Metro officials meet with skepticism on 710 gap

County transportation officials came to La Cañada Flintridge Saturday to unveil the options they are exploring to fill the 710 gap, meeting with 75 mostly skeptical people at La Cañada High School.

At the open house, representatives of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Agency displayed a map of a possible tunnel connecting the Long Beach (710) Freeway to the Foothill (210) Freeway. They also laid out other alternatives for improving traffic in the area from Alhambra to La Canada 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. Along the way, Metro is expected to release parts of the study that examine the different alternatives.

Preliminary Metro data shows that 1,368 cargo trucks a day would travel between a 710 extension and the Port of Los Angeles, about 3% of port cargo traffic. Metro officials said most trucks from the port would continue to unload downtown or travel on the San Bernardino (10) Freeway to hubs in the Inland Empire.

Vincent Gonzalez, community outreach manager for the agency, said many residents erroneously think more trucks will travel north of Los Angeles.

“The whole concept [of the 710 gap project] is to improve mobility in the north-south corridor. The charts show we don't have a lot of traffic spillover to the streets,” Gonzalez said.

La Cañada political leaders and residents are concerned that a tunnel or freeway connector will generate new truck traffic and noise, and bring more cars onto city streets.

After decades of political and legal battles over the 710 extension, many residents are wary of MTA's pronouncements that it is taking a neutral approach to the alternatives.

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 extension, as well as an audit of all MTA 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 the quality of life for residents.

“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.

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

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

The next open house on the 710 project goes from 6 to 8 p.m. on May 22 at El Monte Community Center. Another one follows May 23 at the South Pasadena Library.

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