By Ted AYALA
Earlier this month, Glendale City Councilmember Ara Najarian was reelected to his seat on the board of directors of the Metropolitan Transportation Agency (MTA) despite his staunch and often very vocal opposition to the proposed extension of the 710 Freeway.
When Najarian’s name was nominated for reelection to his seat in December, a number of the MTA’s “North cities” – cities spanning the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys – spoke out in opposition. Among the most strident opposition heard was from Alhambra Mayor Barbara Messina and Duarte Mayor John Fasana, both strongly in favor of “completing” the freeway.
Ultimately, Najarian was able to reach a compromise with his opponents, assuring that he retain his MTA seat.
With one hurdle cleared, he still has a final one to overcome – next month’s city elections.
Alongside fellow incumbent Laura Friedman, Ara Najarian is defending his seat in the April elections. Mayor Frank Quintero, also an incumbent, has declined to run again for office.
“My ability to serve the interests of our community and those opposed to this project is contingent on my keeping this seat,” Najarian said.
For Najarian the questions in respect to safety and costs, not to mention environmental impact, are too serious to ignore without deeper consideration.
Citing major tunnel accidents last year in Switzerland and Japan – the former killing 28, the latter nine – Najarian said that “safety is a very big concern here.”
“I feel this hasn’t been more carefully looked over,” he added.
Though the 710 extension would not directly affect Glendale, Najarian insists its effects would be felt not only in communities along the Foothill (210) Freeway corridor that would see its lanes swelling with added traffic, but throughout the city.
“In the northern communities, you’ll have the direct impact – particulate matter, noxious fumes, and noise pollution. But the impact doesn’t stop there,” he said. “Because what you’ll have is added traffic straining not only the [Glendale] 2 [Freeway], but the [Ventura] 134 [Freeway] that runs through the heart of Glendale. The added gridlock this will bring will be a detriment to the quality of life throughout the city.”
“You also have the impact from freight coming from the Port of Los Angeles,” he added. “We don’t want to stop that flow of freight. But what we do want to do is encourage the shipment of freight via rail as much as possible, not just off the 210, but off of the freeways entirely.”
Najarian reminded that none of his opponents in the election has advocated opposition of the 710 extension to the extent he has. At least one has spoken in favor of the project
Though the fight wears on, Najarian knows what is at stake here.
“[My opponents] know that without me the next person taking my position wouldn’t have the same level of interest in this matter,” he said. “They want somebody that can go with the MTA’s flow.”