POMONA - David Ruiz was quite surprised when he learned his house would be in the path of a widened 71 Freeway.

Ruiz said he and his wife bought their house about two years ago near Fleming Street and Butterfield Road. They were told it would be years before the state would increase the 71 from a four-lane expressway to an eight-lane freeway.

Plans call for initial work beginning in 2023 and the project being completed by 2030.

However, the project may qualify for funding through a state public-private partnership program. If secured, the widening project could be moved up by about eight years.

"I didn't think it would impact the houses," Ruiz said in Spanish.

Pomona, Caltrans and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials have to update environmental studies, refine preliminary designs and conduct financial analysis before they can apply for the funding, said Lan Saadatnejadi, executive officer with the authority's highway program.

Widening the 71 between the 10 and the 60 freeways would bring several benefits to the city and the region, Saadatnejadi said.

"It would improve safety and relieve congestion," she said.

Last week, Ruiz and about 100 other residents living near the 71 learned about some of the changes at Westmont Community Center.

Attendees studied maps presented by Caltrans and peppered officials with questions.

The meeting gave "the community an opportunity to see the current design being considered" for the improved freeway, Saadatnejadi said.

The meeting, which was organized at the request of the Pomona City Council, also aimed to informed residents on efforts to secure revenues that could move up the widening of the 71.

Some attendees said the 71 needs to be widened, but expressed concern that they will be affected negatively since existing stop lights along the freeway would be eliminated and existing crossings would be closed.

Concerns were also expressed about the placement of proposed bridges connecting the neighborhoods on either side of the 71 in addition to the placement of soundwalls.

Xavier DeGuchy said he would like to see some of the proposed bridge locations in different places.

"This is not just to benefit me. It'll benefit the neighborhood," DeGuchy said.

Laura Romero, who lives along Grier Street, said she is concerned that the elimination of street lights along the 71 will make it harder for residents to travel within the neighborhood without driving or walking long distances.

"The freeway needs to be done, but, for residents, they're blocking us in," she said.

Residents' comments will be reviewed by Caltrans engineers and discussed with city representatives in order to try to make adjustments where possible.

The original plans called for building the freeway below grade, but plans now call for constructing it at ground level, which reduces the needs for property acquisition and reduces costs, Saadatnejadi said.

At one time, plans called for acquiring part or all of about 160 properties to complete the widening project, Caltrans engineer Andy Liao said.

That number has dropped.

"Right now, it's less than 40," said Liao, adding that close to 12 full properties will be needed.

Ruiz said he had questions related to the state acquiring his home for the freeway widening.

"I'll have to wait to see what they say," he said.


Contact Monica via email, by phone at 909-483-9336 or on Twitter @PomonaNow.