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Jun 20, 2013

City officials want updated information on Gold Line transportation plan - Claremont Courier

The following article originally appeared in the Claremont Courier website on June 20, 2013.

By Beth Hartnett   |  June 20, 2013

Claremont officials are calling out the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) for lack of transparency as the MTA board prepares to approve changes to a multi-million dollar expenditure plan, which includes the expansion of the Gold Line light rail.

This Thursday, June 27, the board will consider amending the expenditure plan approved by voters in 2008 as part of the Measure R Traffic Relief and Rail Expansion. Measure R imposed a half-cent sales tax increase in order to fund critical highway and transportation projects throughout the county, including the Gold Line.

The current expenditure plan details transportation projects throughout the county over the next couple decades. The board would like to accelerate the plan by an average of 10 years. While accelerating the plan sounds good in theory, the board’s proposed plan does not accurately reflect how this will be accomplished, Claremont officials say.

“The proposed plan is incomplete in some cases, and incorrect in others,” Mayor Opanyi Nasiali wrote in a statement on behalf of the city of Claremont.

“The expenditure plan was put together in 2008, and since that time extensive study has been conducted on many of the transit projects,” Mr. Nasiali continued. “Regrettably, the proposed amendment does not provide information about the additional cost associated with accelerating selected projects.”

The proposed plan lists the cost estimate of an I-405 connector project as “To Be Announced” while Metro’s financial plan identifies it as $2.5 billion, Mr. Nasiali noted. The price point for the West Santa Ana Branch Project, connecting Orange County to Los Angeles via a railway, is also listed as pending though its been previously identified as an estimated $605 million endeavor.

Mr. Nasiali calls for actual cost estimates to be provided for both projects, and for the dollar amount of Measure R funds to be identified for each project, before approval of the plan.
Sam Pedroza, Claremont council member and first vice chair of the Metro Gold Line Foothill Construction Authority board, noted that the plan does not accurately reflect the actual cost of the Foothill Extension Project. The expenditure plan lists the project as a $758 million venture.

However, Mr. Pedroza pointed out that the actual current estimate is $1.71 billion, reflected in an update to the expenditure plan first discussed in 2012 and approved by the Foothill board this past April. While MTA officials say there is no more money left than the $758 million already allotted for the Foothill Extension through Azusa, Mr. Pedroza says it isn’t about receiving more Measure R money, but having the expenditure plan accurately reflect the funding gap that needs to be filled in some way.

“We aren’t asking for more Measure R dollars. We are just asking to be properly identified on the expenditure plan so we can say, ‘We have an 800 million funding gap, we need to go out and help find funds and Metro, you need to help us.’”

Other eastern Los Angeles County cities are joining in on the plea to the Metro Gold Line Foothill Construction Authority. Glendora, San Dimas and Pomona have also written to Metro, asking them to update the expenditure plan before moving forward with any Measure R changes. Mr. Pedroza hopes others will follow suit.

“It’s a governance issue,” Mr. Pedroza said. “[This proposed plan] is misleading and not transparent. It’s not telling the real story.”

Metro and Supervisor Michael Antonovich, chairman of the Metro board of directors, declined comment on the matter until the board meeting on June 27.

The public is invited to sit in on the Metro board’s review, which takes place at 9 a.m. in the Metro Boardroom, located at One Gateway Plaza in Los Angeles. Those unable to attend the meeting may send written comments through Thursday, June 27. Letters must be addressed to Board Administration, Metro, One Gateway Plaza, Mail Stop 99-3-1, Los Angeles, CA 90012-2952.