By Susan Bolan
No doubt, if you have lived along the Foothills for some time you have seen many changes with our freeways in the northeast. I can remember clearly as a kid, driving down to Glendale via the college route of Cañada or Verdugo Blvds. It was a beautiful drive. There were no I-210 or SR-2 at that time. In 1972, the 210 Freeway cut through our valley and many homes were taken–some that weren’t even needed for the roadway. Later, when the segment of the 210 that runs from Lowell to Sunland Blvd. was constructed, my friend and I tried out the “new freeway.” I remember thinking that the hills of La Tuna Canyon looked pretty cool from that vantage point but I doubted I would ever use that stretch for travel; Foothill Blvd. worked just fine.
For the next twenty-five years, I grew to depend on the 210 Freeway, taking me to school in the San Fernando Valley via the 118 and to work. I didn’t really notice how the Crescenta Valley was starting to change. The freeway “gap closure” in Claremont in 2002, and the building boom in Valencia and Santa Clarita had forever altered the traffic patterns and thrown a substantial number of new cars and trucks onto the 210 Freeway. The area near Lopez Canyon became more industrialized and trucks soon lined the edges of our rolling hills above Sylmar. We had traffic for the first time.
The soft hum that at first sounded like a gentle river had turned to a loud “whoosh” at all hours of the day and night with intermittent “da-da-da-da” of Jake brakes from trucks. This noise was echoed loudly by our bowl-shaped valley between the San Gabriel and Verdugo mountains. The communities started to notice deterioration of the freeway surfaces from the heavy traffic and more big rig accidents than ever before. In 2008, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) installed 1,000 meters at all onramps and nine freeway-to-freeway connectors on the 210 from the San Bernardino county line to Sylmar. They called it the I-210 “Congestion Relief” project, but residents all along the corridor saw a worsening of traffic from this effort. At that point, I realized that we have a problem.
On the horizon for the 210 Freeway, are three projects that will affect our lives for years to come. The first, which has already begun, is the work on the 210 in La Cañada Flintridge, La Crescenta, Sunland-Tujunga, and Lake View Terrace. Caltrans is resurfacing the roadway pavement and some walls; the much needed work is expected to be completed in the spring of 2016. In addition, is the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works (DPW) project for sediment removal just north of the Devil’s Gate Reservoir, in the Hahamongna Watershed Park. The proposed plan could move up to four million cubic yards of debris by truck for five years. That would amount to 425 truck trips a day, eastbound on the 210 during the excavation season from April to December. And finally, the single-most destructive project to the region, being studied right now, is the SR-710 Tunnel. This massive project is projected to bring 180,000 vehicles each day to the 210 Freeway by way of two 4.9-mile tunnels. The tunnel project would be the longest roadway tunnel in the U.S. and the widest, equal to the new Alaskan Way Tunnel in Seattle. And, it will be tolled. Construction is projected to take a full decade with five million cubic yards, or 294,000 truckloads of dirt being excavated and trucked out, then back in via the 210 and 10 Freeways. The draft environmental impact report (DEIR) is scheduled to be released this spring. I encourage everyone who has concerns about this project to address them during the DEIR comment period. More information and the petition against the tunnel can be found at no710.com.
So what exactly is the future of the 210 Freeway? Unfortunately, only time will tell. Keep informed and tell your elected officials that the quality of life in the 210 corridor is important to you.
Susan Bolan is a member of the No 710 Action Committee and a La Crescenta resident.