La Verne Magazine
"Tradition & Change"
A Route Runs Through It
by Greg MacDonald
photography by Ian Gratz
Traffic moving at a snail's pace. Diesel trucks carrying cargo through
town. Drivers, running late, blaring their horns in road rage fits. Police
officers pulling over speeding motorists. Sounds familiar, does it not?
It hits close to home, as in the city of La Verne home -- more specifically
-- Foothill Boulevard.
Yes, this is the scenario every day for La Verne along Foothill. The
street serves as a runway for traffic going home to the Inland Empire. For
others, Foothill is the beginning of a journey west into the heart of Los
However, with the new millennium, La Verne is going to be changing its
complexion, as the Route 210 Freeway will snake 100 feet north of Baseline
Road and, eventually, connect with the 15 and 215 freeways, cutting through
established residences in La Verne, Claremont, Upland, Rancho Cucamonga,
Fontana and Rialto along the way.
With this new addition to the highway, traffic on Foothill Boulevard
in La Verne will be greatly decreased and quite possibly lower congestion
will result on the surrounding 57, 10, 71 and 60 freeways-at least in theory.
In 2020, traffic projections call for gridlocked freeways based on population
Do not get too excited just yet about not seeing any more 18-wheelers
roll through La Verne, however. The current construction plans call for
the Route 210 Freeway extension to open-in its entirety-sometime in 2002.
Until then, each city, including La Verne, will have construction zones
throughout, with the progress of each paralleling the other so that the
freeway can begin operation as a single unit. The new 28.2-mile slab of
Route 210 will offer much of the same as its older sections do. In addition
to being an eight-lane freeway -- including a high occupancy vehicle (HOV
or carpool) lane on each side-the extension, at least through La Verne,
will at times be 30 feet below ground level, a design that may mitigate
somewhat the sound level for the surrounding residents. The 30 feet below
grade was not originally part of the Route 210 plans, says Patrick Gatti,
city of La Verne councilman, but the digging should not keep the extension
from opening on time.
"There have been some small obstacles that have come about,"
Marco Ruano, Route 210 corridor project manager, says. "But that is
expected when you are excavating and digging underground. Generally, if
there are going to be any problems, you find them when the foundation work
is being done. Once we get up in the air and start construction of the super
structure, everything should go pretty smoothly."
Sound walls, too, will muffle decibel levels. The new section of Route
210 will also feature 14 new street interchanges.
So, what happened to the homes and residents that the Route 210 extension
affected? Gatti, who has been on the Route 210 committee since 1982, reports
that 138 homes in La Verne -- the majority of which were built in the early
1980s -- were razed for the freeway. These residents, Gatti says, were compensated
by the state of California. Obviously, the value of these 138 homes dropped
considerably when the freeway extension was finally approved and made official
with its groundbreaking on Feb. 2, 1999. So instead of giving the residents
market value for a home that was eventually going to be leveled, the state
appraised each home within a one-mile radius of its location, Gatti says,
meaning 138 locations were given adequate compensation.
"I think we were treated fairly," says Debra Radtke, who,
with her husband Mark, rented a home from her grandfather Fred Lee for 12
years. "I heard that a few of the neighbors were holding out,"
she says of her old community on Landeros Avenue. "One of the neighbors
wasn't there that long. I think they were wrong in thinking they were being
treated unfairly because anyone who bought there knew that the construction
was a possibility. Even when we got there, we knew that it was something
of a possibility. But it was so off and on so many times during the years
we were there, we were like, 'Yeah, when it happens, we'll believe it.'
And then it came down to it, and everybody knew it was going to be something
in the future."
In addition to pricing and buying each home, the state aided homeowners
and renters in their move, and provided similar amenities in their new home.
For example, if a resident had two phone lines in the house, the state provided
the means for two phones lines in his new home.
"Nobody wanted to move, nobody wanted to relocate from the nice
neighborhood," Radtke says. "Actually, I am kind of anxious for
them to finish now. It will make my commute a lot easier."
Aside from the homes that had to be torn down to make way for Route
210, the existing residential areas are going to stay just that-residential.
Both Mayor John Blickenstaff and Gatti feel there is no need for commercial
zones along Route 210 because La Verne has plenty of businesses on Foothill
And even if a prospective buyer were to purchase a plot of land or residence
for the purpose of opening a commercial establishment, such as an automobile
dealership, Gatti says the entrepreneur would have to go before an appeal
committee in the city of La Verne and apply to have the zone changed from
a residential to a commercial.
Not only are the residential zones affected, but some of La Verne's
streets will also be redirected. According to the September 1999 edition
of the "Route 210 Freeway Newsletter," published by the California
Department of Transportation, the following changes will occur on La Verne's
*Cul-de-sacs will be constructed at Williams Avenue, south of the freeway;
Bixby Drive; Edminster Lane; Chelsea Drive; Miller Avenue, south of the
freeway; Pleasant Street, north of the freeway; and Dawn Avenue, north of
*These streets will be realigned: Miller Avenue, north of the freeway
to Pinot Street; Pleasant Street, south of the freeway to Alpha Circle;
Landeros Avenue, north of the freeway to Realitos Avenue; Landeros Avenue,
south of the freeway to Cedar Street; and Dawn Avenue, south of the freeway
to Beech Street.
*The following streets will be removed: Yuma Circle, Mead Circle, Omega
Circle and Camphor Avenue.
One might ask why a Metrolink system or something similar was not included
in the plans of the extension? The obvious answer is cost. A track for a
rail system in the middle of the freeway would nearly double the bill for
the Route 210 Freeway addition, and it would also widen the freeway, affecting
more residents. "If you wanted to see someone who had a far vision
about how things should be in Southern California, you would only have to
go to Disneyland," Gatti says. "Walt Disney put that Monorail
in and had everyone in the city of Los Angeles to Orange County touting
his Monorail system. And his Monorail system is from Sweden.
"And if you take a look at it and say, 'Why can't we have something
like that in the middle of every freeway that we have? Why can't you do
it? Look how fast it would go.' Well, it all boils down to, not only cost,
but also who manufactures that system. It doesn't come from the United States.
It comes from Sweden," he says. "So there is probably a lot of
reasons why we won't have the Monorail system. But more to the point, the
reason we don't have the Metrolink system on our freeways is the cost. When
you see where we did accomplish the Metrolink system, it was on old Santa
Fe track. All the track had to be replaced, but it was just a matter of
Cost may not be the only factor as to why tracks are not included in
the freeway's plans. Technology may also play a significant role. Gatti
says that technology is headed toward automatic driving systems for vehicles
that use radar. "What the future holds for smart cars is going to be
unbelievable," Gatti says. "There are so many things that have
happened in technology over the last 10 years on an exponential level. What
will exist in the very near future? Maybe even by the time 2002 occurs,
what the automobiles will have will just be amazing."
So the 2002 model of the 210 Freeway is not yet the dawning of a new
superhighway, where flying cars come and go. Instead, the Route 210 is more
like that unfinished room in a house. The room that is put off until next
summer for remodeling, then the next, then another one after that. So now,
the addition to the Route 210 is more like adding a 1950s sofa to a room
dedicated to the 21st century. "All of our freeways were designed somewhere
about 1942," Gatti says. "Before you and I were ever born, there
were a couple of engineers who started drawing lines on paper, and they
said, 'These are all of the freeways we will ever need.' And while we see
new freeways being built, they are only new freeways as far as their construction
-- not their concept."
And just like that unfinished room in the house, once the need came
for it, the Route 210 Freeway became top priority for the city of La Verne
and the other remodeling communities. "The whole freeway system for
Southern California was predicated on the design of the integration of all
of those freeways," Gatti says, "so the traffic problems that
we have on our freeways that we recognize and see on a daily basis are because
those other freeways haven't been constructed. It needs to be understood
that new freeways aren't being designed to augment the freeways that we
currently have. They are only being designed because of what has taken place
with construction of homes and businesses. But all of those lines and all
of those freeways . . . the San Bernardino Freeway needed the 210 Freeway,
the San Bernardino needed the 60 and the 71. It is all part of the original
scheme of what that design was originally."
So if the extension of Route 210 was always planned, why has it been
over 20 years since the last slab of concrete was set in place in La Verne?
"Jerry Brown, who was governor of California, brought in Adriana Gianturko,"
Gatti says. "She was from back East and didn't believe in the need
for freeways, just in general. So for the period while Brown was in office,
when she was there, freeways in California were not constructed unless they
were actually in the process of being built before she got there."
But just as Brown was about to hand over the reigns as California's
governor in 1984, another changing of the guard was occurring in La Verne.
It was the attitude toward the freeway.
Committees began forming in La Verne's City Hall to discuss plans on
how to get Route 210 off La Verne's door step and connected to the 215.
Gatti says he was a part of those meetings. "When I got on in 1982,
it was the very first committees that I wanted to sit in on, because I felt
we needed to get the freeway completed and get the traffic off of our streets
and through town.," he says.
Now, some 17 years later, the constructions zones are up and getting
Route 210 on its way. Gatti, though, does admit the freeway is an undesirable
feature of La Verne. "It is unfortunate that we have the freeway,"
he says, "and it is unfortunate that it ended up at our doorstep, and
it is unfortunate that we had to push to get the freeway completed and through
town. I would prefer not to see the freeway in our city at all just because
of what you have to deal with. It changes a lot of the complexion of the
Route 210 also changes the complexion of the budget. Sporting a $200
million price tag, the freeway became more costly with each passing year.
"It would not have been a $200 million freeway in 1975 if Jerry
Brown had allowed that freeway to go on through," Gatti says. "But
in retrospect, you have to take a look at his politics, too."