Measure R Rail Projects Underway: Ground Is Broken for Foothill Extension

6_28_10_iwillride.jpgFrom the groundbreaking's pamphlet, which can be found here. h/t I Will Ride

This weekend wasn't just a good one for cyclists.  On Saturday, while I was still sleeping off Critical Mass, groundbreaking occurred for the Gold Line Foothill Extension in the San Gabriel Valley.  The rail line was always a popular project with Valley residents, but until Measure R was passed, a measure opposed by several prominent politicians in the area, funding for the project was not approved.  Now, with cash in hand and shovels in the ground, officials are predicting the extension will open in 2014, before the Expo Line will be completed all the way in to Santa Monica. 

Anyone who wants to know more about the specifics of the project should read this excellent "Q and A" written for The Source by Steve Hymon.

Reports on the ground breaking describe an event that was equal part celebration and pep rally.  The Source quotes Metro Board Chair Ara Najarian proclaiming that, "This whole county is going to change."  Later, Congressman Adam Schiff put in a plug for the a third extension (as in the one after the next one,) promising, "None of us will rest until this line goes to Ontario Airport."

But of course, it's not just transit hungry residents that are the winners.  While it's great that residents of Azusa can take a train to Mariachi Plaza if they want to; the creation and construction of this line will also determine how the San Gabriel Valley will grow.  On Saturday, The Times wrote an article all about the T.O.D. plans for line, including details of an ambitious project already on the "drawing board" in Azusa:

Monrovia's proposed Station Square project would rise next to the future site of its Gold Line station, just south of the 210 Freeway. Monrovia has already invested $30 million into the project and is negotiating public-private partnerships with multiple commercial real estate developers, Monrovia Mayor Mary Ann Lutz said...

...The project's first phase will include approximately 700 apartment units, 450,000 square feet of office space, and 30,000 square feet of retail space, according to Blaine Fetter, the Principal/Organizer at Samuelson & Fetter. Some of those apartments and offices will be completed by the time the train begins operation in 2014, he said.

How quickly and intelligently those development projects are constructed will have much to do with the success of the line.  If pedestrian-friendly, truly transit-oriented developments are built, the car-culture that has had a strangle hold on Valley developments might finally be eased.  If the rail line is used to justify new development, but little effort is put into making sure the new apartments and retail blend with and support the transit; then extension or not, it will be business as usual.

But for this week, the theme is celebrating the beginning of the construction of the Measure R projects.  "The whole county is going to change."  Let's just make certain that the change is more than worth the cost.