Freeways linked to artery disease

By Charles COOPER

A recent study linking arterial disease with close proximity to freeways will be used as part of the effort to oppose the 710 Freeway tunnel on environmental grounds, Councilman Ara Najarian said last week.

Najarian, who chairs the governing board of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, has emerged as a leader in the effort to block the freeway extension.

The tunnel, at an estimated cost of as much as $10 billion, would close the four-mile gap between the current terminus of the 710 and the 210 freeways. Five possible routes are being studied, one of them in the Route 2 corridor leading to La Cañada and La Crescenta.

A number of studies have linked freeway proximity to asthma and emphysema, but the most recent study is the first to also find a link to atheroscolis, or hardening of the arteries. The study found thickening of the carotid artery at twice the normal figure for people near freeways.

The study was done by researchers at UC Berkeley and USC. Study co-author Howard Hodis said the cardiovascular issue was identified for the first time.

In L.A. County, 1.5 million people live in close proximity to freeways. Glendale is boxed by four major routes, the 2, 210, 134 and 5.

Court efforts are underway to impose tougher air standards near freeways, and both Los Angeles and Long Beach residents are challenging work being considered on the 710.

The freeway is being supported as a transportation connector and possible truck route, and would be built with public and private funding. Glendale is likely to join in legal challenges if the project progresses.