Ara Najarian

At a meeting Monday in La Canada, Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian accused transportation officials of underplaying the amount of truck traffic that would rumble into the area if the 710 Freeway is connected with other highways. (Times Community News / August 14, 2012)

On the same night Pasadena officials were raking Los Angeles County transportation officials over the coals for their proposals to extend the Long Beach (710) Freeway, Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian was carrying a similar tune in La Cañada Flintridge.

At a public meeting hosted Monday by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Agency at La Cañada High School, Najarian — who serves on the agency's board of directors — accused regional transportation officials of underplaying the amount of truck traffic that would rumble into the area if the 710 Freeway is connected with the Foothill (210) or Ventura (134) freeways.

“There is a snow job going at the highest level,” Najarian said, followed by a burst of applause from the roughly 45 people in attendance. “There is a driving force behind this tunnel … there are people, consulting firms, construction firms, trucking firms that are vested in this, and are pushing it.”

MTA officials have said that the proposals for easing congestion in the so-called 710 gap — including a possible 4.5-mile tunnel between the end of the 710 Freeway in Alhambra and the 210 Freeway in Pasadena — would not significantly increase truck traffic nearby.

But opponents said freight companies are driving the effort to build the extension.

Pasadena, South Pasadena, La Cañada and Glendale officials have all publicly opposed the project, citing potential impacts to traffic and air quality.

“This is what La Cañada has been expecting forever, 30,000 trucks a day,” La Cañada resident Susan Bolan said. “We demand to see a freight-movement alternative.”

The MTA is conducting an environmental study of 12 alternatives to ease congestion in the area. They range from the long-debated extension of the 710 Freeway to new proposals to build a highway along Avenue 64 that would connect with the 134 Freeway. The agency is also considering mass transit and street improvements.

Mary McCormick, a spokeswoman for MTA, said the information Najarian is seeking, including the cost of building the tunnel, is still being prepared as part of the environmental study.

“It's not that it's a snow job,” McCormick said. “It's that a lot of times when information isn't communicated, or you don't understand the process, it feels like that.”

The study is expected to wrap up in 2014, though parts of it will be released as they are completed. During that time, some of the alternatives are expected to be dropped.

McCormick said many of the public's questions would be addressed at MTA's next set of open houses, scheduled for Oct. 18 at the El Sereno Senior Center and Oct. 20 at Maranatha High School in Pasadena.