More than 60 people on Monday packed La Cañada High School for an update on the proposed extension of the Long Beach (710) Freeway — a long simmering issue on which many communities have already staked positions.
The effects of closing the so-called “gap” between the 710 and Foothill (210) freeways will be disclosed in the coming months as state and county transportation officials prepare a draft environmental impact report, organizers of the meeting said.
Alternatives for closing that gap that are being studied include a 4.5-mile surface extension — a proposal that is all but politically dead — a tunnel extension under South Pasadena, new transit and rail lines or upgrades to surface streets.
The study, which is expected to be completed in 2014, comes about 50 years after highway officials first unveiled plans to connect the 210 and the 710 freeways.
Andy Burghdorf, a spokesman for St. Francis High School, said students at campuses near the 210 Freeway would be adversely affected by the increased truck traffic.
In La Cañada, he said, “most of our schools are by the 210 Freeway. This will increase noise, pollution and health hazards to our students.”
Officials with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority encouraged residents to join community liaison councils and distribute information about the study.
But La Cañada resident Jan Soohoo said the agency has not offered enough details to share meaningful information with others. She expressed concerns about likely increases in truck traffic, as well as the cost of constructing a tunnel.
Vincent Gonzalez, an MTA spokesman, said the agency, together with the California Department of Transportation, would be able to offer more details at meetings beginning later this month. Upcoming events include meetings at La Cañada High School at 10 a.m. on May 19 and at 6 p.m. on May 23 at the South Pasadena Library.
The question of how to bridge the 710 Freeway gap has long vexed county and state officials, as well as divide affected cities. La Cañada, Glendale and South Pasadena strongly oppose the extension, while San Marino, San Gabriel and Alhambra are among the cities that support closing the gap, which is seen as a way to more easily get cargo from the Port of Los Angeles to trucking hubs in the Inland Empire.
But even within the cities, opinion remains divided.
Glendale resident Jose Postachian, 70, was one of the few who spoke in favor of a 710 Freeway extension at the meeting on Monday.
“People should not bring the ‘no’, we need to bring solutions,” he said. “When did we make it illegal for people to drive to work?”
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