Three train bridges, station coming this year

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.)


Work on bridge over Colorado Blvd, east of Newcastle Park — Gold Line officials explain progress and plans to Mayor Bob Harbicht, city officials, and the media; facing east towards Santa Anita Avenue.

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.


Artist rendering of bridge to be built over Santa Anita Avenue beginning in April.

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


  1. says

    Logic dictates that it would prove beneficial to the potential users of the new rail line to start laying the lines tracks starting at the existing Madre station where it terminates and going East towards Arcadia and beyond and then opening the line in sections upon completion. This is, after all our money, they are spending yet they seem to be going at this — backwards. What is their rational? Perhaps logic simply doesn’t prevail in the public sector as it must in the private.

  2. Stan says

    Jim @ 1:15 on 2/4 raises a good question not explored in the otherwise helpful Hetrick piece above. The answer to that question seems to have driven the other reported decision not to open the extension to Arcadia until the extension to Azuza has been completed. What are the reasons behind the “build tracks west from Azuza” decision? Even assuming some evidence ( financial? operational? both?) supporting that decision, does the evidence outweigh the benefits of offering service to Arcadia at least several months earlier than presently seems to be projected? Up to now the Gold Line Foothill Exension Construction Authority and its exension line contractors appear to have acted reasonably in going about construction in a way designed to minimize necessary public inconvenience. Additonally, the Authority deserves praise for its transparency in keeping the public apprised of developments, including, critically, advance notice of 210 lane and adjacent road closures. However, this latest reported news about further delay of the extension opening is not good. It raises questions not only about the deliberative process underlying this news, but also about what other bad news the Authority may in store for future piecemeal rollout to the public.

  3. Lisa Levy Buch says

    There are many elements that go into designing and building a nearly $1 billion project, as well as starting operations. As much as it might seem logical to build station to station, in the end that approach would add significant cost to the completing the project and years of delay. You need to take into consideration the significant testing and safety certification requirements built into opening a light rail line for service; not to mention the hiring of construction workers and equipment, purchasing of materials, the sequencing of similar construction activities to optimize efficiencies across an 11.5-mile project corridor, etc. The Construction Authority is employing a design-build approach for the Foothill Extension light rail project, which improves delivery of the project (and the overall cost) by having the designer and contractor working hand in hand to identify and resolve issues early. In our experience, that keeps the project moving as quickly as possible, and so far has shown successful on completion of the design and starting construction on this current segment. At this time, the team is on schedule to complete substantial design next month, as well as construction of the required maintenance facility for Metro a year ahead of project completion. This is a requirement of the project, so Metro can start accepting vehicles and housing them at the facility. Once the Construction Authority completes construction and has received California Public Utilities Commission safety certifications, the agency will turn the entire 11.5-mile extension over to Metro to test. At that time, Metro will decide how and when to start operating service on the line. The Construction Authority encourages everyone to sign up to receive updates on the construction progress and notices of impactful activities (like street closures) – at Don’t get surprised by construction.

  4. Stan says

    Lisa @ 12:37 pm on 2/21 apparently writes in response to my 2/11 comment above. Although she doesn’t provide supporting detail, the gist of her message is that, for optimum design/build efficiencies and economies, the entire 11.5 mile extension must be built in one continuous project and certified for safety as a whole before any Gold Line operation on the extension may commence. As a taxpayer, I am certainly in favor of planning/construction approaches which are established for achieving maximum economies, so I am pleased by her rationale in that regard. Lisa’s explanation also moots my previous question re the reason for the reported plan to construct the rail lines west from Azuza instead of east from the existing Sierre Madre Station. Although disappointed that service to Arcadia will not open until the extension has been completed from Azuza to the Sierra Madre Station, I accept the rationale offered by Lisa on its face. Thus, I will join others in patiently waiting for an Arcadia Gold Line service start that will be later than it would have been the case under a different ( and reportedly more expensive ) construction approach.

  5. says

    Stan: you are too kind to Lisa’s letter. I don’t buy into her thinking. While not a engineer, this logic is not acceptable as presented. Safety, etc,etc is mandated by all of us taxpayers be it built from west to east or east to west. What’s the difference? Clearly building from the Madre station west to east to the proposed service yard in Monrovia is closer than building from Azusa east to Monrovia. And flowing the cars across those tracks is easier and more cost effective than transporting them to Azusa, loading them onto tracks to be taken to the yard makes financial sense,also. Is this just another example of mumble-jumble to convince us they know what they are doing?

  6. Stan says

    Jim, You may be right, but not necessarily on the construction directionality issue. As I stated, I accepted on its face Lisa’s assertion that, for optimum cost savings, the entire extension must be constructed and certified as safe in one piece. Because, lacking any ability to challenge her on that, I had to. The facts may, or may not, support her contention. If they do, then, as I also stated, that would seem to moot the construction directionality issue; this is because, under the rationale asserted by Lisa, it doesn’t matter if the construction goes from the Sierra Madre Station east or from Azuza west, for Arcadia service can’t start until the entire extension is built and certified in any event. On the other hand, if the facts may NOT support Lisa’s ( implicit ) contention that building to Arcadia, certifying that segment for safety, and starting Arcadia service while the extension remainder is built to Azuza is sub-optimal from a cost savings perspective. I’m not at all sanguine re the public’s prospects for getting at ( and, if so, understanding ) the arcana of rail line construction financing so as to make an independent, informed determination re whether the planned unified 11.5 mile construction is, indeed, more advantageous costwise than a build-out in two segments—-Sierra Madre Station to Arcadia, and then from Arcadia to Azuza. So I believe my view on all of this is not kind but rather constrained by realistic limits on what we can learn and understand about this issue. And thus resigned….

  7. Lisa Levy Buch says

    Jim, you are certainly entitled to your opinion. Unfortunately, it is not based in the true realities facing agencies building a light rail project. The Construction Authority is confident that we are building the project in the most cost effective and efficient manner possible, which is a responsibility we take very seriously. It is our goal to complete a high-quality, safe project on time and on budget, so that Metro can get the line operational as soon as possible. They will decide when and how to start service.

    Having said that, I am not wanting to get in a back and forth on this issue. You are always welcome to come to a Construction Authority board meeting and provide your comments to our Board of Directors. Our Chief Project Officer is usually present, and he will be able to provide more detailed information to specific questions you may have. Our board meets twice a month and the next meeting is next Wednesday at 7 p.m. (details can be found on our website –

    Thanks for your support and interest in the project. We can all agree that it is truly exciting to see the project moving through construction, taking us much closer to a reality where a sustainable and reliable transit option will be available to Arcadians.