A passenger train line that was originally unwanted by regional transportation planners but now carries more than 1 million passengers a month was celebrated last week on its 10th anniversary.
The Gold Line began operating July 26, 2003, on its first section, the old Santa Fe rail right-of-way between Union Station in Los Angeles and downtown Pasadena. From Union Station it takes an elevated rail to Chinatown before returning to street level for stops at stations in northeast L.A., including in Lincoln Heights, the Southwest Museum in Mount Washington, and in Highland Park, and then continues on, making six stops in Pasadena. The line was later extended east along the Foothill (210) Freeway, and a southern leg was added southeast from Union Station across Boyle Heights to East Los Angeles.
Last Thursday, more than 100 elected officials and community members gathered at the Del Mar Station in Pasadena to celebrate.
Originally rebuffed by Metro directors, Pasadena-area politicians turned to a change in state law authored by then-Sen. Adam Schiff and wrested the project away from Metro, setting up a new agency: the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority. That agency built the line on time and on budget.
Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard hailed the Gold Line for causing a renaissance in city land use.
“It has improved the fabric of our city and changed how our residents, workers and visitors travel every day,” he said in prepared remarks.
More than $1 billion in transit-oriented development was sparked by the train, he said, including “nearly 2,300 new residential units; 750,000 square feet of newly constructed retail and commercial space; as well as numerous other projects that either renovated or adaptively reused our historic buildings.”
The Construction Authority is building a $2 billion extension that will connect Pasadena to Montclair in two construction segments. The first segment, Pasadena to Azusa, was funded by Los Angeles County’s Measure R and is underway.
Funding is being sought to extend the Gold Line into San Bernardino County, possibly as far as Ontario International Airport. Southeast of Los Angeles, Metro is considering extending the southern leg to Montebello, Whittier or both.
The train’s two legs will be connected to the Blue and Expo lines via a “Regional Connector” tunnel now being built under downtown Los Angeles and scheduled to open in 2020.