With a few swings of his golden sledgehammer, construction worker Leo Avalos drove a steel clip into the last rail tie that completed the light-rail tracks that soon will extend the A Line train 9.1 miles from Glendora to Pomona.
The historic milestone was marked on a blustery Saturday, June 24, on the fresh tracks at D Street north of Arrow Highway in La Verne, as dignitaries cheered and took photos. The moment literally sets in concrete the last of the 230,630 rail clips for the electric train to travel on, once the rest of the extension is built and rail car doors open for service in January 2025.
With track completion, the project is about 18 months away from bringing light-rail service not just from Los Angeles and Pasadena but from as far south as Long Beach all the way to Pomona.
“I can’t tell you how much this project means to the city of Pomona. Far too many of our kids in our city have never been to the beach, never been to the Norton Simon Museum (in Pasadena), or The Getty. Downtown L.A. or the Aquarium of the Pacific (in Long Beach). That’s what this project means — our children will have the opportunity to realize their full potential,” said Pomona Mayor and LA Metro board member Tim Sandoval, speaking at the milestone ceremony.
Currently, what was once the Gold Line, then the L Line, is now part of the A Line, the 50-mile light-rail that takes passengers without transferring from Long Beach to Azusa. The new designation was made possible by the opening on June 16 of Metro’s Regional Connector line in Downtown Los Angeles.
The foothill cities’ “Gold Line Extension” will have four new stations in Glendora, La Verne, San Dimas and Pomona that are still under construction. Construction crews have finished the tracks, 21 at-grade crossings plus 19 new or renovated bridges. These include the Foothill/Grand Avenue Bridge and the Lone Hill Avenue Bridge in Glendora and the Bonita Avenue/Cataract Avenue Bridge in San Dimas.
The project, still referred to as the Gold Line by elected officials at the ceremony, is now 71% complete and is under budget and on schedule, said Claremont Mayor Ed Reece, vice chair of the Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority Board. One year ago, the project was 50% completed.
“From Glendora, La Verne, San Dimas and Pomona, these cities now and forever will be connected by this new, light-rail line,” Reece said. Construction crews are scheduled to complete the extension to Pomona by early January 2025. It will then be tested by LA Metro, which will determine the date for revenue service.
An extension planned since 2003 that would bring the line to Claremont and into Montclair — a first-ever LA Metro line that would cross into San Bernardino County — is about $758 million short. Sacramento lawmakers are hoping funding for that 3.2-mile portion of the line will be part of the state budget being decided on Tuesday.
Montclair Mayor John Dutrey said the near-completion of the A Line to Pomona could persuade Gov. Gavin Newsom to finish the line. “This creates momentum to get us to Montclair,” he said after the event Saturday.
State Sen. Susan Rubio, D-Baldwin Park, urged the 175 people in the audience to remind Newsom to fund the line to Claremont and Montclair by asking the crowd to text “Support Transit Now” to 916-304-6064. After some got responses, she said: “This is how powerful the San Gabriel Valley is. The governor has heard us.”
Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, a long-time Gold Line supporter, said the money for the Montclair extension is in the state budget. However, “negotiations are still going on,” he said, adding that he was very hopeful the money will survive budget amendments next week.
Holden said building the line to Montclair is important because it connects Inland Empire commuters with jobs in LA County.
Montclair City Councilmember Bill Ruh commented on the state transportation agency denying funding for the extension earlier this year, despite it being on the list for projects by LA Metro. The agency reported it gave money for other San Bernardino County projects, but Ruh and others in Montclair felt the state missed the point that the line is designed to be a fast, inexpensive connector that will help IE and LA County residents.
“People can park in the Montclair Transit Center and take the train to educational facilities or to get to work and not drive on the congested freeways, such as the 10 and 210,” he said before the event.
Rep. Judy Chu, D-Pasadena, said: “The communities in the East San Gabriel Valley have been underserved by transit that will connect them to the rest of the Los Angeles area. This is exactly what the Gold Line is accomplishing.”
Chu recalled criticism from Los Angeles officials and even LA Metro more than 10 years ago who said adding to the Gold Line would not attract enough riders. She said after the 13.7-mile line opened from Los Angeles Union Station to Pasadena in 2003, and then the 11.5-mile extension from Pasadena to Azusa in 2016, ridership exceeded expectations.
“This next expansion to Pomona is expected to increase ridership by over 11,000 daily weekday boardings and generate nearly 17,000 jobs,” Chu said. She said the extension to Pomona will relieve traffic congestion on the jam-packed 210 Freeway.
“We will not give up until the full potential of the Gold Line is fulfilled and it goes out to Claremont, Montclair and the Ontario airport,” Chu concluded.