City Has Stalled On Fremont Fixes Long Enough

We are members of “Families on Fremont,” which represents dozens of families who live on Fremont Avenue in South Pasadena. For the past few years, our group has been asking the city to address issues regarding the safety, congestion and the overall state of our street. In light of the fatal accident and the additional attention our cause has received by the public, we submit the following letter.

Rafael Lopez, Fremont Avenue

The recent fatal accident on Fremont Avenue put a necessary spotlight on an issue that has been apparent for decades. In the past, pleas to City Hall have resulted in a lot of listening by city officials but no action.

Now, city officials are finally talking about exploring ways to ease the dangers, noise and nuisance that has plagued Fremont Avenue since the 1970s. It is important to reflect on how all this traffic got here and why it is time to have a plan to fix Fremont Avenue, which is a two-lane residential street that sees daily traffic that is twice its intended capacity.  

The current traffic issues are based on CalTrans, over the objection of South Pasadena, convincing a judge to allow for the construction of the “wishbone” in Pasadena that, in effect, doubled the capacity of traffic traveling both northbound and southbound on St. John Avenue and Pasadena Avenue. This created a substantial strain on Fremont Avenue since this traffic ultimately flows to and from Fremont Avenue, which did not and cannot expand.  

In issuing its opinion and allowing for the construction of the wishbone, the court made several important assumptions that have proven to be inaccurate in many significant ways. 

First, the court believed that CalTrans would eventually construct the 710 Freeway extension, connecting it to the 210 Freeway. As we now know, no 710 Freeway extension will ever occur. The assumption that the extension would exist was important to the court, which emphasized in its ruling that the wishbone would be an interim solution that would be replaced by the 710 Freeway extension.  

Second, the court was wrong in determining the benefits that the wishbone would provide. It found that the construction would reduce traffic on our city’s local streets, instead channeling the traffic to major arterials. However, history has shown that the traffic largely has been delivered to a minor arterial in Fremont Avenue. The city’s studies all show that no other street in South Pasadena is even close to being as overburdened as Fremont Avenue.

Third, and similarly, the court believed that the wishbone would not have a significant effect on Fremont Avenue, finding that the amount of traffic attempting to make the connection between the 210 Freeway and the 710 Freeway would not substantially increase the automobiles on our street. This erroneous finding was based on misinformation from CalTrans, which stated that the wishbone would not make our traffic issues “more acute” than they already were. Among the members and supporters of Families on Fremont are people who lived on the street when the wishbone was completed. They recall how the once-manageable traffic on the street immediately changed when the 210 stub at California opened and the wishbone was created. 

Fourth, the court assumed that CalTrans and South Pasadena would work together to solve any problems that came with the creation of the wishbone. The court encouraged CalTrans and South Pasadena to “cooperate in all ways possible to reduce any adverse impacts” of the decision. More than 40 years later, however, the wishbone still exists and the problems it has created threaten to be permanent. The city and CalTrans have done nothing to even attempt to reduce the adverse impacts the wishbone has caused South Pasadena. It is time for the city, on its own or with CalTrans, to find a real solution. 

In the past, some city officials have said that any traffic problems on Fremont Avenue must be addressed at the time of the city’s Neighborhood Traffic Management Plan, which will look at traffic issues with the city as a whole. This ignores the increased and outsized burdens that Fremont Avenue has suffered over the years. 

Not only did the construction of the wishbone immediately cause adverse effects on the street, but the city’s own studies from 2001 to 2014 show that 50 percent more automobiles used the street in 2014 compared to 2001 (when it was already over capacity).

The status quo has shifted over the years, and it is unfair for the families on Fremont Avenue to continue to bear a disproportionate burden. Delaying the discussion and hoping that one day the city will adopt a Neighborhood Traffic Management Plan for the entire area will mean several more years with no guarantees and little hope that the city will properly focus on Fremont Avenue. 

The city does not need any more studies or plans. In 2009, it paid a consultant to design fixes for Fremont Avenue. The city, however, did nothing to implement any of the proposed solutions. It is time for the city to act.

Families On Fremont