After years of planning and construction, on July 26, 2003, the Metro Gold Line began its operations, connecting riders from Union Station all the way to Sierra Madre. To celebrate its 10th anniversary, let's take a brief look at the light rail line's history, excerpted from our deep exploration of Highland Park:
Initially conceived as an extension of the Long Beach Blue line, right of way for the route had been purchased by the Metro Transit Authority in 1993 when Amtrak ceased operations on what was formerly the Atchinson, Topka, and Santa Fe Railway's main link from San Bernadino to Los Angeles. After the MTA restored and retrofitted the historic 1896 Santa Fe Rail Bridge over the Arroyo Seco Parkway, it would became the first leg of the line to be constructed.
Construction began in 1994 (with 0.5 % of its budget set aside for public art projects along the route) but massive cost overruns halted the project in 1995. A State Senate bill led to the creation of the independent Pasadena Blue Line Authority, dedicated solely to the completion of the light rail line. With PBLA at the helm, the project moved along at a brisk pace, only briefly halting when local critics voiced concerns regarding the safety of at-grade crossings - not to mention a bit of unspoken worry over their property values. One Mt. Washington resident called it a matter of "life and death," citing the safety of children.
The Gold Line, as it was now called, finished on time and under budget, with artists contributing site-specific designs and installations for the stations, including John Valadez's "The First Artists in Southern California" at Pasadena's Memorial Park station. MTA began operations in July 2003. During the first 6 months of operation, ridership was estimated to be between 12,000 and 18,000 trips per day. In mid-2011, now including the Eastside Extension, it hit a record high at over 42,000 riders per day.
Now connecting the areas between East L.A. and Pasadena, the Gold Line has created a shared experience among the residents of varied areas, emphasizing the need for residents to coexist in public spaces, regardless of income or race. With plans for the Foothill Extension underway, the Gold Line will connect the city more than ever.
Here are some photos taken during the construction of the Gold Line through Highland Park and Mount Washington, courtesy of Flickr user Salaam Allah West Coast Transitphotography King, used with permission:
To learn more about the Gold Line visit Departures Highland Park where you can watch former Councilmen Ed P. Reyes discussing the significant role the railway has played in connecting Highland Park to the rest of Los Angeles.