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Officials Hear Both Sides in Freeway Fight : Transportation: Federal officials listen to arguments and tour the route of the proposed 710 extension. A final ruling is expected to be issued by this fall.


WEST SAN GABRIEL VALLEY — Federal transportation officials, who will ultimately decide on the proposed extension of the Long Beach Freeway, listened last weekend to both sides of the dispute over the project, but gave no indication of which way they are leaning.

Freeway advocates, led by Alhambra city officials, told the federal delegation that the proposed 6.2-mile strip that would run from the San Bernardino Freeway to the Foothill Freeway would improve the region's traffic system, reduce congestion and help the environment while creating much-needed jobs.

Alhambra stands to benefit from the freeway extension, which would run through Pasadena, South Pasadena and the El Sereno section of Los Angeles, because it would siphon traffic from Alhambra's streets.

Freeway proponents also criticized South Pasadena for delaying the freeway since the 1950s and accused its officials of exploiting El Sereno's Hispanic community to further the fight against the freeway. South Pasadena has argued that historic areas of the neighboring Los Angeles community would be demolished by the freeway extension.

During the Saturday session at Pasadena's City Council chambers, Alhambra Councilman Boyd G. Condie told federal officials the project was a regional boon that would create 30,000 jobs, cut pollution from cars and remove 100,000 cars from local streets.

Condie, a member of an advisory panel that made recommendations early this month on how to reduce the freeway's impact, said every effort had been made to make the project less intrusive. The panel advocated narrowing the roadway, eliminating trucks and building six tunnels to reduce effects on the environment and historic structures.

Later, federal officials traveled to the South Pasadena Library, where anti-freeway forces countered with pictures of dozens of the more than 1,000 homes that would be removed or destroyed by the project, which would bisect South Pasadena.

Latino leaders, meanwhile, rebutted the accusation that El Sereno was being used by South Pasadena.

South Pasadena leaders, led by Mayor James C. Hodge Jr., suggested that transportation officials improve the existing street system along the freeway's proposed route with one-way circulation and synchronize traffic signals instead of building the freeway at a cost of at least $709 million.

As federal officials thumbed through pictures of local homes, Hodge said the freeway would take up 15% of his city's land, as well as ruin historic neighborhoods of El Sereno, South Pasadena and Pasadena.

"It would economically destroy this city," said Antonio Rossmann, South Pasadena's special freeway counsel. He warned that money was not available for the project and it would face litigation problems.

Rossmann told the officials that the idea of improving existing local streets had been excluded from the advisory panel discussions and needed to be considered.

Katherine Archuleta, deputy chief of staff to the U.S. Secretary for Transportation, led both meetings.

"We are in the listening mode. We are not here to be supporters of either side," Archuleta said. "This morning we rose early to drive the entire area of the highway. We wanted to have a very personal view of what this means."

She said officials had come to California to look at four projects and not just the Long Beach Freeway. The federal government would provide about 85% of the money for the project if it is approved.

Federal Highway Administrator Rodney Slater is to issue a final decision on the project as early as this fall.

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