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SGV Connect 113: Completion of the Gold Line Track with Habib Balian

Chris Greenspon 00:00
So you've got a celebration coming up this Saturday, what's the milestone?

Habib Balian 00:03
The milestone is completion of all of the track. That means from end to end, all track work has enabled us to have a continuous track from end to end. There'll be work going on, of course around the track and the stations for many months to come. But you'll see on Saturday that the track has been laid, overhead catenary is being installed. And we're at a point where you'll see train testing and preparation for train testing by the end of the year. So it's a very exciting time and a big, big milestone for this Construction Authority.

Chris Greenspon 00:36
And these are things that for any of the train freaks who come out, they'll be able to see and ooh and ah, though not touch?

Habib Balian 00:44
Oh, that's right. This will be, you know, really just looking at the track completion at that moment, actually, someone from Kiewit, a staff member from Kiewit, will walk over and I'll hand him the actual e clip, which is the steel clip that we'll be having there as mementos for the VIPs. But we'll have this E clip, and he will install it into the track with one whack of his mallet. And that will mean that all the track has been installed along the entire line. So it's a big moment, as I said, for the Construction Authority.

Chris Greenspon 01:19
Would it be a bad omen if it took more than one whack?

Habib Balian 01:22
It will not. I think, actually last year, the last time we did this, it was two whacks, and he got in there. So it's it's all done by hand, there's almost a quarter million of these clips throughout the alignment. So it's a lot of steel, it's a lot of man hours to build this rail. And to get to a point where all the rail is installed throughout the alignment. It's like I said, a big milestone.

Chris Greenspon 01:44
Just a reminder to our listeners, that'll be 9:30am at D Street in La Verne, you know, just north of Arrow Highway this Saturday. So Habib, you've got a lot of work still left to do on this extension. What's next, now that the rails have been lain?

Habib Balian 01:59
Well, now that the rail's installed, we look ahead to the major milestone, or actually the turnover to Metro, which is in January of 2025. So working backwards, all the station work has to be completed. We'll be installing the canopies. And all of the map cases and the finish along of the station pavers, for instance, installation, artwork, landscaping, that will all be going in in the months ahead. And then of course electrification of the system. And the testing of the system, there's extensive testing that goes on before we turn it over to Metro. And during that period of time, of course, we will take rail cars through there and there'll be driven through very slowly to test the equipment, make sure that it all works properly. So there's a lot of work to do. But the major civil work, the disruptive work if you will, of construction, that's all behind us. And I thank the community for their support and all the city support as well.

Chris Greenspon 02:55
So do you have a sense, not only when you're going to hand it over to them, but then when they might hand it over to us?

Habib Balian 03:03
Well, we turn it over to Metro in January of 2025. And then Metro will decide they'll go through their own testing and preparation. They'll train their staff, their operators on how the system works, and do all the things you would expect them to do to test the system. And we expect probably to take four months or so. But we don't forecast that date. It's entirely up to Metro when they feel comfortable and have the rail cars and the staffing to operate it correctly.

Chris Greenspon 03:29
Okay, so something that was mentioned before we started taping was that relatively unannounced and close hand to your celebration, Metro opened the Regional Connector. And with this, the name of the Gold Line changes again to the A Line this makes it the longest light rail line in the world. Has this impacted your work at all as you've gone?

Habib Balian 03:57
No, I think it's it's not as impacted the work. All those decisions that are made by Metro, the Regional Connector, if you will, all of that work of making the system now be reformed as it was originally planned from Long Beach all the way into the San Gabriel Valley that really has been on Metro and they've worked very hard to make this very complicated shift happen. It is part of the plan, the 30 year ago plan, to make these lines all connect just the way that they are connecting now. So it was a very difficult piece of work that had to be done and there were a lot of administrations that put it aside and didn't take it seriously and really didn't have the backbone to get it done in the past two administrations at the city and Metro. Their their boards have gotten behind this very expensive project. $1.8 billion, I don't know five years something like that to build, it was a significant, and very complicated project to build. They got it done and it's great for us because it now fulfills the promise of getting to the San Gabriel Valley to Long Beach and in one ride so it's wonderful, it's wonderful for the system, you'll see ridership growth go up and all these systems, the Expo Line going in East LA, it's just tremendous for the public to have these these, these lines line up in this way that they have done it. And like I said, it was very complicated, and they got it done.

Chris Greenspon 05:16
So like you said earlier, we're looking at a - let's call it a hopeful opening of May or June 2025. When that time rolls around, will the San Dimas station be open for business? Or will there still be issues with that? And can you provide those of the listeners who aren't familiar with what happened there with some background?

Habib Balian 05:41
Well, the station work will be completed that's part of the original contract. The only element that may not be completed still in question is the parking lot. So it's a parking lot: the entryways, the security devices, lighting, landscaping, all those things, we don't know that we're going to be done. We had that as a change order to our base contract. And it was a change order that was issued late because we were in litigation with the city of San Dimas. The issue with them is they asked us to move the station parking from its original plan to an alternative plan, which happened to be a Foothill Transit parking lot. And they supported that until they didn't support it. And then they ultimately challenged us in court, to not move it to where they wanted us to move it. And then they finally settled on accepting where it's being moved to this, which was the location that they had recommended. So with that, of course, it didn't allow us to award the contract - the change order to the contract - with all of the other parking lots that we built; it was in a later change order. So that was just approved by our board. And it's now going into design and we don't have a firm commitment from the contractor that it will be done in time because of the late start. So it's unfortunate that we had the litigation and that we had to delay things and it puts into question, the very ability for the parking lot to be completed on time.

Chris Greenspon 07:12
So looking further ahead, what about Montclair? Does it look like the Foothill Goldline Construction Authority is going to be able to get state funding to extend from Pomona to Montclair and do we have a sense of when that might happen if the outlook is good?

Habib Balian 07:28
Well, we're looking to the state as you said as the funding source of this project TRCP funds, the Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction funds, for the source of this project. We know that there is a potential of getting several billion dollars to the Metro area, to Southern California. There'll be a substantial share by… formula that will come to Metro. We fought very hard. Our elected officials - Supervisor Barge, Supervisors Solis, Mayor Sandoval - all worked very hard on the metro board to make sure that we were the priority that happened back in March. So any funding that comes to Metro is supposed to come to the Construction Authority to fund the project first. So we're very hopeful that the governor signs the budget. I think we know somewhere between the first of July and the 15th of July, what's in the budget finally that signed by the by the governor. And we'll wait and see. But if the governor does with the Senate and the Assembly have recommended, which is fund these projects, give the formula amount - I think there's $5 billion overall - into this TRCP of formula pot, that then we will get funded and it looks very likely that the project will get built. So we'll know in the weeks ahead what's going to happen.

Chris Greenspon 08:50
All right Habib, thanks so much for joining us, and we'll see you and some of our Streetsblog readers and listeners will be seeing you this Saturday in La Verne.

Habib Balian 09:00
We look forward to seeing you there and seeing all the public. There's so much support and excitement for this project. And I think you'll see that on Saturday.