Re: Permanent closing of Highway 39 north of Crystal Lake (Times, Sept. 13), a different perspective.
Twelve years ago a 160-yard section of Highway 39 fell away in a slide. Against the best interests of the people in the San Gabriel Valley, Caltrans and the U.S. Forest Service arbitrarily decided that it should not be repaired or replaced, unhappily a first in anyone's memory for California.
Their plan is to permanently close the only access to Angeles Crest Highway between La Canada and the Wrightwood exit off Highway 15, a distance of approximately 75 miles. Caltrans sees "no economic impact" of the long extra drive to access the forest at the crest for all the people of our valley.
The slide cut off access to the ridge-top Highway 2 and 65 miles of forest access. By refusing to reopen Highway 39, they in effect put a cork in the bottle that is the lower section of that road. They watched the "people pressure" build until it was so great that even on that public road they were audacious enough to charge $3 to stop anywhere, even for a minute, and look at a mountain. (The Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation Department charges a $3 user fee to park alongside Highway 39 on weekends and holidays.)
They use non-facts, nonsensical comparisons and misleading implications to bolster this attempt at "Highway robbery":
Non-Facts. Their published cost for reopening the highway is $20 million, and $2 million to close it permanently. When pressed, they admitted the figures are an unscientific estimate, a shot from the hip. They admitted also they had no idea what the cost of replacing only the 160 yards of the slide area would be.
Nonsensical Comparisons. In an effort to minimize the perceived effect the closing will have on the community, they compare 12-year-old statistics of a two-lane mountain access road (200 average daily trips) with "today's urban freeways and major arterial highways." The truth is, today's figure for Highway 39 is 2,700 ADTs. It is a fantastic figure for a dead end mountain access road that costs $3 to stop for one minute to look at a mountain.
Misleading Implication. They list several environmental considerations, such as roadway erosion, sediment deposits in creek beds and building crossings for migrating animals. They imply that the solutions are beyond Caltrans' science. The fact is they have solved these problems already. But of course, it was done on Highway 50, which is Sacramento's and the Caltrans brass' access to Lake Tahoe and their own forest.