By Mary O’KEEFE
The construction of medians along Foothill Boulevard within the unincorporated area of Los Angeles County-La Crescenta – and the accompanying traffic – continue to raise the ire of and confuse local residents. Many have turned to social media for answers and some have made phone calls to CVW.
For many people, including one resident who contacted the paper and asked why she didn’t receive a call regarding the project, the medians come as a surprise. In addition, rumors are rampant that the medians will stretch the entire length of Foothill Boulevard without breaks and the boulevard’s traffic lanes will be reduced to one lane each way.
Here is a brief timeline in the long, long journey it took to get to the construction stage.
The discussion of adding medians along the unincorporated area of Foothill Boulevard began years ago. Since CVW opened its doors in 2009, the paper has published over 20 stories about the then-proposed project. This does not include the numerous commentaries written and letters to the editor published.
“Discussion of a median project began in early 2000s but did not proceed at that time,” said Steven Frasher, spokesman for the Dept. of Public Works.
The project started and stalled throughout the last decade, but its most recent rebirth was about three years ago. In late 2015, Dept. of Public Works project managers met with Crescenta Valley Town Council (CVTC) and CV Chamber of Commerce (CVCOC) several times to scope the project and present ideas for the medians, according to Frasher.
“Three years ago we had a rendering of the project,” said Harry Leon, president of CVTC.
The meetings and discussions were promoted on social media, the CVTC and CV Chamber websites and local papers. The meetings were well attended and often included representatives from Caltrans as well as from Public Works.
On April 26, 2016, a community meeting was held to give the community and business owners the opportunity to give comments on median locations and voice concerns regarding the project, Frasher said.
A traffic study was conducted on the project.
On Sept. 21, 2016, representatives with Los Angeles County Dept. Public Works met with CVTC and CVCOC at the DPW offices to discuss changes to the project after traffic studies were completed.
On Oct. 19, 2016, CVCOC met with DPW to review the impacts of medians to driveways along Foothill Boulevard.
On Oct. 25, 2016, DPW met with members of CVTC, Theodore Payne Society, Rosemont Nature Preserve and local landscape architects to discuss the final plant palette.
The CVTC meets the third Thursday of each month and the Council was constantly updating the public on the progress of the project. At this year’s August meeting of the CVTC, Lisa Woung, project manager of LA County Public Works, gave a presentation to the audience in attendance about the project that included a start date of Sept. 4.
Leon, who has seen comments about the median project on social media and has received calls concerning the project, said he wants the public to know this project was not decided on overnight without community outreach. In addition to the community meetings, the CVCOC reached out to business owners and attended several CVTC meetings with DPW. Councilmembers also reached out to others in the community to get feedback.
“We met with the [LA County] Sheriff’s Dept. and LA County Fire, and there were no objections to the plan,” Leon said.
Throughout the process, the opinions shared by business owners and community members were taken into consideration.
“[For example] the old phase of the project had a median in front of the Ralphs Market [complex], but businesses and the community didn’t want it so [the plan] was revised and now there will not be a median there,” he said.
As for the timing of the median construction beginning in September and ending prior to Thanksgiving, the project had seen many delays and could no longer be postponed.
“This project was supposed to have started last January, then it was moved to April because Caltrans had [said the 210 freeway project] would be done by summer,” Leon said.
However, as those know who travel the Foothill (210) Freeway and Foothill Boulevard, the Caltrans construction has lasted longer than originally planned. Recently Caltrans extended the end date once again after finding cracks in the older portions of the roadway that need to be repaired. In the meantime, the construction company for the median project had already been hired.
“It just couldn’t be delayed any longer,” Leon said.
The fall start is also advantageous to the landscape-intensive project, giving new trees and plants a better chance for survival, Frasher said.
At the end of the project, Foothill Boulevard will still have two westbound and two eastbound lanes. The medians will be located in the center lane.
Leon said he understood the frustration that some have experienced about the project but the CVTC had used several avenues of outreach to inform community members of the project.
CVTC meetings are held the third Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at the La Crescenta Library community room, 2809 Foothill Blvd. Information on joining the CV Chamber of Commerce can be found at crescentavalleychamber.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org. CVTC, CVCOC and CVW all have a presence on Facebook.