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Why Montclair wants voting rights on the Gold Line light rail extension

The city of Montclair wants a seat on the board overseeing the extension of light rail into San Bernardino County.

Source: By SANDRA EMERSON | | Redlands Daily Facts

A bill is advancing through the state Assembly that would give the city a voting seat on the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority Board of Directors, the agency overseeing the 12.3 mile Metro Gold Line extension from Glendora to the Montclair Transcenter.

The extension into Montclair would provide additional parking and transit options for commuters, making it a vital component to the project, according to city officials.

The Construction Authority’s Board of Directors, however, voted on March 28 to oppose the legislation out of concern it would give the county disproportionate representation on the board and could impact its procurement of a contractor for the $1.5 billion project.

“It’s important for us to have our voice and a vote for the city,” said Montclair City Councilman Bill Ruh. “We’re the first city inside San Bernardino County that will get the Gold Line and we need to have that vote. We need to make sure it happens. We owe it to the commuters in the region.”

The bill, introduced by Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez, D-Chino, is headed to the Assembly Appropriations Committee after gaining unanimous support from the Assembly Local Government Committee.

If signed into law, the legislation would add a voting seat to the board, which currently has five voting and four non-voting members. The new seat would be appointed by the city of Montclair, making it the only city impacted by the Glendora-to-Montclair extension with a seat.

The cities of Pasadena, Los Angeles and South Pasadena, the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments and the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority have voting seats, while the non-voting seats are appointed by the governor, the Pasadena and South Pasadena city councils and the president of the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority Board of Directors.

The city of South Pasadena appointed Ontario Mayor Paul S. Leon to its voting seat. That seat, plus the nonvoting seat that belongs to SBCTA, gives the county 20 percent of the board’s representation. Only 6 percent of the project is within the county’s scope, according to Lisa Levy Buch, spokeswoman for the authority. Adding a seat for Montclair would boost the county’s representation to 33 percent, she said.

“The authority board also believes that until full funding is secured, and San Bernardino County has formally committed funding to build the line to Montclair, (the) proposed change to the governance structure of the board would be premature,” Buch said.

The board is concerned a change in its governance could cause contractors to add “risk money” to their bids, therefore increasing the overall cost of the project, Buch said.

The Construction Authority is in the process of obtaining a contractor and is on track to award a contract in October 2018.

“Adding any additional cost to the project could have serious impacts on the final scope, making extending the line into San Bernardino County even more challenging,” Buch said.

Ruh disagreed.

“I think it’s going to enhance what they have right now,” he said. “They’re going to have somebody who’s strongly vocally supported the Gold Line and we have been from day one.”

The city has long supported the project and transit-oriented development. Light rail is a major component of the North Montclair Downtown Specific Plan, which integrates residential, retail, entertainment and public transit into a pedestrian-and-bicycle friendly community.

“We’ve invested quite a bit of money in our North Montclair Specific Plan to create what everybody is pushing, transit-oriented development,” Ruh said. “Developers have risked their capital and it has to get there.”

The Gold Line extension would terminate at the multi-modal Montclair Transcenter, which has connections to the Metrolink San Bernardino Line, Foothill Transit lines to Union Station in Los Angeles and Azusa, multiple Omnitrans bus routes, Riverside Transit Agency’s route to downtown Riverside and is proposed to one day have shuttle and ride-share services to Ontario International Airport.

The center offers nearly 2,000 parking spaces, which, Ruh said, will help alleviate parking congestion at the stations planned for Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne, Pomona, Claremont and Montclair.

“At present, Metrolink doesn’t plan to build any more parking facilities,” Ruh said. “So Claremont, La Verne, San Dimas and Glendora won’t have any additional parking other than what they have now. They won’t be able to handle the amount of traffic.”