MTA: Most Port of L.A. traffic would steer clear of 710 Fwy. extension

Extending the Long Beach (710) Freeway through Pasadena could bring 1,368 cargo trucks traveling to and from the Port of Los Angeles, transportation officials say.

The data, included in a preliminary report on the potential environmental impacts of closing the so-called “710 gap” by connecting with the Foothill (210) Freeway, was presented to a skeptical crowd of about 75 people at a public outreach meeting in La Cañada Flintridge Saturday as the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority explores various tunnel options.

Residents in La Cañada and Pasadena fear connecting the two freeways will mean more trucks, noise and pollution.

But MTA officials on Saturday said most trucks would either unload their cargo in downtown Los Angeles or continue to use the San Bernardino (10) Freeway to distribution hubs in the Inland Empire.

The additional trucks using the proposed 710 Freeway extension would represent roughly 3% of port cargo traffic, according to the MTA.

“The whole concept [of the 710 Freeway extension] is to improve mobility in the north-south corridor,” said Vincent Gonzalez, community outreach manager for the agency. “The charts show we don't have a lot of traffic spillover to the streets.”

MTA officials also laid out alternatives for improving traffic from Alhambra to La Cañada with express buses, expanded light rail and improved streets and speed controls.

The proposals are part of a $37-million environmental impact study the MTA launched last year. The study is expected to wrap up in 2014, followed by a 60-day public comment period.

But after decades of political and legal battles over the 710 extension, many residents are skeptical that MTA can remain neutral as it investigates possible alternatives for the tunnel routes.

La Cañada resident Jerry Berkman said he would like to see a health-impact study on children whose schools are within a two-mile radius of the proposed freeway extension, as well as an audit of the data.

“I simply want to find out this information from a third-party, independent audit, which should be paid for with public funds,” he said.

Nancy Campeau, an Eagle Rock resident, said she believes the MTA data is “window dressing,” masking possible decreases in property values and quality of life impacts.

“Most northeast residents know nothing about the freeway threat to their homes. The extension would be a threat to the region, their houses and neighborhoods,” Campeau said.

MTA officials are forming 13 local committees of interested residents to help spread information about the study, said planner Michelle Smith.

“In the open houses, people see what's going on, but committee members talk one-on-one to people,” she said.

The next open house on the 710 Freeway extension project is scheduled to take place from 6 to 8 p.m. May 22 at El Monte Community Center. Another is slated for May 23 at the South Pasadena Library.

-- Alfredo Santana, for Times Community News

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