Freeway feud heats up as West Pasadena association head blasts state and regional traffic planners
By Andre Coleman, August 13, 2015
The president of the West Pasadena Residents’ Association (WPRA) blasted state and local transit officials for “improperly conducting” an environmental study to justify building a 4.5-mile tunnel connecting the Long Beach (710) Freeway in Alhambra with the Foothill (210) Freeway in Pasadena over the objections of area residents.
Meanwhile, nearby La Cañada Flintridge and South Pasadena, which both oppose the tunnel idea, could leave the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments (SGVCOG) due to that group’s 17-6 vote in June to publicly support plans for the tunnel.
According to a recent report in the La Cañada Valley Sun, the La Cañada Flintridge City Council voted 4-1 to remain with the group, but is exploring a proposal to create a separate council that would include Pasadena, Glendale and Burbank, all of which have opposed the tunnel.
South Pasadena is scheduled to vote Wednesday on withdrawing from SGVCOG. The council of governments is made up of 31 cities and six districts which work together on regional transportation issues. Many of the cities from the South San Gabriel Valley, such as Alhambra, San Gabriel and Monterey Park, support the tunnel concept because those officials believe it will relieve congestion and help reduce air and noise pollution in those areas where cars are forced onto city streets due to the incomplete freeway.
That disunity among council members was followed by a scathing letter to Caltrans and the Los Angeles County Transportation Authority (Metro) from the WPRA. In that letter, WPRS President Geoff Baum, a former member of the Pasadena City College Board of Trustees, said the project’s environmental impact report (EIR) failed to take key issues into account. Baum, who is managing director of the Annenberg Center of Communications at USC, called on Caltrans to restart the process.
“[The EIR] fails to consider changing public, state and national priorities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” the letter states. “It completely ignores the California state law SB743, which calls for the ‘reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the development of multi-mode transportation networks, and a diversity of land use.’ Finally, the environmental process has failed to adequately address the project need for safety. For the tunnel alternative, safety has been grossly compromised in order to achieve the desired performance and cost objectives,” Baum wrote.
“It would be a disaster for the city and the community for a tunnel to be built,” Baum told the Pasadena Weekly. “Air quality, traffic, endless construction would have a devastating impact on the residential communities while the tunnel was being built. There are so many unknowns. We cannot afford to have that happen in our community.”