City to Tackle Funding Options for Sound Walls

Four proposed freeway sound walls, called a top priority for La Cañada Flintridge, will be discussed in a public session as the City Council considers its financial options.
The council will have a discussion regarding Measure M transportation funds, a possible source of money for wall construction, at its Sept. 18 meeting, which begins at 6 p.m.
“But nothing is going to happen until after November, when the proposed repeal of [Senate Bill 1] is on the ballot,” said LCF City Manager Mark Alexander in a recent phone interview. “There is a question as to whether the city will receive the funding for the sound walls if SB 1 is repealed.” The legislation raised the tax on gasoline to provide money for road repairs.
“That’s what the City Council is grappling with,” said Public Works Director Patrick DeChellis in a recent phone interview. “The sound walls, yes, are a top priority for the city. They always have been, and until the last one is constructed, they always will be. But is it the right thing to do? To take the limited funding, the discretionary funding the city has, and spend it all on the sound walls?”
Of the four walls, he said, three will be on the north side of the 210 Freeway and one on the south side.
The north-side walls would start in Pasadena’s city limits and continue west to about 550 feet east of Gould Avenue. The south wall would begin 650 feet east of Gould Avenue and extend about 1,600 feet east, beyond Georgian Road.
Construction costs for the project are estimated at $10 million, with design costs put at $2 million. In May, with the encouragement of LCF resident state Sen. Anthony Portantino, the California Transportation Commission approved $5 million in funding from SB 1. That means $7 million must be found, but DeChellis said the council questions spending that sum on the four walls. The cost is “a tremendous amount for a city this small,” said DeChellis, considering the city’s overall budget for 2018-19 is around $14 million.
Alexander added the council didn’t include the match requirement for the sound walls in its 2018-19 fiscal year budget because it wants to “explore other avenues” to find money instead of an advance commitment to Measure M and Measure R transportation funds.
Those, Alexander said, are from half-cent sales tax measures to finance transportation-related improvements in L.A. County, and there is both a regional and a local financial component.
“In order to accumulate that much money [for the sound walls], we’d have to take a 10-year advance” on Measure M funding, he said.
Resident Doug Freeze, who lives about 300 yards from the 210 Freeway, said that if officials have funding for the project they should “do something about it. It’s just irritating.”
Freeze said that in the morning “it’s really noisy” because of the lack of sound walls, which makes conversations tough. “If we have company over at dinner time, it’s busy. It’s very difficult.”
In a phone interview, Mayor Terry Walker said city officials have continued to try to figure out how to obtain grants or other money to match SB 1 should it remain after the November election.
“Sen. Portantino was able to help come up with $5 million for SB 1, which could be easily repealed,” Walker said. “We’re kind of holding our breath on that one.”
Walker said the council welcomes residents’ comments on the issue at the upcoming meeting.
“Their input is valuable,” said Walker, adding that the sound walls are a priority and “nothing is off the table” in determining how to fund them.
Proposition 6 is the measure aimed at repealing the gas tax.
Councilman Jonathan Curtis said in a phone interview that he believes the council is “unanimous” in wanting sound walls.
“And I no doubt can speak clearly the entire council wants that,” he said. He added that the September meeting will address what some of the various sources of money the city can go after and leverage.
“There’s a lot of work to be done,” Curtis said. “We’re just at the beginning of some of that work.”
The four sound walls are part of 23 sound wall segments identified in a city-financed noise barrier report approved in January 2007, DeChellis said.
Different phases of construction are included in the report, which cost the city $600,000, he said.
A first phase included three sound walls that were built for about $4.3 million in 2014.
Construction is scheduled to start in 2019 for a second phase, which has one wall on the south side of the 210 that starts at La Tour Road and continues east to Alta Canyada Road.
The fully funded second phase is scheduled to cost about $1.5 million with a design cost of $300,000.

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