By Ted Ayala
MTA and CalTrans have been taking their 710 Freeway extension act on the road for the past couple of months, bringing it to a close in areas where opposition to the project is fiercest.
After the scoping meeting of April 5 at La Cañada High School, where Crescenta Valley and La Cañada residents delivered a stinging and unanimous rebuke of the 710 Freeway extension, MTA and CalTrans held their last scoping meeting in Highland Park’s Ramona Hall on North Figueroa Street on the evening of April 6.
Though the atmosphere wasn’t as highly charged and fraught as the previous evening’s scoping meeting, the Ramona Hall was packed with residents from all over Northeast Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley who, time and again, made their opposition to the 710 project known unequivocally.
Dominick Weber, a resident of El Sereno, accused the MTA and CalTrans of deliberately misinforming and outright obfuscating information regarding the project to residents of lower income neighborhoods.
“It’s clear to me that [the MTA and CalTrans] have not informed the people of El Sereno about the consequences of this freeway. Since these residents are classified as low income, [the MTA and CalTrans] have decided not to inform them of anything,” said Weber.
South Pasadena resident Sam Burgess voiced his concern over not only the 710 extension, but over another 710 project on the freeway’s south end that would expand the freeway from four to six lanes on each side.
“All that extra traffic from the south 710 is going to go through us. What happens in the south will be suffered by us in the northern part.”
Following that tangent, fellow South Pasadena resident Janet Ervin also demanded to know from the MTA and CalTrans how the extended lanes would affect the San Gabriel Valley. “How will you manage to do this?,” she asked. “I want to know how six lanes in the south 710 will manage to fit into a four lane tunnel. Where will all this excess traffic go?”
Environmental concerns were at the forefront of many residents’ minds. Jim Peele of Glassell Park felt that, “In general most people would prefer that less fossil fuels be burned near their homes. Don’t build that 710 extension – but do expand our railway system.”
La Crescenta resident and head of the No 710 Action Committee, Susan Bolan, attended this meeting as well to voice her disapproval.
After the meeting, Bolan spoke of her opposition to the 710.
“I came here because I wanted to make sure the No 710 Action Committee supported the community,” she said. Bolan felt that a freeway option would be a terrible idea and that other modes of transportation needed to be explored: “First of all, [the MTA and CalTrans] can’t rely on the old car culture. We need to look at alternatives such as light rail and get off of car transportation.”
Bolan also noted the dangers car tunnels pose in traffic accidents. “It’s a dangerous situation,” she said. “You have at any one time hundreds of cars and when one car crashes, the entire tunnel becomes a safety liability. Take a look at the Mont Blanc Tunnel, for example, and the 38 people that died trapped in there, which included first responders. The heat became so overwhelming in there, that entire cars were fused together. A simple accident where a car or truck ignites can quickly become a disaster. It’s a very serious concern.”