Plan for Freeway Extension Hits Snag With Panel

The Federal Highway Administration has sent plans for the proposed Long Beach Freeway extension back to state officials, saying Caltrans and preservation officials must resolve their differences over historic buildings in the roadway's path before a final decision can be made.

"They have to resolve any disagreements before we can even consider making a decision," Andy Paven, a Federal Highway Administration spokesman in Washington said Thursday.

State officials learned of the latest setback for construction of the 6.2-mile project through Pasadena, South Pasadena and El Sereno in a letter from Rodney E. Slater of the Federal Highway Administration to Caltrans Director James W. van Loben Sels.

Slater cited a letter from state preservation officials that described Caltrans efforts to mitigate damage to the historic properties as "maybe seriously flawed" despite a recent shift in the route to avoid a five-block historic district of 67 homes in El Sereno.

In addition, Slater wrote that preservation officials have recommended that a supplemental environmental study be conducted that includes an updated assessment of historic properties and a better examination of an alternative route backed by South Pasadena. State officials have suggested, he said, that "any historic property moved from the pathway may be lost, even if the buildings are relocated in the same area where they now are."

Caltrans officials said Thursday that they have met with preservation officials to try to iron out their differences and hope to soon be able to send a letter of resolution to Slater.

South Pasadena officials, who have fought for more than three decades against the extension that would bisect their city, commended Slater's action.

"His concern for the people living in the path and vicinity is evident," said Mayor Dorothy Cohen.

She said she hopes Caltrans undertakes a supplemental environmental study rather than taking a Band-Aid approach.

Antonio Rossmann, an attorney for South Pasadena, said that without such a supplemental study it would be easy for him to challenge current plans in court as inadequate.

Caltrans has maintained that such a study--which it says could take two years--is not needed. The State Transportation Commission approved the extension in 1994.

However, closing the gap between the Foothill and San Bernardino freeways is not funded until at least 2005, according to state officials.

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