La Cañada 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 whether to convene a community-based task force to further analyze light-rail system upgrades 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 the five alternatives currently under review by Metro officials. Another option, a 4.2-mile dual-bore tunnel, is being protested by several cities, including La Cañada, for its cost and potentially negative environmental impact.
"Pasadena would like to do something sooner than later, and this is what they've come up with," La Cañada Mayor Pro Tem Don Voss said of the new plan. "I think this is a very, very interesting alternative."
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 a freeway build 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 Monday. "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 like La Cañada, said Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard.
Voss said the idea of San Gabriel Valley communities working together in support of a solution, rather than simply voicing solidarity against the tunnel option, is something that appeals to city officials.
"We're very encouraged by this action for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is getting Pasadena positively engaged in finding a better solution," Voss said.
In December, La Cañada formed an alliance with Pasadena and three neighboring cities — Glendale, South Pasadena and Sierra Madre — to jointly respond to the findings of Metro's EIR.
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," he said.
Voss said La Cañada officials would certainly be willing to contribute to the task force in hopes of finding a viable and widely supported alternative to the tunnel.
"We don't want the tunnel option — period," he said. "Let's replace that with something that's more modern, more sustainable, greener, more effective and less expensive."
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