As the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) prepares to narrow down a list of potential projects that would extend State Route 710 through several Northeast L.A. communities, Arroyo residents made it clear during a Thursday evening meeting of the(HHPNC) that they were ready to fight the freeway.
The HHPNC on Thursday night unanimously voted in favor of writing letters to the city councils of South Pasadena and Pasadena, asking them to join them in opposing any routes that would run through Highland Park. In December of 2010, the HHPNC voted to voice their opposition to any.
"(Metro) thinks of Highland Park as a sleepy little political backwater with no power and no voice, but that is not true," said HHPNC member Janet Dodson. "They've been run out of every other area of Northeast LA and they're coming for us here because they think they can get away with it."
Dodson was referring to a dual effort waged by Metro and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) for more than 60 years to extend the SR-710 beyond its northern terminus in Alhambra and connect it to the 210 freeway in Pasadena.
Freeway supporters say extending the 710 would alleviate traffic for commuters. Those opposed say the only beneficiaries would be billionaire business owners who need to move commercial traffic out of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach more swiftly.
Metro and Caltrans are currently in the midst of their latest attempt to secure a valid Environmental Impact Report statement, which would allow them to build the project. In the past, the agencies' efforts to extend the SR-710 by surface route have been thwarted by the Federal Highway Administration, which has prompted Metro and Caltrans to consider several above and underground options in this latest round.
Among the 12 alternatives--which include "no build" and light rail/bus rail projects--are two freeway extensions that would run directly through the heart of Garvanza.
(See the media box above for images of the routes)
Alternative F5 would connect to SR-134 at a new interchange created near the intersection of Colorado Boulevard and Avenue 64. According to maps provided by Metro, the bulk of the route would run beneath the neighborhood of Garvanza.
A proposed above ground route, Alternative H2, would connect to SR-134 in the north by way of Avenue 64.
Another proposed tunnel route would connect to SR-2 between Verdugo Road and SR-134.
Garvanza resident and Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Councilmember Tina Gulotta-Miller said any route though Garvanza would "devastate the area."
Those gathered at the were almost unanimously opposed to any extension project, but there was one attendee who suggested the fight was a waste of time.
"It's never going to happen," said Amer Rayes, a field deputy for Assemblyman Gilbert Cedillo.
Cedillo is known among freeway fighters for sponsoring an Assembly bill that would have killed any surface route option, while also expressing support for a tunnel route.
"...[H]e is a supporter of a tunnel to alleviate the region’s traffic congestion," Cedillo Spokesperson Christy Wolfe told EGPNews.com in 2009. "The senator is pragmatic on the issue…he is keeping all options on the table until some of the options are ruled out."
On Thursday night, however, Rayes bristled when community members suggested that Cedillo — now a candidate for the Los Angeles City Council District seat that represents Highland Park--was a tunnel advocate.
"Do you really think its gonna happen? Do you really think the city of Los Angeles is gonna pay $8 billion to make this happen? Let's be realistic. Let's be logical, let's be logical. Let's use factual data," Rayes said. "The tunnel is an idea that he came up with while he was on vacation. There's a difference between an idea and pushing an issue."
Weston Dewalt, a Pasadena resident who strongly opposes the tunnel, said there is no shortage of funding sources for the SR-710 extension, including at least a portion of $780 million in Measure R funds approved by voters in 2008 to pay for various transportation projects.
Metro will host a Community Liaison Committee meeting on Monday, Aug. 6 at 6:30 p.m. at (4580 N. Figueroa St.) to discuss the proposed routes.
The Pasadena City Council will also discuss the 710 on Monday, Aug. 13 at 6:30 p.m. inside room 107 of the Pasadena Convention Center.
The public comment period for the proposed routes will end on Wednesday, Aug. 29, at which point Metro and Caltrans are expected to narrow the list of proposed routes from 12 to five.
"If we don't stand up for this now, our politicians aren't going to do anything for us," said Mark Khalef, an attorney who lives in Highland Park. "Our politicians, at the end of the day, they could be making money off this thing. They might be getting jobs after they retire. These are billion dollar companies. It has nothing to do with trying to better the commute for you and it has everything to do with pleasing billion dollar companies and getting jobs."