By Sara Cardine, June 19, 2014
La Cañada officials are watching with anticipation as something
unfolds in the city of Pasadena that could affect the outcome of the
controversial 710 Freeway extension.
Not content to wait until February to hear and respond to the results
of an Environmental Impact Report on five possible alternatives, some
Pasadena officials want to seek a solution that could reduce regional
traffic and potentially eliminate the need for the extension altogether.
The Pasadena City Council will soon vote whether to convene a
community-based task force to further analyze light-rail system upgrades
that would connect East L.A. and Cal State Los Angeles with Pasadena's
Fillmore Gold Line station.
The light-rail option is one of the five alternatives currently under
review by Metro officials. Another option, a 4.2-mile dual-bore tunnel,
is being protested by several cities, including La Cañada, for its cost
and potentially negative environmental impact.
"Pasadena would like to do something sooner than later, and this is
what they've come up with," La Cañada Mayor Pro Tem Don Voss said of the
new plan. "I think this is a very, very interesting alternative."
The task force would explore modifications to Metro's light-rail
option, including an underground Gold Line tunnel that would run under
Glenarm Street and California Boulevard, eliminating the gridlock that
occurs there when light-rail trains cross traffic.
That would not only ease local traffic concerns, but possibly bolster
support from both advocates for and opponents of a freeway build or
tunnel, said Councilman Terry Tornek, who floated the task force idea to
fellow council members in late May.
"When I started looking at this alternative, I started getting
excited about it," Tornek said Monday. "We'd be taking advantage of the
time [Metro's] afforded us to modify one of the alternatives they've
given us and be proactive."
If the task force convenes, Pasadena will likely welcome involvement from Metro and Caltrans representatives, as well as nearby communities like La Cañada, said Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard.
Voss said the idea of San Gabriel Valley communities working together
in support of a solution, rather than simply voicing solidarity against
the tunnel option, is something that appeals to city officials.
"We're very encouraged by this action for a multitude of reasons, not
the least of which is getting Pasadena positively engaged in finding a
better solution," Voss said.
In December, La Cañada formed an alliance with Pasadena and three
neighboring cities — Glendale, South Pasadena and Sierra Madre — to
jointly respond to the findings of Metro's EIR.
Called the 5 Cities Alliance, the group was intended to be simply an
information- and cost-sharing partnership, not an advocacy group against
any one alternative, according to La Cañada City Manager Mark
Because Pasadena residents voted in 2001 to support an extension of
the 710 Freeway, the city was legally obligated to back a project in
that vein. But if Pasadena residents were united in support of the
light-rail alternative, Bogaard said, the Alliance could potentially
become a unified force.
"Pasadena values the opportunity to work with the other cities in the
coalition, because when it comes to political decisions, the bigger the
numbers, the more influence that's held," he said.
Voss said La Cañada officials would certainly be willing to
contribute to the task force in hopes of finding a viable and widely
supported alternative to the tunnel.
"We don't want the tunnel option — period," he said. "Let's replace
that with something that's more modern, more sustainable, greener, more
effective and less expensive."