Go East, Angelino!

L.A. pushes ahead with $1.4 billion light rail extension despite lack of full funding

City Terrain Transportation West
Los Angeles is pushing ahead with a $1.4 billion, 11.5-mile long extension of the Gold Line regional light rail line. (Courtesy Foothill Gold Line Authority)

Officials in Los Angeles are forging ahead with plans to extend the city’s Gold Line 11.5 miles east through the suburban communities of Glendora, San Dimas, and Claremont. The $1.4 billion project will extend the route’s northern branch for a second time in its 13-year history, following an 11-mile expansion that opened last year.

The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority (LAMTA) voted this week to approve funding and partnership agreements necessary for construction to start in September 2018. The Claremont extension will be the first project directly funded with revenue generated from the county-wide Measure M sales tax that was approved last November. Because the route crosses into San Bernardino County, which is not covered by Measure M, funding for the last leg of the route will be contingent on San Bernardino County contributing to the project, which is expected to occur.

In the meantime, the transit authority will apply for a $249 million grant from California’s Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program to make up for the shortfall. The fund provides transit funding to state municipalities using revenue generated from the state’s carbon “cap and trade” market. The transit authority will also dedicate $26 million in savings resulting from the construction of the previous Gold Line extension toward the project, with an additional $100 million in funding coming from Measure R, a previous L.A. County–wide sales tax aimed at boosting transit across the region.

The announcement for the new extension caps off the busy period following the November election. In the eight months since, the transit agency has moved toward plotting out which potential projects will move forward and in which order; the Gold Line extension is at the top of the list. LAMTA is also studying several alignments for a southern extension of the Gold Line and is partway through work on the Regional Connector, an underground link crossing Downtown Los Angeles that would connect the northern branch of the Gold Line with the Long Beach–bound Blue Line, creating a new, continuous north-south line. The Connector would also link the southern branch of the Gold Line with the Santa Monica–bound Expo Line, establishing a true east-west connection across the region. The agency has also had to fight for transit funding promised during the Obama administration that current administration officials have been reluctant to administer.

The extension is expected to open in 2026.

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