One year after the Legislature passed a resolution to rename a portion of a Southern California highway after President Obama, community leaders are raising money to make it official.
In September 2017, state Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) announced that the 134 Freeway between the 2 Freeway and the 210 Freeway interchange would be named the President Barack H. Obama Highway.
But for a year, nothing has changed on that stretch of road, leading some to wonder whether that part of the freeway was actually renamed.
Now the Pasadena Community Foundation and Portantino are hosting a fundraising event Sept. 23 to raise money to install signs officially labeling the highway after the 44th president.
The cost of the signs and installation is about $7,000, said Darla Dyson, a spokesperson for Portantino’s office in an email. This will be the only fundraiser necessary, and the senator will cover any remaining costs not raised from the event. Any excess funds would be donated to the Obama Foundation. Dyson said there was a delay between when the resolution was passed and when the office began preparing for fundraising because Portantino had two sign-naming resolutions last year and did not want to do them at the same time.
“He also wanted to learn the Caltrans process for signage installation since he had not ever done one before,” she said. “Once the first naming was successfully completed and the legislative session was over, he turned his attention to the Obama freeway.”
A website for the foundation says people can purchase a single $30 ticket to the event or a sponsorship for between $100 and $300, which includes two tickets. Community members who cannot attend can also donate on the website.
“[Portantino] anticipates the event to be great and is excited to see the signs installation progress so positively and the community so excited,” Dyson said.
Obama began his university career as an undergraduate student at Occidental College in 1979 before transferring to Columbia University in 1981.
“President Obama used this portion of California's freeway system to travel from his college home in Pasadena to Occidental College,” said a 2017 statement announcing the resolution’s passage. “President Obama ... has attributed his time there as the beginning of his political activism. It is the place where he gave his first political speech.”
The city of Pasadena has also placed a plaque in front of the home where Obama lived when he was a student.
California is the first state in the nation to name a freeway for the former president, according to Portantino’s statement. Other states have followed — in April, for example, a proposal to rename a Denver-area road as the Barack Obama Highway passed in the Colorado House of Representatives.
Most recently, the Los Angeles City Council voted to change Rodeo Road to Obama Boulevard.
“We’re thrilled that Angelenos and visitors will forever be reminded of the legacy of President @BarackObama when traveling across L.A.,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in the tweet announcing the news on Aug. 28.
Obama held a campaign rally at Rancho Cienega Park on Rodeo Road when running for president, according to the initial proposal for the road name change by Council President Herb Wesson.