Assemblymember Chris Holden expressed his disappointment with the San Bernardino County Transit Authority (SBCTA) after the agency ceased negotiations on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to bring rail connectivity to Ontario International Airport. SBTCA agreed to work on the MOU process and establish guiding principles to move the project forward after Assemblymember Holden committed to not pursue his legislative proposal.
“Despite my commitment to work in good faith and the efforts of my staff to earnestly provide responses to SBCTA’s concerns, SBCTA has been steadfast in rejecting the most important elements of these guiding principles even those they had previously agreed to,” said Assemblymember Holden in a letter sent to SBCTA on Monday, May 18th. “These guiding principles are important not just to me, but to cities in both counties.”
In the letter, Holden said he introduced his legislation, AB 2011, at the beginning of the year to address the longtime goals of communities in his district and throughout the region to connect the Ontario International Airport to light rail. The bill would have created the West San Bernardino County Rail Construction Authority to design and build the extension from Montclair to the Airport.
“This connection amplifies the critical benefits light rail already plays in reducing vehicle miles traveled, improving air quality, and connecting communities,” continued Holden.
Two commitments that SBCTA walked back include advocating completion of the Gold Line to Montclair, and not to exclude Claremont and Montclair in the Rancho Cucamonga line alternative to be studied.
Holden’s history with the Gold Line spans over 30 years. Prior to his election to the Pasadena City Council, Assemblymember Holden served on the Pasadena Light Rail Alignment Task Force established in 1985 to identify the light rail route alternatives in Pasadena. He is a former board president of the Burbank- Glendale- Pasadena Airport Authority where he served as a commissioner for 20 years.
Here is the full text of Holden’s letter to SBCTA:
May 18, 2020
Darcy McNaboe, Chair
San Bernardino County Transportation Authority
1170 W. Third Street, 2nd Floor
San Bernardino, CA 92410
Dear Chairperson McNaboe:
The 2019-2020 legislative year has been a year of growth, learning, and resiliency. Since November of 2019, my office has worked closely with your staff at the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority to judiciously develop a plan for interregional connectivity.
I introduced Assembly Bill 2011 at the beginning of this year to address the longtime goals of communities in my district and throughout the region to connect the Ontario International Airport to light rail. This connection amplifies the critical benefits light rail already plays in reducing vehicle miles traveled, improving air quality, and connecting communities.
In light of SBCTA’s concerns to AB 2011, I agreed to not move forward with the bill if we, SBCTA and other stakeholders included, came to an agreement on how to achieve the policy goals in AB 2011. Through dialogue and transparency, we came to a verbal agreement that consideration of a connection to the airport directly from Pomona to Rancho Cucamonga, bypassing Claremont and Montclair, would not be considered.
I have worked with you and other crucial stakeholders on a compromise to connect both counties that would greatly benefit our region as a whole. To guarantee action, the following are commitments that we previously discussed, expressed in a letter and expected to be included in the guiding principles to our agreement:
· In the study for a preferred alternative connection to the Ontario International Airport, the Rancho Cucamonga line alternative to be studied must include a stop in Claremont and Montclair.
· There will be no direct Pomona to Rancho Cucamonga option considered.
· SBCTA will take financial commitments toward a preferred alternative to connect Montclair to the Ontario International Airport.
· Stakeholders, SBCTA included, will work towards advocating for the completion of the Gold Line to Montclair. A simple letter in support would suffice.
Despite my commitment to work in good faith and the efforts of my staff to earnestly provide responses to SBCTA’s concerns, SBCTA has been steadfast in rejecting the most important elements of these guiding principles even those they had previously agreed to. These guiding principles are important not just to me, but to cities in both counties. The Montclair Transit Center is critical to connecting Eastern San Bernardino County to Western San Bernardino County and Los Angeles County, a ripe opportunity for business development and collecting sales tax dollars.
I have repeatedly stated that alternatives connecting Pomona to Rancho Cucamonga, while bypassing Claremont and Montclair, should not be considered much less studied. Any plans that seek to cut out Montclair and Claremont from receiving long awaited public transit projects is subversive to local and state statutes, in addition to being disingenuous to regional planning already in motion.
It was often claimed that AB 2011 proposed a new duplicative entity to extend a project to the Ontario International Airport. SBCTA continues to assert that this is a project that SBCTA can complete on its own. In deference to that assertion, I proposed, negotiated, and worked to draft a Memorandum of Understanding that would guarantee action toward a long anticipated community-based project without need for legislation. Yet, action has not been taken to fulfill the needs of all of these communities.
It is my commitment to dutifully serve the communities in my district and throughout the region with integrity and professionalism. I stayed true to my word of not pushing forward a bill to encourage collaborative action on a regional project. Throughout this process, I earnestly listened and considered the concerns of SBCTA and worked with you to address those concerns.
It is unfortunate that SBCTA chose to cease negotiations. Instead, SBCTA is focused on one unsolicited proposal, while earlier this year had agreed to study at least three alternatives. It is my objective to lay the foundation for a sustainable future by connecting communities through affordable and efficient public transit. This could have been done collaboratively if the Authority agreed in writing to commitments listed above. These are simple, straightforward, and appropriate next steps that go a long way toward building goodwill and show a desire to collaborate. It is my hope that we find agreement on these points but if not, I will pursue legislation to create an independent authority that will create long awaited public transit from Montclair to the Ontario International Airport.
CHRIS R. HOLDEN
Assemblymember, 41st District