RECENTLY, the MTA proved once again how government does not work.
Instead of putting the 24-mile Gold Line Foothill Extension from east Pasadena to Montclair on its primary list of funded projects last week, it refused. Incredibly, the project was placed on the MTA's so-called secondary long-range plan list and below L.A.'s pipe dream "Subway to the Sea" which would extend the red line from mid-Wilshire to Santa Monica underground.
If government were to function by funding the most far-along projects, the most cost-effective, the most likely to succeed, the Gold Line extension to Montclair would win, hands down every time. The Authority has already finished the arduous California Environmental Quality Act process, meaning every Environmental Impact Report has been completed and approved. The rights-of-way are all purchased. Heck, San Gabriel Valley cities in December pledged $11 million in cash ($1 million each) to go toward a matching fund requirement with the federal government.
Local cities like Monrovia have working plans for transit-oriented development projects, which would help low and middle income residents move to the San Gabriel Valley and live near the trolley so they don't have to drive to work and contribute to smog and greenhouse gas emissions.
San Gabriel Valley voters - in an amazing show of support in November 2006 - said they were willing to pay more in taxes to build this and other rapid transit projects. They see the traffic on the 210, 10, 60 and 605 freeways every morning and afternoon. They can see how a more substantial light rail line - one that goes farther and helps more commuters - would lighten the load on these freeways and improve the air quality for homes, schools and businesses located around them.
The Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority said if the feds would allow it to use money already spent on planning and design, and some leftover from the first phase (Los Angeles to Pasadena), it could have about $30-$40 million - about half - of the local matching funds required right now. That would mean MTA would only have to pay $15 million a year for the first five years. For an agency with a $3 billion a year budget, that's pocket change.
The Construction Authority could not have presented this project in a more positive light had it wrapped it up in a big red bow or topped it with whipped cream and a red cherry.
Yet, because of egos and L.A. politics, the MTA passed. They passed. This coming a day after Rep. Hilda Solis, D-El Monte, was in our newsrooms saying she was talking to her friend, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and he liked the idea of the Gold Line going east, even to Ontario International Airport. Because it would take the strain off LAX.
As the saying goes, with friends like those, the San Gabriel Valley does not need enemies.
Thanks to MTA board member and Duarte City Councilman John Fasana, there will be another shot come June at getting the project on the MTA priority funding list. Get this: It would require them to agree to spend some of the Proposition 1B money - money that comes from the pockets of millions of San Gabriel Valley residents - on the extension.
Right now, the MTA has earmarked that money for buses and "miscellaneous transit projects."