Freeway Extension Plan Takes (Which Way?) Turn


Supporters of the Long Beach Freeway extension interpret last week’s passage of three transportation ballot measures as a victory. But so do opponents of the controversial roadway project.

By late last week, it was not clear which group really had won. And, as has long been the case with the top transportation issue in the western San Gabriel Valley--an issue that has gone national since South Pasadena was named an endangered place by the National Trust for Historic Preservation last year--it also was not clear when it would become clear.

Freeway opponents as well as supporters will benefit from one project to be funded by the ballot measures, said Terry James, Alhambra Department of Public Works director. Alhambra’s Fremont Avenue, a major route used by travelers heading to and from the northern end of the Long Beach Freeway, will be widened from Valley Boulevard to Mission Road, James said.

Alhambra officials, who have argued for the proposed 6.2-mile extension from the San Bernardino Freeway in Los Angeles north to the Foothill Freeway in Pasadena, were pleased by the success of the transportation measures, including a gasoline tax increase to fund road and bridge projects. “Needless to say, we’re ecstatic,” James said.


Jerry Baxter, Caltrans district director for Los Angeles and Ventura counties, said Proposition 111 means the Long Beach Freeway extension “now becomes a real possibility.”

But Ralph Ochoa, a Sacramento lobbyist leading South Pasadena’s fight against the extension, said the freeway supporters are mistaken.

Proposition 111, Ochoa said, did contain provisions for financing ways to reduce traffic. “But there isn’t money set aside for the (Long Beach Freeway),” Ochoa said. “That’s an oversimplification, but it’s accurate.”

For months, state and federal transportation officials have said they would decide soon on the freeway project. Officials have been reviewing the environmental impacts of the so-called Meridian Route variation, which would go through the center of South Pasadena.


But last fall’s earthquake in Northern California meant extensive road and bridge repairs were needed in Northern California and less money was available for projects such as the Long Beach Freeway extension. The earthquake also drew attention to the overall deterioration of state roads and bridges.

Baxter said last week that the Long Beach Freeway extension remains a priority, and he expects a decision in the next two months.

The South Pasadena City Council, which has maintained that a freeway extension would destroy the community, took no formal position on the transportation ballot measures--Propositions 108, 111 and 116.

Voters in Alhambra and Pasadena, as well as South Pasadena, gave strong support to all three measures. The widest margin of support came from Pasadena.


Los Angeles County and state transportation planners say that commuter rail trains planned for existing rail lines from San Bernardino to Los Angeles are among the projects with the highest priority to be aided by the ballot measures. County Transportation Commission Executive Director Neil Peterson has said those trains could begin service within the next two years.

In addition, another priority is light-rail commuter trains from Pasadena to Los Angeles, with work on the project now scheduled to begin in 1993.