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L.A. Light-Rail Anticipates Ambitious Eastern Expansion

Map of Phase 2B of the Gold Line extension to light-rail in Southern California
Phase 2B of the Gold Line extension to light-rail in Southern California will add an additional 12.3 mi of service from Azusa to Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne, Pomona, Claremont, and Montclair. Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority

Fifteen years in the planning, an extension of light-rail service from Azusa, California, east to cities in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains is starting to take shape. The engineering firm AECOM will take the project to the design/build stage.

June 3, 2014—The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) will extend its reach from Los Angeles’s Union Station an additional 37.5 mi across eastern Los Angeles County to Montclair, in San Bernardino County, with the construction of the Gold Line Foothill Extension light-rail line.

Phase 2A of the extension, scheduled for completion in late 2015, runs from Pasadena to Azusa. Phase 2B, an additional 12.3 mi extension, will continue light-rail service from Azusa to Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne, Pomona, Claremont, and Montclair. The completed extension will reduce traffic congestion and environmental impacts along the far eastern corridor and provide convenient access for residents and tourists to multiple local and regional attractions and nearly a dozen colleges along the Azusa-to-Montclair route.

The Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority, an independent transportation planning and construction agency that the California State Legislature created in 1998, is overseeing the project. AECOM, of Los Angeles, is providing engineering and environmental consulting for Phase 2B and is charged with advancing the design and engineering over the next several years to the point at which the project can be let as a design/build contract.

The Azusa-to-Montclair extension will be constructed in an existing active BNSF Railway right-of-way that the MTA purchased in the early 1990s in preparation for this project. The freight line shares portions of the alignment with commuter rail. The right-of-way will not require widening to accommodate light-rail, according to Chris Burner, P.E., M.ASCE, the chief project officer of the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority. “But the existing freight tracks through the center of the alignment typically will need to be relocated by 10 to 15 feet to make room for our tracks,” he notes.

AECOM’s primary focus is the identification of all utilities along the alignment that will require relocation and restoration. “The main issue will be dealing with the numerous at-grade crossings that have utilities passing through the alignment,” notes Ray Sosa, an associate vice president of AECOM. AECOM will follow design guidelines that the MTA has provided for cathotic protection of utilities to prevent corrosion caused by the ground-transfer of electrical charges.

The light-rail extension will include a total of 26 at-grade crossings and six stations. Most of the line will follow the freight line at grade, with the exception of two existing grade-separated locations and three additional locations at which light-rail bridges will be constructed.

“The challenge will be locations where the freight line and commuter line are both in operation,” Sosa says. “The right-of-way can accommodate all three tracks, but in some of those areas, we will need to determine how to continue service with minimal interruption during construction.”

AECOM and the Construction Authority are collaborating on plans to maintain regular and emergency service routes during construction. For the 3 mi stretch that will service both lines, a phasing plan involving a temporary track to be built parallel to the existing commuter line is one solution under consideration. “Sections of the freight line may have to be closed for short periods of time,” Burner adds.

To maintain vehicle traffic at the crossings, the Construction Authority will follow existing procedures that are in place for Phase 2A. “Safety concerns for pedestrians and cars at the crossings during construction and eventually during operation will be a major issue, with the two existing rail lines both in operation,” Sosa adds.

The six stations along the Azusa-to-Montclair route will follow the same basic, general design developed for the Pasadena-to-Azusa segment, utilizing the same canopy and Metro’s standardized facility layout. Each city had the opportunity to select the site for its station, and most of the cities selected their downtown business districts.

Each station will be distinguished by public art that, along with architectural features, pavers, landscaping, and color schemes, will integrate the station with its surroundings. Following the same approach as in Phase 2A, each city has selected an artist for its station who will work to develop the artistic elements for the station. Each artist will then work closely with the design/build team to ensure that materials, colors, and art elements are integrated into the stations as construction progresses. (An artist designed the Gold Line Bridge that carries the Phase 2A line over Interstate 210 in San Gabriel Valley; read “Golden Gateway,” Civil Engineering, March 2014, p. 46-51 and 75.)

“The art is important because it brings uniqueness to each station,” Burner explains. “The selected artists will need to get to know the community and shape their artwork accordingly to be consistent with the area’s culture and history.” To strengthen the communities’ ownership in their stations, each city will create a committee to review and approve the artist’s designs.

Los Angeles County’s Measure R, a countywide sales tax passed in 2008 specifically to fund transportation projects, is funding the advanced conceptual engineering and environmental work that is currently in progress for the Azusa-to-Montclair segment. Measure R monies also are funding construction of the Pasadena-to-Azusa segment that currently is in progress.

The Construction Authority has not yet obtained funding for the $1.18-billion Phase 2B, but is working with the MTA to identify potential funding sources. The current timeline anticipates that funding will be finalized and construction will begin in 2017, with completion scheduled for 2022.



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