussion and how our citizens can make an effort to prevent the station from ending up on the chopping block.

Having recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, Metrolink has served as a lifeline to many commuters living along the edges of LA’s job centers. Metrolink provides long distance commuters an alternative to multi-hour car commutes. The Claremont Metrolink station came to be through the efforts of our former mayor, the late Judy Wright, who is often referred to as the mother of the Metrolink.

The Gold Line is a different mode of transportation. It is a light-rail train system that uses a different sized track, separate from the existing heavy-rail tracks used by both Metrolink and freight trains. The Gold Line operates on electricity, and will run along the same corridor used by Metrolink, which is owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Agency, or Metro. The Gold Line will not be on a preset time schedule like the Metrolink, but rather will run about every seven to 12 minutes.

With the arrival of the Gold Line, Claremont’s multi-modal program will be one of the most complete in the county. Our multi-modal model will include both train systems and the Foothill Transit bus service, all within a thriving urban center—our Claremont Village. The key component for multi-modal is that people will have options for the types of transportation service that best fits their needs.

Our city, in order to plan and design for the opportunity to provide multi-modal options, has already addressed some of the issues. We focused on quite zones when residents were overwhelmed with horn blasts coming from trains that Metrolink was using temporarily. Although the new trains muffled the horns a bit, the city did an evaluation and determined that quiet zones should be developed in conjunction with the construction of the updated Gold Line crossing elements. This approach saves money while maintaining the same schedule.

Another issue we already addressed is the grade separation at Indian Hill Boulevard. After it was determined that the California Public Utilities Commission (which oversees grade crossings throughout the state) was going to require a grade separation, the council worked with the community and business owners to design a bridge that we can live with, and a design that eliminates much of the “wall” effect.

The current challenge is the discussion of the elimination of the Claremont Metrolink station. We are seeing that the study requested by Supervisor Hilda Solis does indicate the station is popular. Passenger boardings in Claremont are competitive with those in Montclair and Pomona. These three stations will have the opportunity to have both Metrolink and Gold Line Stations.

However, only the Claremont station is located in a current thriving downtown setting. We benefit from people walking and biking to and from the station, addressing the “first/last mile” issue, and exhibiting the attributes of connectivity. Claremont has already built transit-oriented development (TOD) and is planning additional projects under a specific use plan. The Village South project is counting on Claremont having multi-modal opportunities.  

We look for solutions, but much like in the spirit of Judy Wright and many others, we must also express our sentiments to our elected officials that represent us at Metro. Transportation policy-making is complex, however transportation programs are designed for us, the users. I encourage you to attend the Metrolink station community meeting on December 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the Hughes Community Center to better understand this issue and voice your sentiments.

I hope you agree with me that Claremont can and should be a model for multi-modal transportation, and that we continue to set the example of a community that plans accordingly and wisely, a trait that is exemplified in our city’s history.

—Sam Pedroza

Vice chair of Gold Line Construction Authority Board

City councilmember