Pasadena’s City Council sealed the fate of plans to build a Gold Line overpass above California Boulevard which proponents hoped would end the frustrating snarled traffic delays common on California between Arroyo Parkway and South fair Oaks Avenue.
“As much as I love the Gold Line, it certainly has bisected our city during rush hour,” Vice Mayor Andy Wilson commented to the Pasadena Star-News in 2018.
But Monday the Council decided the cure was worse than the complaint and voted unanimously to direct the city manager to find other transportation projects that would replace the California Blvd Grade Separation project and engage the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) Board of Directors in discussion to have the funding for the project reallocated.
The City staff made the recommendation following a feasibility study as it found that the grade separation costs and potential impacts outweighs the identified need and potential benefits of the project.
During the meeting, Joaquin Siques, deputy director of the city’s transportation department enumerated the potential physical and operational constraints if the project were to be undertaken.
He said during construction of the grade separation, California Boulevard would need to be closed between 18 months to 4 years. He also mentioned potential right of way issues, among other issues, if the project were to be pursued.
Siques said other transportation solutions could more effectively address mobility needs, reduce intersection delay and address multimodal safety at California Boulevard.
In November 2018 and in September 2019, Metro authorized programming of funds for the State Route 710 North Mobility Improvement Projects (MIP) to jurisdictions along the 710 North corridor to fund capacity enhancement projects.
From these approved projects, Metro has allocated a total of $230.5 million to Pasadena as part of Measure R MIP funds to be used to complete the environmental study, design, right-of-way acquisitions, and construction of the Metro L (Gold) Line Grade Separation.
City Manager Steve Mermell said the grade separation “would be extremely disruptive to the city for three or four years.”
“Rather than go back to an idea, a concept that made sense two decades ago, we should think of the bigger picture and work with our partners at Metro to come up with a different set of projects approved by this council that would fit better into the future,” Mermell said.
Councilmember Steve Madison — in whose district the overpass would have been built — expressed support for the staff recommendation.
“I think this is the right decision,” Madison said. “This will be disappointing to many residents who have hoped for years that we would try to address the occasional or periodic gridlock that they experience on these east-west arteries like California and Del Mar.”
He continued: “I still believe the great separation would be great if we could snap our fingers and have it but unfortunately that’s not how major construction and engineering projects work.”
“California closed for four years could be incredibly disruptive,” Vice Mayor Andy Wilson said after expressing his support for the staff recommendation.
While all councilmembers voted for the staff recommendation, the majority of them pointed out that the city should not lose the funding originally earmarked for the grade separation and that this must be reallocated for the future project in lieu of the grade separation.
“I know that all the councilmembers are disappointed with the fact that there will be no grade separation there but I agree with Councilmember Madison that we have to retain those funds,” said Councilmember Gene Masuda.
During the meeting, Mayor Victor Gordo expressed hopes the city will have control of the corridor soon. “Relinquishment has been a game-changer. Hopefully, we will have control of the corridor sooner rather than later.”
The projects that will be identified by the staff will be presented to the City Council for approval before being submitted to the Metro for consideration.
Work to be completed in accordance with the recommended action would be done using the existing Transportation Department Operating Budget, according to the staff report.