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The Freeway System and the City of S. Pasadena

July 16, 1989

Regarding the excellent article by Edmund Newton about the city of South Pasadena and the Long Beach Freeway (Times, July 2): Perhaps it is time to reflect on the history of the freeway system, and the city of South Pasadena in particular.

The Pasadena Freeway, originally called the Arroyo Seco Speedway, was opened in 1940, the first of the freeways in the greater Los Angeles area. This was six years before I and thousands in my age bracket ever had a driver's license. The population of Los Angeles County was about 4 million. All through World War II the commuters from South Pasadena had immediate access to the speedway to downtown Los Angeles. There is not a spot in the city of South Pasadena more than about a mile and a half from an on and off ramp to the Pasadena Freeway. This is and has been, since 1940. In fact, the "Pasadena" Freeway barely reaches into Pasadena for about half a mile.

After the war, the freeway system was expanded, and now we can go from the Mexican border to the Oregon border, and from the Pacific Ocean to the Colorado River, without a traffic light. But, in the time it takes to go from the San Bernardino Freeway to the Foothill Freeway, a motorist could drive to Pomona.

The Times article refers to possible alternatives the city of South Pasadena proposes: light rail, synchronized traffic lights, one-way streets, car pools, etc. These are all good possibilities for many traffic situations. Sen. Art Torres (D-Los Angeles) says maybe we should not even complete this link to the freeway system, that we have too many freeways now.

The traffic lights at Fair Oaks, Grevelia, and the Pasadena Freeway are set to the greater advantage of those commuters coming off Grevelia to go onto the Pasadena Freeway, much to the delay of the north-south traffic on Fair Oaks. Needless to say, the Grevelia traffic is composed of South Pasadena commuters going to downtown Los Angeles.

If the city of South Pasadena, tomorrow, were to say to Caltrans: "We give up, do what you have to do," it would still be about 10 years before the Long Beach Freeway would be complete. By that time, I and the many thousands in my age bracket will be retired from working and perhaps driving, having ridden but not driven, on the original Arroyo Seco Speedway, but not on the final link to the system in the greater Los Angeles area for 58 or 60 years!

There is another possibility.

Perhaps, if Sen. Torres wants South Pasadena to remain an unspoiled old-fashioned village, he might persuade Caltrans to close off the on and off ramps to the Pasadena Freeway at Fair Oaks, Orange Grove, and Avenue 64. Perhaps if the South Pasadena commuters had to travel down Fair Oaks and Huntington Drive and through Lincoln Heights and Chinatown, or York Boulevard and Figueroa Street to get downtown, they might get to appreciate the total freeway system a little more.

LAWRENCE BERG

San Gabriel

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