Glendale 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 on whether to convene a community-based task force to further analyze upgrades to the light-rail system 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 five alternatives currently under review by Metro officials. Another option — a 4.2-mile, dual-bore tunnel — is being protested by several cities, including Glendale, for its cost and potentially negative environmental impact.
Glendale Councilman Ara Najarian is a strong supporter of pursuing light rail, saying it would be a cheaper option that would reduce congestion by connecting to the existing rail system.
"The mobility will speak for itself," he said. "It's a great mobility tool as opposed to the tunnel, which is primarily designed to move freight. We don't want to encourage freight on the freeways."
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 construction of a freeway 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. "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 such as La Cañada, said Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard.
Najarian said the city of Glendale would offer moral support to the task force if it gets underway.
"I think it's something that Pasadena can't do alone. I think more cities in the region that support such a project will give it a much greater chance of success," he said. "What's good for Pasadena is often good for all cities adjacent to Pasadena."
In December, Glendale formed an alliance with Pasadena and three neighboring cities — La Cañada, South Pasadena and Sierra Madre — to jointly respond to the findings of Metro's environmental impact review.
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 Alexander.
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," Bogaard said.
Putting together a task force months before the environmental impact review is ready also has the added benefit of getting a head start on educating residents about light rail, Najarian said.
"There's still a big education gap in information between what the residents are familiar with and what the technical experts are aware of," he said. "We need to get the residents involved and let them know there's a light-rail option that's being considered and let them judge for themselves whether the light rail would be better for them."
Follow Sara Cardine on Twitter: @SaraCardine.
Arin Mikailian contributed to this story.
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