710 plans panned

EAGLE ROCK — The grass-roots effort to block a proposed underground tunnel connecting the Long Beach (710) and Foothill (210) freeways coalesced onstage this weekend when a number of elected officials and scholars panned the project as wasteful and unwanted.

Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) delivered a keynote address at Occidental College against the proposed extension and said there’d likely never be enough money to fund the project.

“Shoving tunnels down the throats of the people . . . is shortsighted,” he said before his speech.

He pointed to the possible $15-billion price tag as wasteful spending.

“For a four-mile extension, that just doesn’t make much sense,” he said. “Trucks and cars coming down is going to be devastating [for nearby communities].”

Opponents said their position was not rooted in neighborhood-centric “Not In My Backyard” arguments, but from a historical argument that the freeway extension, conceived in the 1950s and ’60s, was outdated.

“We’re trying to bring people together to share stories and unite the community to build this momentum of activism,” said Martha Matsuoka, a professor in urban and environmental policy at Occidental College. “What is the rationale [for expansion]? We don’t need it.”

The ire of community and environmental activists reignited last week when the California Department of Transportation and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority presented a $6-million feasibility study on the underground tunnel that could go through some parts of Alhambra, Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, Los Angeles, Monterey Park, San Marino, South Pasadena or Pasadena depending on the project zone.

Advocates of the extension said it would facilitate trade and commerce leaving the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. A survey conducted in July by the 710 Freeway Coalition, a regional advocacy organization of business, labor and governmental representatives, reported that 50% of Glendale residents favored extending the freeway, although that figure has been disputed.

Glendale Councilman Ara Najarian, who also serves as chairman of the county Metropolitan Transportation Authority, downplayed the significance of the survey, and added he would rather spend funding elsewhere, such as extending the Gold Line.

“The money would get spent immediately,” he said. “They have plans to extend it all the way to the county line.”

La Crescenta and many of the city’s northern neighbors would also be affected by a spike in big-rig traffic, Najarian said.

“Glendale faces a catastrophe in quality of life,” he said.

That was the question on South Pasadena resident Carol Kramer’s mind Saturday.

“I don’t want 92,000 daily trucks going through Los Angeles every day,” she said. “I think they should put [cargo] on electric rail.”

Caltrans officials are scheduled to hold a community outreach session from 6 to 8 tonight at the San Marino Center, 1800 Huntington Drive, San Marino.

The final version of a report detailing construction and environmental impacts will incorporate input from elected officials and community members and is expected to be released this spring, officials said.

At that point, traffic, air pollution and quality-of-life issues will be examined for the estimated $35-million Environmental Impact Study.

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