The Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council has joined the growing number of elected boards in Northeast Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley that have voiced their opposition to what they consider the "destructive" extension of the Route 710 Freeway.
Trisha Gossett, of the HHPNC, read a resolution stating the council's stance against the tunnel at a meeting of the MTA board of directors on Thursday, Dec. 9.
"We join the Cities of Glendale, South Pasadena and La Canada Flintridge, the Neighborhood Councils of Arroyo Seco [which represents the neighborhood of Mount Washington], Glassell Park and Sunland Tujunga, as well as many other community groups and government entities, in urging the Los Angeles City Council to take a stronger stand against this destructive, ineffective project, currently estimated to cost in the range of $14 billion," Gossett read.
The Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council also recently a resolution opposing the tunnel extension.
Gossett said she believed that the statement from the neighborhood council speaks for the entire community of Highland Park.
"Whenever you talk to anybody in Highland Park, you can't really find anybody who is in favor of this project, once they have all the facts laid out in front of them," Gosset said.
The proposed freeway extension project aims to connect Route 710 in Los Angeles to Route 210 in Pasadena, in hopes of alleviating traffic caused by freight trucks carrying cargo from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
The extension project has been proposed both as a surface freeway straight through the heart of the city of South Pasadena or as a tunnel, which could be bored beneath five distinct zones in either Northeast Los Angeles or the San Gabriel Valley.
The proposed Zone 2 would put the tunnel directly beneath the neighborhoods of Montecito Heights, Highland Park, Mount Washington, Glassell Park and Eagle Rock.
In the council's resolution, Gossett cited studies by the University of Southern California and University of California, Los Angeles, that report the negative impacts on the health of those who live near massive traffic tunnels.
"Drivers inside the tunnel will be subjected to lethal fine-particulate pollution, one thousand times more concentrated than in outside air," the resolution reads. "This poisonous tunnel pollution will be vented directly into our neighborhoods. Where pollution increases, so does disease."
Tunnel opponents have also taken issue with the cost of the project, which to this point has not been definitively stated by anyone within Caltrans or L.A. Metro.
Joanne Nuckols, a South Pasadena resident on the No on 710 Action Committee, compiled a list of the various cost estimates of the project, which vary between $1 billon, as predicted by former L.A. Metro chief Roger Snoble in 2003, to as high as $12 billion, as estimated by the Southern California Coaltion of Governments in 2007.
A motion by MTA board member and Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian to delay the commencement of L.A. Metro's environmental scoping study, which could cost as much as $60 million, until a definitive cost-benefit analysis of the project is completed has been tabled by the L.A. Metro board until February.
Dodson said that while it is important for city and neighborhood councils to stand united in their opposition to the freeway extension, it's also their responsibility to propose solutions to the traffic issue.
"We can't just say, 'No, no, no,'" Dodson said at the Saturday meeting of the No on 710 Action Committee. "We have to provide alternatives and be able to make a case for them."
The city of South Pasadena has already taken steps in that regard, proposing that L.A. Metro look into low-build, multi-mode alternatives, including building light-rail systems and increasing the number of bicycle lanes in cities through Northeast L.A. and the San Gabriel Valley.
The fight against the 710 Freeway Extension is more than six decades old, with residents of South Pasadena having carried the flag against the extension the longest.
Though Highland Park is relatively new to the fight against the tunnel, Gossett said the neighborhood council is in it for the long haul.
"The neighborhood council will continue to take a leadership role in supporting surrounding communities as well as fighting against the contruction of the tunnel beneath the city of Los Angeles," she said. "And that's the truth."