By Isiah REYES
The 710 Freeway extension project was the main topic covered at the Crescenta Valley Community Association meeting on June 26.
Members at the meeting voiced their concern about the completion of the 710 Freeway in Alhambra, which could cause more congestion, more noise and more air pollution to the foothills since it would potentially funnel more trucks and traffic through the region.
Glendale City Council and Metro board member Ara Najarian was the guest speaker at the meeting.
“There is no greater threat to our quality of life in the Crescenta Valley than a completion of the 710,” Najarian said. “The fight continues. It is a fight like none of us have ever seen before.”
A five-city coalition of South Pasadena, Sierra Madre, Glendale, La Cañada and Pasadena have united within the past few years to oppose the completion of the freeway and each city will be devoting its resources to a particular aspect, such as health and safety.
Najraian said that the Southern California Association of Governments, the nation’s largest metropolitan planning organization, six years ago estimated the completion of the 710 Freeway to be $11 billion.
“We know that costs are going up, we know that wages are going up, we know that everything is going up, so that $11 billion price tag is really in the $15 billion range,” Najarian said. “Nobody wants to talk about that now because it’s going to hurt their position.”
There are currently available alternatives to completing the freeway, one of which is transportation system management and transportation demand management. This means that the existing traffic system would be improved by introducing strategies such as coordinating traffic signal timing and promoting carpooling and public transit.
Another alternative by Metro would be to build a 7.5-mile light rail with trains connecting East Los Angeles to Pasadena. Najarian said that one of the candidates for the next Pasadena mayor, Terry Tornek, has supported a light rail line and that members who oppose the completion of the 710 should throw their support behind Tornek because it would be a solution to the traffic.
A third alternative would be to build a tunnel that would connect the end of the 710 Freeway in Alhambra with the 210 Freeway in Pasadena. Most people at the meeting were against this option, citing Seattle’s recent attempt to create a 1.7-mile-long tunnel that would replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. That multi-billion project relied on a 7,000-ton boring machine called “Bertha” that has been stuck underground when it hit an 8-inch diameter, 3/4-inch thick steel well casing after only about 1,000 feet of drilling. The repairs could cost taxpayers in Seattle millions.
The proposed 6.3 mile four-lane tunnel in South Pasadena is intended to improve mobility, regional freeway congestion and decrease travel time. Metro’s alternative fact sheet estimates that the tunnel would remove over 75,000 daily trips from the local street system.
Some candidates and elected officials who are in favor of the completion of the 710 Freeway include Assemblymember 49th District Edwin Chau, Alhambra Councilwoman Barbara Messina and former Assemblymember 49th District Mike Eng.
In a press release on Eng’s official website in 2009, Eng stated, “With traffic from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach expected to double in the next 10 years and a population growth estimated at 10 million over the next 20 years, the freeway connection will greatly improve our region’s economy and reduction of transportation gridlock.”
However, a tunnel will likely have to be funded with private funds, requiring high tolls.
“The biggest challenge for us is stopping the huge flow of money into a transportation project that we don’t want when the money could be used on much more useful transportation changes like extending the Gold Line, more light rail, and reconfiguring all the different intersections,” said Sharon Weisman of CVCA.
Another topic discussed at the CVCA meeting was the renovation of the Rockhaven Sanitarium. Members of the CVCA want the original concept of having a historic park to be preserved.
“We want it to be a partnership,” said CVCA member Susan Bolan. “That’s the biggest concept. We want the community involved with the city and outside groups all contributing.”
Formed in April 2013, the Friends of Rockhaven was created to raise awareness of the historic sanitarium. They hope to see it become park grounds where the community can come for classes or events. Weisman said that she was in favor of a non-profit developer helping with renovations of the site rather than a for-profit developer because the profit-motive would override all decisions.
Najarian said the Glendale City Council does not want to get out ahead of the community and stakeholders by imposing their ideas onto the community. A Request For Proposal has been issued for a vacant part of Rockhaven that would offer a development opportunity to build something the community wants. Najarian said that would most likely be a museum or something of that nature.
“We’re not tearing down Rockhaven, we’re not selling Rockhaven out,” Najarian said. “But if there’s a proposal that comes out that makes financial sense, that would lead to a sustainable future for Rockhaven and keep the stakeholders happy, that’s what we’re going to do.”
CVCA meetings are held the fourth Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m. in La Crescenta Library’s community room. The library is located at 2809 Foothill Blvd., La Crescenta. The next meeting will be on July 24.