It seems like every week there is a significant new development relating to what we keep being told is the approved Gold Line Foothill Extension through Arcadia, originally to open in 2013, now lately being quietly adjusted to fall 2014, if and when many more agreements are signed and reviews completed (Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich says he still wants to aim for 2013).
The latest dramatic development came late last month when the City of Arcadia was informed that after all this time planning for station platforms on the east side of First Avenue, now the Metropolitan Transportation Authority says the station will be on the westside of First Avenue as preferred by nearly everyone involved.
That development was quickly followed by Council approval of significant design enhancements for the station platforms to reflect elements of Santa Anita Park.
And on Friday, July 2, a major agreement was finally signed by Metro and the Foothill Extension Construction Authority – the Master Cooperative and Funding Transfer Agreements for the Foothill Extension — that was required to formalize the schedule of funding (totaling $810 million) over the next nine years and to layout the working relationship between the two agencies during the design and construction phase, according to Construction Authority CEO Habib Balian.
The funding for Phase 2A that will extend the Gold Line 11.4 miles from the Sierra Madre Villa station in Pasadena through Arcadia, Monrovia, Duarte, Irwindale, and two stops in Azusa is mostly coming from L.A. County’s Measure R half-cent sales tax approved in November 2008 for many transportation improvements in the County — this is the first of those projects set to be funded.
That Master Cooperative and FTA agreement signing came nearly a week after a major dedication ceremony on Saturday, June 26, at Newcastle Park in Arcadia for the new 584-foot “iconic freeway structure” bridge to be built from the median across the eastbound lanes of the Foothill Freeway (Interstate 210) to the area north of Newcastle Park. The bridge (pictured at right) designed by a Minnesota artist selected by Metro with no input from Arcadia will include four basket-shaped columns that light up and were supposedly inspired by the area’s snakes and the Chumash Native Americans (who lived in Santa Monica and the coast but never in San Gabriel Valley).
The first phase of the extension is projected to generate 7,000 jobs (2,600 in construction alone) and $1 billion in economic output during constructio, plus $40 million in tax revenues.
But there remain multiple hurdles to clear, any one of which could further delay or even prevent the construction of the Extension, including nothing more important than gaining permission from track owners Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway to share use of the tracks east of Arcadia with Metro.
Other steps before major funding is distributed are an enivronmental review and purchase of land for the Maintenance and Operations Facility. No small challenges.
The Construction Authority is also simultaneously continuing procurement of the more than $400 million contract for the Phase 2A Alignment construction to be awarded in the Spring 2011 – likely to be the single largest public works contract awarded in 2011 anywhere in the nation, according to Balian.
The next Phase 2b of the foothill extension from Azusa to Montclair will include stops in Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne, Pomona and Claremont and is scheduled to be completed in 2017. Bu the real prize will be if and when the extension of the line is completed to the Los Angeles/Ontario airport in San Bernardino County.
As for last week’s news of the relocation of the station, that’s actually a very good thing because the multi-level parking garage (2 levels initially, expandable to four levels) will also be on the westside of First Avenue, north of Santa Clara, directly across from 24 Hour Fitness (a sign is on the vacant lot there from a dedication ceremony earlier this year for the Arcadia Gold Line station).
Had this change not been made, riders would have had to cross at least one and maybe two streets and, in some cases, a double-set of tracks, to get from the parking garage to the station platforms, which would have created more potential pedestrian dangers, especially as riders hurried to catch the train. Now, riders from the parking garage will not have to cross any streets and, depending on which way they are heading, potentially no tracks.
Also changing by the week is the design of the station platforms. Although the City Council wanted to do nothing beyond the “plain vanilla” design offered by Metro, especially since the platforms were to be several hundred feet east of First Avenue and therefore out of plain view of most Arcadia drivers, a committee of the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce, along with representatives from Santa Anita Park, has been pushing for several months to add some public art and design elements to the station. The idea is to make the Arcadia station stand out to train passengers in a way that showcases Arcadia as a special and distinctive town from all the others along the line, and to entice them to get off and shop in Arcadia in hopes of helping spark a revitalization of the Downtown Arcadia area near First Avenue and Huntington Drive.
Plans are now in the process of being approved to create a color scheme and font for the station canopy (rooftop) Arcadia sign that closely matches that of Santa Anita Park (at no extra cost), and to create customized station platform benches designed with a thoroughbred horse theme (tentatively to be funded by Santa Anita Park).
This plan appeared to be about to get reluctant approval by the Council until the location of the station was moved to the more prominent position on the westside of First Avenue, which generated more enthusiastic and unanimous Council support. In fact, the Council even approved using up to $125,000 from an estimated $671,000 in savings on nearly $14.2 million in budgeted construction costs on the bridge over Santa for station enhancements such as a friez design along the fence railing similar to that at Santa Anita Park.
More than 700 people attended the groundbreaking ceremony, including officials who traveled in from Washington D.C. and Sacramento (Congress Members Rep. Judy Chu, D-El Monte; Rep. David Dreier, R-San Dimas; Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Santa Fe Springs; and Adam Schiff; State Senator Carol Liu and State Assembly Members Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina; and Anthony Portantino, D-Pasadena). Other officials included Antonovich; Assemblywoman Norma Torres; and officials from more than a dozen cities in the San Gabriel Valley and Inland Empire.
It will be months before active construction will begin on the “Iconic Freeway Structure” but work will begin right away by Skanska USA Civil West and AECOM Technical Services, which were awarded the contract with an $18.6 million bid, to finalize and get approval for designs, acquire permits, and hire contractors. Metro projects the bridge construction will create 500 engineering and construction jobs.
– By Scott Hettrick