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City Smart | Urban Notebook: Reports From the Metropolitan

A Shortcut That's a Little Too Short

The signs on the 710 Freeway say Pasadena is up ahead, but the road drops you off six miles away.


You're an out-of-towner chugging along the Santa Ana Freeway for a game at the Rose Bowl. The traffic is slowing down when you look up at a sign that suddenly looks very enticing: 710 North/Pasadena.

Great, a shortcut to Pasadena!

You move over to the 710--the Long Beach Freeway--where the traffic is pushing 70 mph.

But minutes later, the freeway unceremoniously comes to a halt and you end up on Valley Boulevard in Alhambra.

Yep, Alhambra, about six miles from Pasadena.

You soon discover what dozens of motorists--both locals and out-of-towners--learn every day: Signs promising a 710 route to Pasadena constitute false advertising.

When the 710 was completed in 1965, the expectation was that it would eventually be extended all the way to Pasadena.

But that plan has long been on hold--delayed by opposition from preservationists, those concerned about the ever-rising costs, and residents along the proposed path through El Sereno, South Pasadena and Pasadena.

So the 710 stops at Valley Boulevard, just north of Cal State L.A.

Caltrans has not changed many of the large overhead freeway signs because it hopes that one day the 710 will actually go to Pasadena.

Only a few signs on the 710 north--about a mile from where the freeway ends--show Valley Boulevard as the final, rather unglamorous destination.

Two smaller signs on the freeway shoulder indicate that if motorists want to get to Pasadena, they must go east on the San Bernardino Freeway (I-10) to get there.

Following those signs, motorists travel for about six miles to the promised Pasadena exit at Rosemead Boulevard. There, even though they are on the right track, they're still nine more miles away from Pasadena. "You should hear the drivers when they ask, 'Where's Pasadena?' " said one employee of a carwash on Rosemead, near that freeway exit. "They're cussing, they're angry."

A Caltrans spokeswoman said the agency is possibly willing to replace or cover up some of the misleading signs.

"We want to make the commute easier," but officials are not sure that the answer is to replace all the Pasadena signs, spokeswoman Margie Tiritilli said. The estimated cost would exceed $700,000.

Back on Valley, the consternation among lost motorists can get intense.

"I get about two to five persons a day asking about how to get to Pasadena," said mechanic Gary Wong, who works at an Arco gas station on Valley where the 710 dead-ends. "They want to get to the Rose Bowl or something like that. They just want to get there, quick."

Down the street, Andy Anderson also sees a lot of lost souls. A salesman at the Y Tire Goodyear store, Anderson said, "[The lost motorists] are a pain in the butt, but what are you going to do?" He helps them get on their way to Pasadena, but adds in a huff, "They don't buy tires."

Alhambra officials say the 710 dumps thousands of cars onto Valley and nearby streets, adding more congestion to already busy thoroughfares.

For lost motorists, Anderson offers his own "Pathfinder" directions to Pasadena:

Head east on Valley to Fremont Avenue, he tells them. That avenue is named for John C. Fremont, the early California figure whose treks of exploration earned him the nickname of Pathfinder.

Go north on Fremont for four to five miles. Take a quick left on Columbia Street at the Pasadena city line. Then a quick right leads the driver to the promised land--Pasadena Avenue in Pasadena. From there, the 210 and 134 freeways, the Rose Bowl and Old Pasadena are easy to find.

Of course, real Pathfinders know there are easier ways to get to Pasadena. Like taking the Pasadena Freeway.

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