With traffic roaring in their ears and diesel fumes mixing with the warm spring air, four people settled into canvas chairs on the Gould Avenue overpass above the Foothill (210) Freeway this week, their gaze focused unwaveringly on the roadway below.
The four were collecting data for a Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority study of local traffic patterns. The data will go into the environmental impact report for the 710 gap.
The study is controversial, as La Cañada Flintridge officials and others believe Metro and Caltrans will favor a 4.5-mile freeway tunnel connecting the Long Beach (710) Freeway, which ends in Alhambra, to the 210 in Pasadena. The tunnel would pass beneath South Pasadena, where residents and city officials have long decried the project's potential impact on traffic, noise and air.
Other local cities, including Alhambra, favor the connector.
After years of consideration, in recent months Metro officials conceded they would not seek to build a surface freeway connecting the 710 and 210.
The workers planted on the Gould Avenue sidewalk said they were not aware of who is seeking the data, or for what purpose. They were hired by Pasadena-based Wiltec to count cars. Wiltec, in turn, is a subcontractor for CH2mHill, Inc., the Colorado firm hired to lead the three-year, $37 million study for Metro.
FOR THE RECORD: An earlier version of this article misstated the cost of the environmental impact study.
Denni Wilson, the chief financial officer at Wiltec, said her firm does the counting and it is up to the clients to put the data to use.
“We go out there and monitor traffic,” she said. “ We break it down to trucks and cars and buses.”
The firm has done work all over California, according to its website, on projects as simple as single traffic signals in small cities and as large as a study of 130 intersections near the Embarcadero in San Francisco.
Leandra Alvarez was among the four workers on the sidewalk in La Cañada on Thursday, her fingers poised over two rows of four keypads at the top of a clipboard. Each side of the clipboard had keys for cars and two-axle, three-axle and four-axle trucks. Alvarez was charged with watching two lanes.
“It's not that hard,” she said, her eyes fixed on the road. “I just have to concentrate.”
Wilson said the firm is counting cars Tuesdays through Thursdays, “when there is normal traffic.” Unpredictable Mondays, Fridays and weekends are out.
A few steps from Alvarez, Solomon Isaac Jr. watched his two lanes of the northbound 210. He said the work has taken him as far north as Petaluma and as far south as Oceanside.
“I like this job,” he said, as a second or two passed with no traffic in his lanes. “I'm in the open. I've got time to think, and I'm thankful just to have a job.”