Piece of Mind: Magical thinking doesn’t drown the freeway noise

A friend who owns a beach-town condo built all too near the Interstate 5 tells me she deals with the traffic din by pretending it’s the sound of ocean waves crashing on rocks.

Talk about making the best of a situation.

I’m not as imaginative, but admire her ability to conjure up some magical thinking. The noise from the Foothill (210) Freeway not only annoys me, it sometimes alarms me, and I worry that if (when) it gets much worse, we’ll not be able to carry on conversations in our own homes. Admittedly we don’t do too much of that anyway, but still: It would be nice to know that if I wanted to gaze into my husband’s eyes across the dinner table and utter some words of adoration, he wouldn’t have to lip-read them.

I’ve tried my friend’s trick. I’ve closed my eyes and tried to imagine our freeway noise being generated by something more pleasant. There’s obviously some shortcoming in my hardwiring, because the whoosh caused by vehicles driving over concrete, the sound of truck-engine brakes being employed and the occasional blasts from horns that mimic locomotive whistles don’t elicit memories of the seashore for me.


We have resigned ourselves to living with the annoyance and the sometimes alarming sounds until enough money can be found to mitigate the problem. Like many of our fellow La Cañada homeowners, we’ve installed fountains in both our front and back yards to help mask what the freeway is sending our way. And, truth be told, it’s not really as bad in our neighborhood as it is in some others.

Take the lovely and stalwart people of the Meadow Grove area, for example. Particularly consider those who live a hubcap’s throw away from the 210. Perhaps I’ve related this to you before, but indulge me like you would your favorite great-aunt who tells the same story so often you could relate it for her: About a dozen years ago, a real estate agent who was struggling to sell a beautiful listing in that section of town quipped to me that he hoped to find some buyers who were deaf.

If you do not frequent that area, I suggest you take a turn up Flintridge Oaks, off of Georgian Road. Pull over to the side, anywhere along the street, as it winds up into this scenic neighborhood. Hear for yourself what the people whose homes are near the frontage road endure. Perhaps, like me, you’ll be glad they will be among the first to benefit when our city, at long last, will be able to undertake a sound-wall project.

It seems like it’s been forever since the City Council started tackling the 210 noise issue in earnest. It’s all about procuring money, of course, piles of it (we must pause here to thank the voters who passed county Measure R a few years ago), plus dealing with state regulations. I’ll be especially happy in June, when I see the first signs that the first 5.3 (combined) miles of new sound walls will be installed on the north and south sides of the freeway, near Meadow Grove and St. Francis High School, the two areas recognized as in the direst need of noise abatement.


Will the rest of the city be given sound walls any time soon? Well, I suppose it depends upon what you consider to be soon. La Cañada Flintridge won’t receive its next disbursement of Measure R funds until 2020. Hang tight. Maybe they’ll be here before we all move on to the next reward.

Or, maybe between now and then the Big One will put half of California under the Pacific (as my seventh-grade teacher once prophesied) and we really will be hearing waves instead of engine brakes as we nod off to sleep at night.

CAROL CORMACI is the managing editor. She can be reached at