Sound Wall Project to Progress, but Not at Freeway Speed

La Cañada Flintridge residents waiting for four proposed sound walls on the 210 Freeway will have to listen to noisy traffic awhile longer.
Design of the sound walls is set to begin in spring or summer 2019 and construction would take place 18 to 30 months later, Public Works Director Patrick DeChellis said in a recent phone interview. The reason for the holdup is because the proposed sound walls are a new program of California Senate Bill 1, which funds transportation projects.
DeChellis said conversations about the process with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the conduit for the funds, have not been clear.
“If we go with the approved four, the design would start sooner,” DeChellis said. For example, if LCF decided it didn’t want to build a wall that extends into Pasadena, time-consuming negotiation with Metro would be needed.
The four locations that have preliminary Metro approval: a stretch near Baptiste Way that runs between Crown Avenue and Daleridge Road; a segment adjacent to Gould Avenue and between Richmond Road and Flintridge Oaks Drive; another near La Cañada High School; and an expanse near the city limits of Pasadena close to Oak Grove Drive.
Before design, officials must file a request for proposal and select a consultant — a process that can take two to three months — and then get City Council approval, DeChellis said.
Afterward, officials would have to complete agreements with Caltrans and other organizations along the sound wall path so the city can get reimbursed for expenses and the design work, he said.
Division Manager Ann Wilson added that construction can’t take place until all of the pre-construction activities are finished.
The timeline to begin construction — from 1½ to more than two years — remains unclear, DeChellis said.
“We’ll know a lot more once we begin designing,” he said.
LCF officials are just happy the project is moving forward.
On Oct. 25, Metro approved the advance of $3.712 million in county Measure M funds — derived from a half-cent sales tax — and an additional $3.288 million from its Call for Projects reserve fund for construction of the sound walls.
Discretionary state, federal and local funds are allocated through the Call for Projects program by Metro.
With the approximately $7 million approved by Metro, the project qualified for a $5 million grant through SB 1.
A total of $12 million was then available for sound walls, and city leaders have said that is the amount needed to pay for four additional barriers.
Mayor Terry Walker, who attended the Metro meeting, called it “huge for the city” at the time because the total sum amounts to the largest combination grant for a single project in the city.
State Sen. Anthony Portantino, a former LCF mayor, was singled out for leading the agreement to secure the funds, with some creative amendments to SB 1, as was county Supervisor Kathryn Barger.
The project was at risk on this year’s Election Day because of Proposition 6, which would have repealed SB 1 and struck down a gas tax designed to fund road and bridge repairs. Voters sank the proposition by about 55%-45%, but officials previously had said it was unclear if passage would have affected the sound walls.
DeChellis acknowledged he was worried about an increased price for the sound walls.
“We don’t know what happens to inflation,” DeChellis said. “Inflation has been rather tame since we came out of the Great Recession. The feds want inflation to increase a little bit more for other economic reasons. On our end, we’d prefer inflation being low.”
Sound wall proponent Brent Whitfield, who has been involved with the issue for 15 years and recently gave the City Council 251 petition signatures for a sound wall in his area near the Hampton Street overpass, said he is nervous that the project might not be selected because it is costlier than other options. It is near the stretch between Crown Avenue and Daleridge Road.
“I’ll stop pushing when I see the retrofitting going on that overpass,” Whitfield said.
DeChellis said the city is committed to building every sound wall needed, including one at the Hampton overpass, which he said would be expensive.
“The question is, what should the [order of construction] be? Whether it costs $10 million or $15 million or whatever it is. The only question is, is it today, tomorrow or the next day? That’s what the city is going through right now. Everybody acknowledges it costs twice as much to build a wall on a bridge than one on soil. We got that. Since the program is as big as it is, there’s enough money to build that wall and three others.”

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