By Steve Scauzillo, May 10, 2015
Metro Gold Line’s 10th Anniversary Event, July 26, 2013 at the Metro Gold Line Del Mar Station in Pasadena.
In a quest to divide $3.3 billion in future transportation
improvement dollars, San Gabriel Valley cities are slipping into a
battle pitting the haves in the north against the have-nots in the
The influential San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments
has listed $1.02 billion for extension of the Gold Line light-rail in
the foothills from the Azusa/Glendora border to Claremont in the north,
while the Gold Line Eastside extension, in the south, would get $246
Even though the preliminary rail formula goes before the
regional agency’s governing board May 21, the staff proposal drew fire
last week from transportation committee member and South El Monte City
Councilman Joe Gonzales, who heads up a coalition of southern cities
supporting the 6.9-mile rail extension from Atlantic/Pomona boulevards
to South El Monte that parallels the 60 Freeway.
“I don’t think the $246 million is enough,” Gonzales objected.
“The foothill cities are getting $1 billion. Where is the equity as
compared to the south San Gabriel Valley cities?”
were cautious not to enter a north-south fray, saying the 31 cities
representing nearly 2 million residents must stand together or risk
losing future transit funds.
“We need to demonstrate we are
united. I don’t want to get into this south verses north,” said
transportation vice-chairman and Claremont City Councilman Sam Pedroza.
The argument exposed an embarrassing history that the regional agency doesn’t want to repeat.
Los Angeles County voters passed Measure R in 2008 by 67.22 percent,
the one-half cent sales tax unleashed $40 billion in revenue through
2039. The measure was opposed by the SGVCOG.
Now, with nearly all that
money allocated for five ongoing rail projects and various highway
projects, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority
(Metro) has teamed up with the state Legislature to create Measure R-2, a
second one-half cent sales tax for transportation projects. Sen. Kevin
DeLeon’s Senate Bill 767 is making its way through Sacramento and if
approved, will arrive on the November 2016 ballot in time for the
Measure J, a 30-year extension of R, was tried in November 2012
but failed to gain the required two-thirds vote by less than one
percentage point after both pro and con discussions — often heated — at
the SGVCOG because it would not have funded the Foothill Gold Line’s
Some, including Gonzales, point to a
propensity of “no” votes from more affluent, foothill communities as
part of the reason for J’s narrow defeat, while “transit-dependent”
voters in lower-income southern cities voted in favor because they are
more likely to ride public transit than drive private automobiles. He
said the same thing can happen in 2016 if San Gabriel Valley rail and
freeway projects are not equitably funded.
“One segment (of the San Gabriel Valley) can torpedo this measure,” he said.
COG’s Mark Christoffels, who worked with the city managers committee to
create a transit spending matrix, said Measure R set aside $1.2 billion
for a Gold Line Eastside extension so that’s why the staff report only
recommends adding $246 million from Measure R-2.
But Metro’s board complicated matters by approving a study of both
the SR-60 route and the Washington Boulevard route to Whittier. If both
Eastside extensions were built, it could raise the cost to $5 billion,
according to Metro.
Metro is proposing to divide Measure R-2 funds for new rail
projects as follows: 19 percent for central Los Angeles; 7.7 percent for
the Arroyo-Verdugo area (Pasadena, Glendale, Burbank); 19.8 percent for
the Gateway Cities; 1.4 percent for Las Virgenes/Malibu; 9.4 percent
for North county; 14.85 percent for the San Fernando Valley; 10.62
percent for the South Bay cities; 13 percent for the westside and 16.2
percent for the San Gabriel Valley.
The San Gabriel Valley would
receive $2.3 billion from Measure R-2, and $1 billion from another
measure that would extend existing Measure R another 18 years. Besides
rail projects, future R-2 funds would add $690 million for improving
freeway interchanges at: 57/60, 605/10, 605/60 and the 71 Freeway. No
specific funding was allocated for the 710 freeway extension,
Polling by Metro found three-quarters would vote for R-2. Those
polled preferred a ballot measure with clear language. They
characterized a measure that says it will “augment and extend” a tax as
Focus groups described the county’s
public transportation system as “incomplete.” The majority focused on
rail service, saying they’ve heard a lot of talk about adding rail lines
but not enough action.
Michael Cano, a SGVCOG member who
represents county Supervisor Mike Antonovich, said the San Gabriel
Valley list of projects and priorities is far more thought out than
those in other regions, including the San Fernando Valley and South Bay.
If the Azusa-to-Claremont extension gets funded, the project
could break ground in 2017, wrote Pedroza in a letter to the Foothill
Gold Line Phase 2 Joint Powers Authority board.