710 Freeway extension options

This map shows alternatives for extending the 710 Freeway. (MTA / February 28, 2013)

Opposition to a potential tunnel connecting the Long Beach (710) and Foothill (210) freeways rang loud and clear among the more than 125 Crescenta Valley residents who turned out for an outreach meeting Wednesday night.

The forum — organized by the advocacy group No 710 Action Committee — came after cities like Pasadena, La Cañada Flintridge and South Pasadena pushed back against the tunnel option at a series of meetings hosted by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority in January.

Jan SooHoo, a La Cañada resident and member of the No 710 Action Committee, said the forum was a success because it could inspire the Crescenta Valley region to get involved in the fight against the tunnel option.

“This is a not a city per se, these people don’t have a strong city hall, so this was a total grass roots effort,” she said. “After tonight, the lines of communication are improved, and awareness was improved.”

The assembled panel of speakers featured longtime tunnel opponents, such as Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian, La Cañada Councilman Donald Voss and former Assemblyman Anthony Portantino.

The arguments were familiar: a tunnel will increase truck traffic on the 210 Freeway and won’t actually alleviate traffic in the region. Opponents also say the proposal isn’t financially feasible.

Najarian claims his public opposition to the tunnel option has caused a behind-the-scenes political war to unseat him from the MTA Board of Directors at a time when he’s seeking reelection in Glendale.

MTA officials, meanwhile, have maintained that all options — including greater use of light rail, bus transit, optimizing flow on the existing streets and doing nothing at all — need to be studied in order to reach an informed decision.

“If I lived in the foothills community, I would wait for the study to be completed, I would wait for the facts,” said MTA project manager Michelle Smith, who was at the meeting to field questions from the audience.

After the forum, Smith said that the study team would be releasing the draft environmental impact report in spring 2014, but publicizing some “key findings” in the meantime.

After soliciting public input on the draft report, a final option would be presented to the MTA board in April 2015, she added.

La Crescenta resident Kerry Erickson said he arrived at the meeting neutral, but was able to learn about the various alternatives and start to formulate an opinion.

“Obviously, we have a transportation problem, and probably doing nothing is the wrong approach, but I don’t think the tunnel is the right approach,” Erickson said. “We need to do something in between."

-- Daniel Siegal, Times Community News

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