Three significant train bridges will be built over three of the biggest road arteries in Arcadia this year, narrowing Santa Anita Avenue to two lanes and all but closing off access to Huntington Drive from Second Avenue for periods of months at a time.
Work on a new Gold Line train station on First Avenue will also be started in a few months.
While these projects are expected to be completed this year, no trains will be allowed to run on the tracks until late 2015 after a new transit center, including a two-level parking garage, is completed adjacent to the station at Santa Clara Street, train tracks are laid, and similar work is completed along an 11.5-mile extension of the Gold Line route from east Pasadena through Arcadia to Azusa. (This is contrary to the recent suggestion by Metro Executive Director, Highway Program, Doug Failing, that rail service could be opened to Arcadia as early as 2014 when construction work could be completed. Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority CEO Habib Balian said this week that no segment will be open until the entire extension is complete in late 2015. In fact, plans now call for laying the track from Azusa to Arcadia, meaning Arcadia would be the last of the cities on the extended route to have rails laid, though that strategy is subject to change. Other Metro officials have said over the last year that service would not begin on the new extended route until early 2016 to allow for several months of resting after work is complete.)
Officials from the Foothill Extension Construction Authority met with Arcadia Mayor Bob Harbicht and other city officials and the media this week at the construction site of the first of the three bridges to be built over Colorado Blvd. east of Newcastle Park west of Santa Anita Avenue. The single-track bridge that had sat unused for years was demolished and removed to make room for a new double-track bridge that is to be completed by April. Colorado Blvd is closed to most traffic between Santa Anita Avenue and Colorado Place for four months.
Upon completion of the Colorado Blvd overpass, work is scheduled to begin at the closing of Santa Anita Park‘s main horse racing season in mid-April on the biggest of the bridge projects over Santa Anita Avenue at roughly St. Joseph Street, a double-track concrete structure. In addition to building a bridge, the entire four-lane road that rises in a bump to meet the current set of unused tracks, will need to be lowered by several feet to take vehicles down a dip under the new bridge.
During most of the off-season before Santa Anita’s Autumn meet begins in late September, Santa Anita Avenue will be reduced to one lane of traffic in each direction south of Colorado and north of West St. Joseph Street at La Porte Street near the businesses of Fasching’s Car Wash and Goldstein’s Bagel Bakery, among others, with some complete shutdowns for certain limited periods.
Officials said the long line of cars that currently back up at the In-N-Out Burger drive-through restaurant for hundreds of yards on northbound Santa Anita Avenue during peak meal times will be diverted to line up at the restaurant’s parking lot entrance on Colorado Blvd east of Santa Anita Ave., though that is the opposite direction required to enter the drive-through.
During this same time work will begin on the station to be built between a new set of tracks on the northwest corner of First Avenue and Santa Clara Street, across the street from the 24 Hour Fitness. The station will essentially be little more than a platform with a canopy and benches, though it will be customized to feature designs and colors relating to the iconic and historic Santa Anita Park race track, thanks to the suggestion of the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce, which then supported strong efforts by staff and the Arcadia City Council to convince Metro authorities to make the Arcadia station distinct from most of the others along the route.
If all goes according to schedule, following the two-day international horse event called Breeders’ Cup in early November that will draw about 50,000 people to the track on one day and nearly 90,000 on the weekend, work will begin to add a second metal bridge across Huntington Drive at Second Street. The new bridge will be positioned next to the current bridge and carry the second set of tracks.
Officials said that, at a minimum, all left turn lanes will be disallowed from northbound and southbound Second Street onto Huntington Drive during this construction period. Efforts will be made to detour all traffic on Second Avenue before getting to Huntington Drive.
The transit plaza adjacent to the parking garage will have many attractive design elements, including landscaping and custom benches as well as a water feature, small stage area, wayfinding kiosks to direct rail riders south on First Avenue to the Arcadia Towne Center hub, and a History Lives Here marker by the Arcadia Historical Society denoting the original rail station on the site and Lucky Baldwin’s distinctive Hotel Oakwood across the street on the 24 Hour Fitness property.
— By Scott Hettrick