We’re still months away from any actual train service but the dedication this morning (Saturday, August 22, 2015) of the Arcadia Foothill Gold Line station means there is nothing left to do except get the train cars delivered and start the service that will extend the light rail option 11.5 miles from Pasadena to Azusa.
The closest we got to a start date – which in the past year has been said to be anywhere from March 2016 to January 2017 (lately the word has been somewhere between March and July of 2016, or sometime in spring 2016), was a “commitment” from Metro officials to determine a date within 30 days after the Construction Authority turns over the project to the transportation agency, which will be next month (September).
Mayor Gary Kovacic, who hosted the morning ceremony consisting of short speeches by numerous local politicians and officials connected with the light rail service, announced that in Arcadia, spring starts in January, or perhaps even as early as December this year, which drew laughter and applause from the eager crowd of about 500, according to estimates by Gold Line officials.
Congresswoman Judy Chu and L.A. County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich were very pointed in their remarks about making sure support and funding continue for the light rail system to go to the next segment from Azusa to the L.A. County border at Montclair/Claremont – another 12.5 miles and another $1 billion for a project that could begin construction in 2017 and be complete in 2023 — and then on to the Ontario Airport.
The new station features Santa Anita Park color and design art elements coordinated by a committee spearheaded by former Arcadia Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Beth Costanza about five years ago that included Santa Anita Park’s Pete Siberell and myself, Scott Hettrick, among others.
Beth’s granddaughter Madeline McVey Zack made some preliminary design suggestions for the station platform benches and the frieze on the walkway railing, which were then handed over to Santa Anita designer Candace Chew who created her own designs.
That work has resulted in art at the station ultimately created by Gold Like’s hired artist Michael Davis that evokes the art deco frieze at Santa Anita in stainless steel panels and benches painted to depict race horses above the name Arcadia (a lucky number “7” is hidden in the framework).
Davis also went a couple steps further by designing colored glass panels over the first (easternmost) and smallest of three canopies on the platform that feature an artistic interpretation of the eye of peacock feathers, although the eye is almost impossible to detect even if you know to look for it. And they are already looking a little weathered after just a few months exposed to the intense sun and heat.
Davis is also responsible for the 22-foot weather vane on the platform called “Arcadian Zephyr,” which, in addition to the traditional N-S-E-W directional spindle, includes bronze sculptures of several species of animals indigenous to the Santa Anita and the L.A. County Arboretum, the most distinctive of which are, again, race horses, as well as a peacock that tops the vane. Again, the vane itself, let alone the specific animals, may not be readily noticed by the majority of Gold Line riders, but such is often the case with public art unless it is so huge and obvious that it cannot be missed.
As for the Arcadia station itself, as well as most of the stations along the new route, it is simply a single raised concrete platform positioned between the two sets of tracks with two primary canopies. Other more elaborate stations in the growing network of service lines throughout Los Angeles are large underground facilities filled with extensive public art and platforms on the outer sides of both tracks.
It is accessed from a ramp walkway from First Avenue on the northwest corner at Santa Clara Street across from 24 Hour Fitness, which wasn’t even there when the Foothill Gold Line project was initiated. That fitness center stands on the spot of the former Hotel Oakwood owned by Arcadia’s founder and first Mayor, Elias J “Lucky” Baldwin.
Baldwin was responsible for getting the very first railroad through Arcadia and a station stop right at his hotel in the early 1900s.
Current Mayor Kovacic noted that these train tracks and others in the area were later used for other rail services, including the iconic Pacific Electric “Red Cars” of the mid-20th century.
Prior to 2010 the Gold Line station was planned to be built on the east side of First Avenue because it was initially believed that trains would not be able to slow down the slope fast enough and get to level ground soon enough between the overpass at Santa Anita and a station less than a block away. Engineers eventually overcame that challenge to the delight of all involved.
Another major change in 2012 was not embraced as warmly — the downsizing of the new parking garage along Santa Clara Street from the initially-planned 800-space, four-level garage to the current two-level, 300-space garage. Gold Line officials compromised by saying that they built the garage in such a way as to allow for the addition of another level or two on top if demand warrants. But they assured City officials that rider projections indicate no more demand than 300 cars in the garage during peak times.
They also say many riders will use other forms of transportation to get to the station, including bicycles for which their are lockers and racks at the garage and the City’s adjacent Transit Plaza.
A couple of city officials rode their bikes to the ceremony today, including one from as far away as South Pasadena. But of the 500 people in attendance, there were no more than 10 bikes at the racks today, including my own.
The City has also added a block of newly-painted bike lanes on First Avenue from a block south of the station (Wheeler Street) to Huntington Drive.
The arrival of the Gold Line is also what sparked Beth Costanza and the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce to mobilize leaders in the surrounding Downtown Arcadia area to form the Arcadia Improvement Association business district to capitalize on the influx of people coming to/through Arcadia and boarding/unloading in the area. That has led the Thoroughbred Racing Walk of Champions plaques in the sidewalks and the launch last month of the weekly Friday night Downtown Arcadia Street Fair.
The Gold Line Extension Construction Authority was praised again for completing the nearly $1 billion project on time and under budget, which was a follow-up to their work on the initial 13.9-mile segment of the Gold Line from Downtown L.A. to East Pasadena from 1999-2003, also on time and under budget. Their work and community relations has indeed been exemplary. But before the Authority was awarded the construction project and work began in 2010, the line was supposed to have been opened in 2013, so it will be at least three years behind the initial schedule.
The final funding mechanism that triggered the green light for the entire Foothill Gold Line extension came from the Measure R half-cent County sales tax, approved by voters in November 2008 after several years of lobbying by all cities along the route and the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce and its Government Affairs Forum, led by alternating chairmen and co-chairs, Peter Ulrich, Mary Dougherty, and myself.
Peter Ulrich, now in his 90s, attended the ceremony today and was pleased to see the station finally dedicated nearly a decade after his lobbying efforts.
Ceremonies along the way for the Gold Line have included a groundbreaking for the station dedicated today, groundbreaking for the bridge over Colorado Boulevard, groundbreaking for the bridge over Santa Anita Avenue — the only such bridge along the 11.5-mile extension — a grand opening ceremony for the iconic bridge over the 210 Freeway — the largest publicly-funded art project in the state of California — and now the dedication of the Arcadia station today.
The first station dedication along the new route was in Duarte earlier this month. This Friday at 5 p.m. will be a similar ceremony in Irwindale (16027 Avenida Padilla), followed by ceremonies in Monrovia and Azusa.
— By Scott Hettrick