It was a bit of walking into the lion’s den for Los Angeles County transit officials earlier this week when they held a meeting in La Cañada Flintridge to seek feedback on options for extending the Long Beach (710) Freeway.
The city has staunchly opposed connecting the 710 and 210 freeways, potentially via an underground tunnel, and has charged the county Metropolitan Transportation Authority with pushing for the connection regardless of public input.
Dozens of La Cañada Flintridge residents and others concerned with the possible tunnel extension gathered at a public input meeting Tuesday to voice concerns about possible impacts on foothill communities and to push for alternative solutions.
The speakers demanded that a range of concerns be addressed in the environmental studies, with air and noise pollution along the 210 Freeway topping the list.
They also questioned the willingness of transportation officials to consider options beyond a miles-long tunnel under Alhambra and South Pasadena.
“What I see here is [the California Department of Transportation] has already decided what they want to do. They just want a rubber stamp,” said La Cañada resident Harvey Zirler to applause from the heavily anti-extension crowd.
Although MTA will make the final decision on which, if any, project to pursue, Caltrans will oversee consultants performing the environmental studies.
After the meeting, MTA spokesman Dave Sotero refuted charges that the agency was favoring the tunnel option.
“We fully respect the concerns of the La Cañada Flintridge community, but one fact bears repeating: We have not presumed an outcome for a tunnel alternative. No decisions have been made,” he said. “It's way too early in the process to presuppose or pick a winner.”
The environmental process is years in the making, and there will be at least two to three years of additional work before any decision is made, he added.
The meeting at the La Cañada High School cafeteria was the 19th in a series of public hearings since February as the MTA determines the scope of environmental studies examining potential impacts of a tunnel or other 710-related projects, such as new rail lines, public transportation or redesigned traffic flows.
Citing estimates that connecting the 710 and 210 freeways would bring 30,000 additional vehicles per day past the city — including up to 850 commercial trucks an hour — La Cañada Flintridge City Councilwoman Laura Olhasso and other speak issues took issue with the city and other communities along the 210 Freeway being left out of the project study area.
“If that isn't an environmental impact on our cities, I don't know what is,” she said.
Officials from Glendale, Pasadena and other nearby communities also oppose the long-planned freeway connection, citing the staggering cost, traffic and pollution concerns. Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian, who also serves on the MTA Board of Directors, has been especially vocal in his opposition to the 710 tunnel extension.
Councilman Donald Voss, who as mayor last year successfully campaigned for MTA to extend its meeting schedule to include La Cañada, also urged the study area be expanded to include the foothills.
“Without including La Cañada and La Crescenta, this scoping process is dead on arrival,” he said.
Though Metro's public hearing schedule ended Wednesday, residents can still weigh in on environmental concerns by logging on to www.metro.net/SR710conversations or by writing to: Caltrans Deputy District Director Ron Kosinski, 100 S. Main St., Los Angeles, CA, 90012.
Comments must be filed by April 14.
To join a city listserve about 710-related events, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The local 710 Action Committee can be reached at (818) 952-4103.
Editor's note: This story has been updated from an earlier version.