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Piece of Mind: Sound wall the alarms

August 11, 2010|By Carol Cormaci

A local real estate agent once said to me with only a hint of humor in his voice that he was confident he could sell a particular home in the tony Meadow Grove area of our city if he could find the right buyer, specifically one who was deaf, or at least partially so. It seems the beautiful property was beleaguered by the same scourge that has come to wear many of us down: the noise of truck traffic on the 210.

Pardon my impatience, but we've been waiting for sound walls to abate the freeway's noise since the early 1970s, when the Foothill Freeway opened to traffic. Counting away those decades on my fingers tells me that's nearly 40 years. Those fingers will be significantly more shriveled — and may actually be dust — by the time we get a section built, but nonetheless I am happy that City Hall believes today that funding is this close to being in hand for a multi-year design phase. Can the sound walls be far behind? Probably, given the way these things work, but at least no one's saying we won't have them at all.

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Reading colleague Megan O'Neil's story on sound wall design funding that's coming our way, I was reminded of a conversation I had a decade ago with Dick DeGrey. He was a member of the La Cañada Valley Freeway Action Committee formed in 1963 when residents of the then-unincorporated town of La Cañada and the upscale area of Pasadena known as Flintridge banded together to try to halt plans to bisect our secluded valley with the freeway.

DeGrey (of the same generation as my parents) and I reminisced about the 1960s. From any corner of town in those days we were able to hear every note clearly when the church bells chimed at dinner time.

DeGrey told me the committee did a sound study to prepare for its fight against the state. "We studied varying noises of trucks, motorcycles and sports cars in the mainstream of white noise," he said. "Before the freeway, the loudest sound the engineers could find here were the crickets. That's how quiet a place this used to be."

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