Noise Walls for Traffic to Be Reviewed

Times Staff Writer

The state Department of Transportation will reevaluate the requests of La Canada Flintridge residents to construct noise walls along the section of the Foothill Freeway that passes through their city, a Caltrans spokesman said.

In the past, Caltrans has contended that traffic noise in the area is not bad enough to require sound barriers.

The department's decision came in response to a recent influx of petitions by La Canada Flintridge residents to Caltrans and to members of the state Transportation Commission, Caltrans spokesman Felicia Archer said.

Archer said the reevaluation process will include conducting new noise level readings in areas where residents say noise from traffic on the Foothill Freeway has adversely affected the quality of their lives.

Noise Increase Feared

Residents said they have been pleading with Caltrans for relief from freeway noise for 20 years. They also said they fear an increase in noise levels if a proposed connection between the Foothill and Long Beach freeways is constructed through South Pasadena.

In anticipation of the transportation commission's selection of the route for the freeway connection, the La Canada Flintridge residents responded to a call for public comments on the proposed route by requesting that Caltrans again consider constructing sound walls in their area.

At a public hearing last month in Inglewood, the transportation commission recommended the Meridian Route for the proposed linkup, which would roughly bisect the city of South Pasadena. The project awaits approval by the Federal Highway Administration. Caltrans officials have said construction of the six-mile connection probably would not begin for another five to 10 years.

No Dates Set

No official announcement of Caltrans' intention to take another look at the sound wall issue in La Canada Flintridge was made at the last meeting, but Archer said the department is "currently in the process of developing an answer to the petitions." She said the department has not set a date for conducting the promised noise level readings.

"We will re-examine the current situation in terms of the noise level, coupled with the expected volume of traffic and related noise that might develop as a result of freeway construction in the area," Archer said. "We will take more noise readings in the area. That doesn't necessarily mean that they will qualify (for sound walls); it just means that we will look at it again."

Carol Back, who headed the petition drive, responded with skepticism to Caltrans' decision to reevaluate the freeway noise problem.

"I don't know what that means," Back said. "They can very easily say they'll reevaluate but that doesn't say when, that doesn't say how. Every time they take a sound study, they come up with what they want to come up with anyway."

Complaints about freeway noise in La Canada Flintridge have been concentrated in two areas. The majority of complaints have come from residents near the freeway in neighborhoods on the eastern side of the city between Berkshire Place and Hampton Road. The other area affected is on the western side of the city near the interchange of the Glendale and Foothill freeways. Caltrans officials say noise level readings conducted in those areas have never reached the 67-decibel minimum federal standard.

Back said that despite Caltrans promises to conduct new readings, she and a small group of residents will continue the petition drive and a letter-writing campaign aimed at gaining the support of their representatives in the state Legislature and Gov. George Deukmejian. The group collected 275 signatures on petitions sent to Caltrans before the Dec. 14 cutoff for receiving public comment, Back said.

In addition to the petitions, about a dozen letters of support from individuals and organizations in the community were sent to the department.

Growing Support Cited

Back said she was disappointed that she could not collect her goal of 1,000 signatures but said she is encouraged by what she sees as growing community support for the construction of sound walls.

"I've been getting calls from people all over La Canada who are just irate about what's happening," Back said. "We have never had this much attention before."

City Manager Don Otterman said the city has not been informed of Caltrans' decision to conduct new noise level readings. Otterman said, however, that he hopes Caltrans officials will confer with city staff members as to what exact locations should be retested.

"I'd like to go out there with them and pick the spots and the time of year they conduct the readings," Otterman said.

Otterman said the city will continue working with Assemblyman Pat Nolan (R-Glendale) and Sen. Newton R. Russell (R-Glendale) to include specific wording in the state funding legislation for the freeway connection that would earmark funds for the construction of sound walls in La Canada Flintridge.

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