DUARTE (CNS / FOX 11) - A host of elected and transportation officials celebrated the latest expansion of L.A. County's public transportation system on Saturday in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Metro Gold Line expansion at the Duarte/City of Hope station.
The Gold Line will grow by 11.5 miles, extending through Arcadia, Irwindale, Monrovia, Duarte and Azusa, making it the transportation agency's longest rail line and pushing the overall rail system close to the 100-mile mark.
Related: Q&A: everything you need to know about the Gold Line extension to Azusa
County Supervisors Hilda Solis, Mark Ridley-Thomas and Mike Antonovich, along with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Duarte Mayor John Fasana and Metro CEO Phillip Washington, were all on hand to mark the occasion.
"Whether you live in the San Gabriel Valley or downtown L.A., easing congestion is a goal shared by everyone in our region,'' said Garcetti, who is also the second vice chair of the Metro board. ``The Gold Line Foothill Extension is the first Measure R rail project to enter service, and it embodies our dreams for the future of L.A. County -- a place with a truly comprehensive transit system that gets us around faster, helps us breathe easier, and moves our economy forward.''
The Foothill extension of the Gold Line, which will begin running at noon, will bring the route to 31 miles overall, connecting the San Gabriel Valley with downtown and East Los Angeles.
The $1 billion extension includes six new rail stations, providing access to locations such as City of Hope hospital, Azusa Pacific University, Citrus College and Santa Anita Racetrack.
Metro spokesman Dave Sotero said the opening of the line will push the overall Metro rail system to 98.5 miles. The system will cross the 100-mile mark on May 20, when the Expo Line is extended 6.6 miles from Culver City to Santa Monica.
Metro is providing a celebratory atmosphere, with afternoon parties planned at the Duarte/City of Hope, Arcadia, Monrovia, Azusa Downtown and Irwindale stations. The events will include live music, food vendors and booths highlighting area businesses.
Free rides will be offered along the entire Gold Line route from noon to midnight to celebrate the opening of the extension. The free rides will be offered only on the Gold Line.
Operating hours for the entire Gold Line range from about 4 a.m. to 1 a.m. on weekdays and until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.
Metro officials noted that shuttle buses are still being used between the Union Station and the Gold Line's Pico/Aliso station due to construction on the Regional Connector rail project in downtown Los Angeles.
Metro officials also reminded San Fernando Valley residents that they can take advantage of the new 501 Line express bus connecting the Metro Red/Orange Line station in North Hollywood with the Gold Line's Del Mar and Memorial Park stations in Pasadena. The buses will run every 30 minutes, and cost $2.50 per trip.
The Gold Line extension is expected to carry 13,600 passengers per day by 2035.