To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Living in the shadow of the 710 


By Karen Robes Meeks, Staff Writer
Updated:   09/22/2012 10:08:03 PM PDT

Traffic on the Long Beach (710) Freeway from the Willow Ave. overpass on September 11, 2012. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen / Staff Photographer)
  COMMERCE - Norma Macias has lived in the shadow of the Long Beach (710) Freeway her entire life.

"I've lived here forever," the school crossing guard said teary-eyed, adding that her parents first brought her from the hospital to the Sydney Drive house in which she still lives.

Now dozens of homes in Macias' neighborhood could be slated for demolition under proposed plans to expand the Long Beach (710) Freeway.

"Our house, as you can see, is in front of the 710, so the first house that's going to be hit will be this area here, Sydney Drive," she said. "They never denied that. From the get-go they said that Sydney has to go."

For 10 years, residents and business owners in Commerce, Bell and other cities bisected by the 710 have been fighting off expansion plans that threaten to mow down their properties.

Angelo Logan of the East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, a community based organization that works in Commerce, East Los Angeles and Long Beach, was established to address the impacts of goods movements - rail, ports and the 710 Freeway.

"We've been working on the 710 project for the last 10 years (to) make sure it's a real improvement project, not just a project to accommodate port growth and the movement of containers," he said. "The alternatives that Caltrans has put out for selection do not reflect an improvement for the corridor communities. Specifically in the city of Commerce, there are options to eliminate close to 200 homes and we believe that's a major negative impact to the community."

The project also poses an ecological danger to the Los Angeles River, according to the group.

Logan said there is an alternative that East Yard plans to submit to Caltrans for consideration. Group members believe the plan will improve the health of the community and preserve homes.

The group's plan calls for no 710 widening, but instead pushes for a comprehensive public transit element, a committed zero emission freight corridor, river improvements, a public-private partnership employer-operated freight system, pedestrian and bicycle opportunities and community benefits such as expanded open space and other community enhancements. do that with new technologies, public transit and new ways of moving both goods and people from places they need to go."
 do that with new technologies, public transit and new ways of moving both goods and people from places they need to go."

"We do not need to expand the freeway to accommodate projected growth," Logan said. "We can

Upping the stakes in the 710 fight

Schiff's letter to MTA signals the battle over the freeway tunnel may be joined in Washington, D.C.


Like a volcano that erupts after years of sending up ominous puffs of steam, the opposition to an extension of the Long Beach (710) Freeway has spilled into the open in recent weeks with heat and force.

Significant moments included a public audit that showed just how terribly Caltrans has managed the homes it has owned for decades in the 710 right ofway, and the awakening of a slumbering Pasadena when planners for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority unveiled since-scuttled plans to put a highway along Avenue 64.   Another significant moment came Thursday, when Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) told MTA he believes it’s time to spike the study of the 4.5-mile tunnel connecting the 710 to Pasadena. Until now, the most vocal opponents of the project have included local officials in South Pasadena, La Cañada Flintridge and Glendale who risked getting swamped by the Port of Los Angeles, trade unions, shipping and trucking concerns when push comes to shove.

Schiff’s forceful letter to the MTA suggested that the 710 battle may be joined on Capitol Hill.

After Schiff issued his letter, we asked his office if the congressman would seek to use federal control of transportation dollars to block the tunnel. Schiff’s spokesman, Patrick Boland, wrote that while the federal highway funding process “gives Caltrans great discretion over the use of its federal dollars, [the Department of Transportation] may be reluctant to see it proceed on such an expensive project without a consensus of those representing the region.”

Boland also underscored Schiff’s concern that the price tag for the tunnel will be enormous: “The tunnel option is no longer financially viable. Metro will have to consider opposition to the tunnel by any member of the California delegation such as Representative Schiff to pose a serious obstacle to pursuit of a tunnel. Since very substantial federal resources would be necessary, Metro would be wise to give fresh consideration to the alternatives.”

Life in La Canada Flintridge means living with freeways 


By Steve Scauzillo, SGVN
Updated:   09/22/2012 08:16:24 PM PDT

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE - The people in this foothill town know something about freeways.

In particular, they remember when the county board of supervisors "sold out the community" in the 1970s. The then cluster of disparate neighborhood enclaves were bullied into accepting the Foothill (210) Freeway as a permanent concrete highway, bifurcating what later became their city, said Mayor Steve Del Guercio.

"They condemned 400 homes. It was done with little regard for noise. Now, it is 85 decibels in many people's backyards. Plus, the air quality effects were never understood," he said.

Around 1979, Caltrans completed the Glendale (2) Freeway connecting the Ventura (134) and 210 freeways through La Canada Flintridge.

As a kind of strike three, the 210 was extended in 2003 to the east, into the Inland Empire and connecting to the Devore (215) and the San Bernardino (10) freeways.

The "new 210" instantly became a preferred truck route, which La Canadans say greatly diminishes their quality of life.

It is these freeway lessons learned that triple the resolve of La Canadans to prevent another freeway - the Long Beach (710) - from reaching their hamlet.

The City Council, along with the cities of Glendale and Los Angeles, are opposed. Their assemblyman, Anthony Portantino, D-Pasadena, a former mayor of La Canada Flintridge, is the leading opponent in the state Legislature. They reflect the views of the vast majority of folks in the area.

 "I am adamantly opposed to the 710, as are most of the people in this town," said Wes Seastrom, 58, a lifelong La Canadan who works for Podley Properties in town.

Seastrom is not unique. From homeowners to business folks, from parents to politicians, the town is united against a 710 Freeway tunnel because of the added truck and automobile traffic, noise and air pollution they believe it will bring to their doorsteps.

"I think it is a pretty clear choice. You've seen the amount of traffic increase on the 210 over the years. If the 710 extension goes through, it will increase that a number of times. The quality of life in the foothill areas will be drastically changed," Seastrom said.

Del Guercio puts it more bluntly.

"The rank and file, the residents, businesses and everyone here are smart enough to know it will have a devastating effect," he said. "The opposition to this is reaching epic proportions."
He and others are more concerned how a 710 tunnel and connection to the 210 will behave in gridlock than one free-flowing. Today, eastbound traffic already backs up beyond Berkshire Avenue in town as cars enter the existing 210 tunnel in Pasadena.

Most opponents predict truckers will use the 710 and 210 to bypass the 5 and 110 freeways in downtown L.A. The same is already happening with the 210 now that it connects to the Inland Empire.

Barbara Marshall has lived in La Canada Flintridge since 1978. She would never hear freeway noise in her home located two miles away until recently, when the 210 was extended, she said.

"Now I hear freeway noise and I'm quite a ways north of the freeway. The amount of trucks on the 210 have increased tenfold," she said.

Marshall, an insurance agent, has on office on Foothill Boulevard. The Angeles Crest Highway exit off the 210 abuts her office parking lot.

That exit is a constant reminder of trucks. In 2009, a truck careened out of control down the mountain highway, smashing into shops in La Canada Flintridge's downtown, killing Angel Posca and his 12-year-old daughter, Angelina, who were riding in a small car on Foothill Boulevard.

She said businesses don't see any advantage to more freeway traffic. "We are not expecting people to get off the freeway to come here," she said.

Del Guercio wants Caltrans and Metro to find alternatives to a 710 connection, perhaps using light-rail and surface route improvements.

If the tunnel was built, it will be jammed at each entrance or portal, with trucks and cars backing up onto the 210 in La Canada Flintridge, he said.

"We have some of the worst noise effects (from freeways) of anywhere," he said. Many homeowners have had to install triple-paned windows and add extra insulation to keep out freeway noise, said Pat Anderson, president and CEO of the La Canada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce and Community Association.

"They can't sit outside on their patios because of the noise," she said.

As a historical note, the 2 Freeway was supposed to continue well beyond the 101 Freeway, where it turns into Glendale Boulevard, into Beverly Hills and connect to the 405 Freeway. But a cut-and-cover tunnel planned for under Beverly Hills was quietly ruled out in 1975 along with any plans for a "Beverly Hills" Freeway.

This occurred about the time the 210 and 2 freeways were being built through La Canada Flintridge.
"It is enough. They've chopped us up once, twice, and polluted our air. Don't do it anymore," Anderson said.

 Lawsuit involving Rancho Cucamonga home owners along 210

The lawsuit, originally filed on behalf of Ronald and Joyce Willemsen of
Rancho Cucamonga and several others last year, alleges that traffic noise
pollution from the freeway's extension across Los Angeles and San Bernardino
counties is much higher than federal, state and local standards permit, is
greater than residents were led to believe and that disclosure notices to
homeowners inaccurately portrayed the freeway's route.  In addition, the suit
charges that the freeway was negligently built and has caused earth resettling
that affects the foundations of homes.  Plaintiffs are represented by Santa
Monica based Verboon, Milstein & Peter.
In regards to the 710 tunnel:
The last highlighted sentence would be especially relative to the 710 tunnel.
Metro cannot begin to know what problems with housing foundations they are 
going to run into. Many houses along the tunnel route are older homes.

 Please Plan to Attend the Pasadena City Council Meeting
To let you know that the Monday meeting is back on... and please read the second article. It's an important item that factors into our fight against the 710 connector.
Monday,  September 24   6:30pm

For Public Comment only (at the start of the meeting)

I have had many emails and calls regarding the decision not to go to the Pasadena City Council 
meeting on Monday, September 24.

I've been told, we can not let go that easily, nor can we let them think they are rid of us.  
By not showing up on Monday the City Manager wins. 

We need to make our voices be heard, talk about what we learned at Tuesdays 710 Forum.  
The impact to our health, the school children that attend schools in the area, the folks at the 
hospital, all caused by the vented gases and other pollutants that produce cancer and other 
respiratory diseases.  Building two tunnels on three fault lines, etc.  We know it's for the trucks.  
The prohibitive costs and the fact that it will surpass the entire debt of the State of California. 
The Environmental impact regarding the years to complete the project (and the movement of 
dirt to Irwindale on the 210 freeway).  We must remind them that the 210 extension to the 15  
did not relieve any congestion and only brought more trucks and cars into our communities.

We want to know why the City Manager continues to answer letters that are not addressed to him,
can't City Council members speak for themselves?

We can not let them think they got rid of us.  We must commit to attending every Pasadena 
City Council meeting until the issue is on the agenda and there is a vote to oppose Metro's 
F-7 tunnels (two side by side tunnels).  If we don't do this, they will let it go past the election. 

We need to fill the room.   

See you there.

Pasadena City Hall,  
Council Chambers, S249
100 North Garfield


Map: 710 Freeway extension routes, impacted communities, points of interest and more

 A detailed map showing the proposed options for a 710 Freeway extension, including nearby points of interest, historic buildings that could be impacted, and communities of interest. For the map, go to the website above.
The 710: Spine of LA Freeway system and its missing link

Posted:   09/22/2012 07:19:44 AM PDT
Updated:   09/22/2012 11:31:01 PM PDT

Aerial view of Long Beach Freeway (710) on September 10, 2003. This view is looking south with Pacific Coast Highway in the bottom of the picture. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen / Long Beach Press-Telegram)

Local transportation officials know it as "The Missing Link."

A dotted line on Los Angeles area maps since at least 1959, the 4.5-mile proposed stretch of the Long Beach (710) Freeway between Alhambra and Pasadena would complete a 22,000-mile Southern California transportation system that daily serves millions of travelers.

Officials believe that when it's complete — perhaps with a tunnel — there will be smoother traffic flow and shorter trips in the region from Long Beach to Northridge and Santa Monica to San Bernardino.

But, disagreement over a solution even extends to semantics. While proponents call completion of the 710 a "gap closure," opponents term it an unnecessary "extension."

Both sides do agree something needs to be done once and for all.

As James Moore sees it doing nothing has regionwide traffic flow and environmental consequences.

"It's part of the network," said Moore, a transportation professor at USC. "Change the configuration of the network (and) everything (changes) in the network. Closing the 710 would affect 200,000 vehicles that take other routes."

The 710 Freeway has long been a bone of contention among communities like South Pasadena and Pasadena, which sit in its path, and cities like Alhambra and Monterey Park that want to eliminate freeway drivers spewing onto their streets.

Then, there's the ports.

The 710 debate in Pasadena throws the region's goods movement strategies
into the spotlight, especially in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Those economic powerhouses process 43 percent of the goods brought into the country each year. It has some freeway fighters worried that many imports will be stuffed in containers and strapped to diesel trucks chugging up the newly completed 710.

Trucking companies and rail freight haulers insist there's nothing to worry about: They only need to get as far north as the San Bernardino (10) Freeway in Alhambra before turning east.

Which creates a problem for the outliers — those cities along the Alameda Corridor East. Many, like San Gabriel, Pomona and Fontana struggle with ways to move residents' automobiles past tracks carrying miles-long freight trains streaming from the ports 24 hours a day.

As the debate rages, Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials are scoping for the necessary Environmental Impact Reports on the north end of the corridor, where they hope to install the system's missing link.

That missing link could be everything from a traditional paved surface freeway, to a modern tunnel like those in Boston and Seattle, to a light rail system dedicated to moving people, not trucks — freight could be diverted to trains.

At the same time Metro officials are wrapping up an EIR on the south end of the 710 where they hope to widen the freeway and expand rail yards.

The Metro board will hold its monthly meeting at 9 a.m. Thursday. Activists from the cities on both ends of the 710 corridor are expected to attend.

Diesel death zones

Opponents believe any proposal for the 710 results in the destruction of neighborhoods and a reduced quality of life.

"We look at ourselves; we're fighting the Port of Los Angeles and we're fighting the 710," Long Beach resident John Cross said. "We're like David and Goliath, only my deal is we should just find the right rock to hit them with. We're gonna keep chucking rocks
This rendering shows what the proposed tunnel in Alhambra might look like.
'til we find the right one."

Since 1961 Cross has lived in what he calls "the diesel death zone." To the neighborhood's east is the 710 Freeway. To its west are refineries and the Union Pacific rail yard.

"And the prevailing winds are coming from the west, so whatever pollution goes down this freeway or comes down out of those rail yards goes right into our communities," he said.

That's exactly what South Pasadena Mayor Michael Cacciotti fears most.

He believes completing the freeway — even if it's an underground tunnel that preserves historic homes — will only bring more cars and more congestion, extending Cross' "diesel death zone" into the San Gabriel Valley.

Cacciotti, also a board member for the South Coast Air Quality Management District, said Caltrans' 1993 completion of the Century (105) Freeway in the South Bay is a prime example of what could happen on the 710.

"Within two weeks of opening it was bumper to bumper in rush hour," he said. "Traffic patterns move to the open areas."

And the same thing happened with the Foothill (210) Freeway when it was extended from La Verne to the 215 in San Bernardino, Cacciotti said. In 2009, Iteris, a Orange County- based traffic consultant group, conducted a survey called the "I-710 Missing Link Truck Study." Released only in draft form, the study seems to back up Cacciotti's claim.

Commissioned by the Southern California Association of Governments, Iteris consultants found that fully half of 18 trucking companies surveyed indicated they would use the 710 extension route for trucking operations.

The study found truck traffic would be reduced on surface streets in the San Gabriel Valley as well as on the Golden State (5) through Burbank between the 10 and the Glendale (2), as freight haulers would shift east to use 710 instead.

Truck volumes would, in turn, increase on the 210 north into the San Fernando Valley by more than 2,500 trips daily. Truck traffic would also increase east of the 710 through Pasadena, the study found. The study was never "finalized" by SCAG.

A regional plan

Overall, SCAG's Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) notes that the 710, San Gabriel River (605), Pomona (60) and Riverside (91) freeways carry the highest volumes of truck traffic in the region. Each averaged over 25,000 trucks per day in 2008.

The 5, 10, 15 and 210 freeways averaged 20,000 daily truck trips, according to SCAG.

A regional planning organization with representatives from 191 cities in six counties, SCAG's website says its mission is to realize "regional plans that improve the quality of life for Southern Californians."

SCAG's RTP is updated every four years with an eye toward forecasting based on economic trends.

An executive summary of the plan's most recent draft, released in June, notes that freeway congestion is the key problem facing Southern California commuters. If nothing is done to alleviate a host of problems on roads from the San Diego (405) Freeway east to the Devore (215) Freeway, jobs will be lost, according to the summary.

How many jobs?

"Every 10 percent decrease in congestion can bring an employment increase of about 132,000 jobs," the summary notes.


Officials have come up with several options for dealing with system-wide 710 congestion. Some — extra lanes, a separate elevated freight corridor, and automated guidance for trucks — deal with traffic in and out of the ports.

The proposed construction of the elevated freight-way south of the 405 will require driving support pilings into the existing levees. That, plus all of the transmission line relocations to the levee tops and moving all of the oil production equipment, is going to greatly increase the time and cost of the project, according to Joan Greenwood, a member of the Paramount-based Corridor Advisory Committee.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also submitted a letter expressing its concerns over the effects of the alternative on the flood management district.

Four others options — a freeway tunnel, a light-rail line, a bus line, and a high-tech transportation management system, which coordinates traffic lights and automobile flow — deal with traffic in the San Gabriel Valley.

At both ends a fifth option is also on the table — it's called "zero build."

That's not likely to happen and as a result, it's the tunnel plan that's drawn the most opposition.

In recent weeks residents of Los Angeles, Pasadena, South Pasadena and La Cañada Flintridge have attended meetings to voice their frustrations and concerns with Metro's plan.

Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-Pasadena, led La Cañada Flintridge's opposition to the 710 project when he was mayor. He was first to oppose a tunnel, which he sees as a taxpayer-funded boondoggle.

On Thursday, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena, warned Metro officials that he too was opposed to a tunnel and urged the body to remove the option from consideration when it meets Thursday.

Portantino compares it to the railroad tunnel once proposed for under the Hudson River between Manhattan and New Jersey.

That project was killed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie two years ago. Christie said state officials predicted the costs were rising from $7.8 billion to as much as $14 billion. And that New Jersey would be stuck with 70percent of the bill.

"New Jersey said we can't afford this tunnel so they nixed it. How is it that a tunnel that doesn't solve a problem, that is longer and wider, is affordable?" he said.

The Big Dig

Whenever proponents speak of the proposed 710 tunnel project, they never compare it to Boston's Big Dig, which took nine years longer than expected to build and went nearly $12billion over budget. Instead, they compare it to Seattle's SR99 tunnel project.

"The one in Boston is nothing like the one they are proposing for here," assured Barbara Messina, mayor of Alhambra and a longtime proponent of the 710 project. "It was a big fiasco — a job poorly done."

The state of Washington's Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program calls for a 1.7-mile, 56-foot-wide deep-bore highway tunnel under the skyscrapers of downtown Seattle.

The cost of that project is approximately $3.1 billion, and that includes tunnel boring and removal of the old freeway to make way for the new section of State Route 99, according to Matt Preedy, deputy administrator for the project with the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Whether it will come in at budget remains to be seen. But Preedy answers that question in the affirmative.

"Yes, of course. We are a year and a half into construction right now. We have a lot to go. We haven't started tunneling yet. We are very comfortable at this point with the contract bid we received and our contingency funds. We are right on track to deliver this within the $3.1 billion target," he said.

A 2011 report commissioned by Metro says the proposed 710 tunnel project will cost about $3.5 billion, fairly close to what the Seattle project will cost.

The Seattle project is the most similar to the 710 tunnel project in terms of the diameter of the tunnel.

Preedy said the Seattle tunnel will be high enough — about a 16-foot vertical clearance — to accommodate trucks and autos. It is being designed to take freight from the Port of Seattle to points north and east, he said.

Metro has not been as forthcoming about whether the 710 tunnel will take trucks. But Metro is using the Washington tunnel for price and size comparisons.

"It is important to note the Alaska Way Tunnel in Seattle, which was used for comparative purposes to verify our cost estimates, is the only tunnel in the U.S. that is a large diameter tunnel constructed with a tunnel boring machine and is being delivered design-build with a similar risk allocation as is being considered for the SR 710 North Gap project," read the report from Metro dated July 1, 2011.

However, there are striking differences.

Metro wants to build two separate tunnels, one for northbound traffic and one for southbound traffic, each about 4 miles long, the report states.

Preedy said Washington considered but rejected the twin tunnel approach as too risky and too costly. With two separate tunnels, cross connections must be built as an emergency route to evacuate people and cars, Preedy said. In Seattle, these would have to be hand-mined, a more difficult process, he said.

The 2011 L.A. County Metro report compares the cost of the 710 tunnel project — listed as $840 million per mile — with several others. The cost per mile of the Boston Big Dig project is listed at $1.85 billion; the Bay Area Rapid Transit District Warm Springs Extension is estimated at $165 million; and a project in Washington, D.C., and Maryland figured at $85.4 million per mile.

The cost of Washington's SR99 is about $1.24 billion per mile — less than Boston's Big Dig but more than the per-mile estimate of Metro's 710 Freeway gap closure.

Opponents take the opposite tack. They wonder how a 2.5-mile corridor with a 1.7-mile single tunnel in Seattle can cost overall about the same as two 4-mile tunnels beneath El Sereno, South Pasadena and Pasadena.

Without a tunnel, the list of options for completing the missing link becomes smaller.

Cacciotti's solution? Install light rail to close the gap.

Instead of freeways, Cacciotti said, Metro should focus on alternatives.

"The tunnel would just encourage more people to drive rather than take mass transit," Cacciotti said. "(Light rail) would work. You are giving people another option, there is no option now."

Moore, who supports completing the regional freeway system with the 710, said using light rail to take cars off the road is a nice idea.

But, he added, it's "delusional" to think it would work.

"(Passenger) rail has got a magical story to tell," Moore said. "'If you let us build it, it will free up your highways and clean your air, but just let us finish it.'"

ACE in the hole

Opponents of the extension have blocked completion of the 710 since 1959. Some believe the missing link will remain just that.

Still there is a need to deal with auto congestion and massive amounts of freight.

Improvements to rail, which carries two-thirds of the items from the port out of the Los Angeles County basin will be the key to moving goods more efficiently, according to Michael Christensen, deputy executive director of the Port Of Los Angeles.

Port of Los Angeles officials say they are turning to the Alameda Corridor East project as the solution to freight congestion rather than installing north-south train tracks through existing neighborhoods.

The Alameda Corridor East is essentially a pathway from the ports followed by eastbound trains along the 710 corridor to the 60 Freeway and into San Bernardino County and beyond. For the most part it runs parallel to the 10 and the 60 — between both.

The ACE project aims to update west-to-east rail lines to accommodate communities along its path. It will also add a second rail line to increase efficiency.

"We're providing a larger artery for the increased volume," said ACE board Chairman David Gutierrez. "This project has been identified as not only a project of regional significance but also of national significance."

Cities such as San Gabriel, Industry, Pomona and Ontario bear the brunt of that freight by rail movement through the ACE. For years eastern Ontario has also been a highway truck stop for road weary 18-wheel operators.

"The reality is that freight is eventually going to end up in the Inland Empire whether on trucks or on trains," said Tom Danna, Ontario traffic and transportation manager.

Goods transportation is the backbone of Ontario's — and for that matter — the Inland Empire's economy. UPS and FedEx have local hubs in Ontario, and a slew of transportation companies and warehouses dot the landscape of the Inland Empire.

"We know that significant improvement to the west of us ... is going to help move freight out of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach (and) that is going to affect us whether it's rail or roadways," Danna said.

ACE and its sister, the Alameda Corridor, led the push for expansion of the rail yards in Commerce and Vernon.

Residents in Wilmington and Long Beach have been rallying against a rail yard project planned by Burlington Northern Santa Fe, which is spending $500 million on a facility closer to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Because not all terminals have the capability to unload containers on-dock, containers often are ferried by trucks up the 710 to a BNSF facility 24 miles away in downtown Los Angeles, where it would then be unloaded and put on a train.

"This (project) would take 1.5 million trucks off the 710 Freeway," BNSF spokeswoman Lena Kent said.

However, residents fear that the project would create more traffic and pollution in Wilmington and West Long Beach, where schools and parks are a few miles away from the proposed rail yard.

"That's going to take more trucks off the freeway but it's going to put them right into residential communities," Long Beach resident Cross said.

Lupe Valdez, spokeswoman for Union Pacific Railroad in Southern California, said when complete the ACE would increase neither the speed of nor the amount of cargo trains can carry. What it will do is provide "improved circulation for pedestrians and vehicles around active rail lines," she said.

Freight to rail might not be the answer to the problems posed by the missing link, Valdez said.

"It needs to have a connection to a rail yard ... so just having a rail line there wouldn't diminish the need for trucks," Valdez said. "And trucks will still be needed to (make) local deliveries."

Looking ahead

Whatever happens will be decided by Metro over the next several months. After that, SCAG estimates completion of its 710 projects by 2030.

Even so, Portantino wonders if Metro can be trusted.

"If they are not going to really tell you how much it is going to cost or how many cars are going to use it, why are we even moving forward?" he asked.

He says the project will reach an "F" rating during many hours of the day as soon as it gets built.

While La Cañada Flintridge Mayor Stephen Del Guercio insists that "if you build it they will come," Moore and others say finding — and implementing — solutions at both ends is imperative. It will be come more critical as tighter environmental and air quality restrictions are put in place by the federal and state governments.

"We can never eliminate congestion 100 percent regardless of what we do," SCAG's executive director Hasan Ikhrata said. "But can we make life better? Absolutely yes."

Staff writers Brian Charles, Lauren Gold, Karen Robes Meeks and Steve Scauzillo contributed to this package of stories.

Charles reported from Eastern Los Angeles County and San Bernardino County. Gold and Scauzillo reported from Pasadena and La Canada Flintridge.

Robes Meeks reported on the project from Long Beach and that portion of the freeway between Long Beach and Monterey Park.

Stop 710 Now-No Build Anywhere! sign in front of a Caltrans home in the 600 block of South St. John Avenue in Pasadena Wednesday, September 19, 2012. (SGVN/Photo by Walt Mancini)