Caltrans kept too quiet on project

Regarding the April 28 story “Construction begins on HOV lanes,” what didn't begin was pre-notification and community outreach by the California Department of Transportation or its public relations firm, TCM Group, to interface with Glendale residents residing at or having properties adjacent to the Golden State (5) Freeway in the stretch from Western Avenue, site of current ramp upgrades and tree removals, to the Ventura (134) Freeway and the Los Angeles River.

Both northbound and southbound stretches are seeing massive mature-tree removals, sound-wall demolition, lane widenings, new retaining and sound-wall construction, and use of machinery, along with associated noise, vibration, dirt and traffic impacts.

Routine Caltrans newspaper print ads citing the benefit and scope of the project slated to run through 2014, and even this newspaper's weekly “closures” schedules, do not serve the purpose of providing details crucial to folks who live within yards of the project area.

According to them, no notices showed up in mailboxes from Caltrans (state project managers, public information officers, et al), Los Angeles County (i.e., groundbreaking participant and county Supervisor Mike Antonovich), or the city of Glendale — albeit unassociated with Caltrans — via appropriate staff acting as resident advocates.

Thanks to urgency expressed by a self-proclaimed “tree-hugger” whose child attends Franklin Elementary School on Lake Street one block from the Western Avenue ramp project, I learned of the tree removals on Easter weekend. Attempts to reach officials and use the city's “hotline” were fruitless, but by Monday, I was able to communicate with our public works staff and a Caltrans project manager and public information officer.

Folks on Winchester, Justin, Ruberta, Lake and Fairfield streets, as well as residents on Sonora and Paula avenues, are faced with a huge project that, regardless of its intended traffic flow improvements and commerce enhancements, presents nearby residents with a major and inescapable quality-of-life impact in the many months to come.

Adjacent Rancho residents already deal with busy cut-through traffic by Disney and DreamWorks commuters using Sonora Avenue and Riverside Drive, despite the costly new Fairmont “flyover” bridge and upgraded alternative access routes connected with the 134 Freeway for commuters based both east and west of Disney’s Grand Central Creative Campus.

Updated Caltrans directional signage at approaches and ramps associated with campus access, and regular studio communications with employees to “be good neighbors” and, for example, avoid Sonora Avenue's residential stretch by using the new routes, would enhance neighborhood traffic calming in the Rancho and Franklin school areas.

There is also the proximity of Rancho residents to the construction that began recently on the future Riverwalk and amenities, adjacent to the freeway interchange.

Added to all of that is the pressure on freeway-adjacent residents to brace themselves for the upheaval and side effects of the expanding accommodation of the region's dependency on the automobile.

To date, Caltrans has responded by agreeing to schedule a local community meeting for those who might benefit by knowing more about what's ahead for them and their homes and by being provided with contacts for Caltrans managers in case of emergencies.

Stay tuned.

Joanne Hedge is a Glendale resident.

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