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Call Made to Reallocate 710 Extension Funds for Retrofitting : Safety: A state senator says Caltrans should make reinforcing already existing freeways its top priority.


A state senator is trying to use the money allocated for the long-argued Long Beach Freeway (710) extension to retrofit existing freeways for earthquake safety.

Democratic Sen. Nicholas C. Petris represents the part of Oakland where the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake caused the Nimitz Freeway to collapse and kill 43 people. On Tuesday, he said Caltrans should set a higher priority on finishing the $1.5-billion program to reinforce or retrofit key roadways, and should redistribute the funds to get it done.

"The approximate $1 billion, of which 80% is federal, allocated for the 710 Long Beach Freeway construction project through Pasadena should be reassigned to this effort," he said.

The 6.2-mile freeway extension would run north-south through Pasadena, South Pasadena, Alhambra and parts of Los Angeles. But Petris said he will ask U.S. Secretary of Transportation Federico Pena to reassign federal dollars for the extension to the reinforcement program, focusing on the freeways destroyed or damaged this week.

In addition, Petris said he will ask Sen. Quentin Kopp (D-San Francisco), chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, to make the retrofit program Caltrans' priority.

"There needs to be an unprecedented reorganization of priorities by the Department of Transportation to reallocate all of its funds and manpower," he said.

Monday's quake damaged six freeways. Hardest hit were the Santa Monica Freeway (10), where the elevated roadway buckled near La Cienega Boulevard, and the Antelope Valley Freeway (California 14), where an overpass of the Golden State Freeway (5) collapsed. It is expected to take about a year to rebuild them.

Both were scheduled for retrofitting under the Caltrans program, Santa Monica's segment this spring. Caltrans officials say they had retrofitted the state's high-risk overpasses and were moving on to the medium-risk ones.

"Basically, if we have more money we could progress at a lot faster pace," Wilfred Iwan, head of the California Seismic Safety Commission, told the Times on Monday.

Opponents of extending the 710 endorse the idea of investing the freeway's funds in upgrade the existing freeway system. "There are literally hundreds of bridges and overpasses that need upgrading throughout the state. Nine of them pass over the Pasadena Freeway (110)," said Kenneth C. Farfsing, South Pasadena's city manager.

If the state takes care of the retrofitting work that needs to be done, Farfsing said, "the Long Beach Freeway won't be built until 2035."

Officials from Alhambra, who support the freeway extension, say that because money for the 710 project is earmarked for future years, it doesn't really exist now and cannot help a short-term retrofitting program.

"Concern about retrofitting freeways is nothing new. . . . Alhambra supports these programs but it also supports the 710 Freeway," said City Manager Julio Fuentes.

"New freeways are just as important," he said. "If it wasn't for the (recently opened) Century Freeway (105), there wouldn't be an alternative to the Santa Monica Freeway."

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