State and county transportation agencies need the city to select one of three construction options in order complete a proposal to compete for project funding through a state public-private partnership program.
Pomona, Caltrans and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority have been working to update plans and studies completed in the past to expand the 71 from a four-lane highway to a full-fledged eight-lane freeway between the 10 and 60 freeways.
At present, the authority has the widening project scheduled for completion in 2030.
In May the authority recommended pursuing funding for the 71 project through a state public-private partnership program, a city staff report said.
If the agencies secure funding, construction to widen the 71 could begin in 2015 and conclude as early as 2017.
An alternative must be chosen in order to calculate the costs of the project and determine if it's financially feasible to carry out the work through the state program, authority representatives said recently.
Mayor Elliott Rothman said Friday he still has questions about whether the city's preferred alternative will be followed by the state and the authority.
"We need to get a clear picture," Rothman said. "We need to know how binding that is.
Widening the 71 will have a significant effect on the flow of traffic in the city and the region.
"The movement of traffic would be a welcome relief," Rothman said.
Five options are available but the first two are not being recommended by city public works personnel, according to a city staff report.
Alternative 1 involves leaving the highway as it for the long term.
Alternative 2 would require building a wider, below-ground level 71. The concept, approved in 2002, has a high cost in part because it would require the acquisition of about 140 properties.
Alternatives 3, 4, and 4A, would require the acquisition of less than 40 properties in part, in whole or temporarily.
Alternative 3 involves widening the 71 between 10 and the 60, adding a frontage road that connects Phillips Drive and North Ranch Road and adds a pedestrian bridge near Ninth Street to replace one at Grier Street.
Alternative 4 includes completing the widening; eliminating the current intersections at Phillips, North Ranch and Old Pomona Road; building a frontage road between Phillips and Old Pomona; constructing an overcrossing at Old Pomona that connects Village Loop Road and Lexington Avenue; and adding the pedestrian bridge.
Alternative 4A would include all of the elements of Alternative 4 but would leave out the overpass.
City public works personnel prefer Alternative 4 because it would enhance access to the area, the city staff report said.
The second preferred option would be Alternative 4A, the staff report said.
Some residents in neighborhoods near the 71 said the project will benefit the city despite some inconveniences while construction takes place.
Others have concerns about construction, possible difficulties accessing some neighborhoods near the 71 and having a full freeway as a neighbor.
Councilman Freddie Rodriguez said he thinks the widening project will improve police and fire service access to the neighborhoods near the 71.
Before tonight's meeting, he said he planned to talk with residents of the Lexington Avenue area to determine how they might be affected by an option that includes building an overpass in their neighborhood.
"Lexington is kind of busy," he said. "I don't know how much traffic (the proposed overpass) would cause."
Widening the 71 would bring some benefits to neighborhoods to the east of the highway, which are in his district.
Some residents in the area would like soundwalls the widening project would bring to the neighborhoods in addition to other improvements.
"It will improve the whole area," Rodriguez said.
Taking steps that could lead to improving the 71 sooner rather than later is an opportunity all involved must take advantage of, Rodriguez said.
"We really need to move this project forward," he said.
Traveling on the 57 Freeway north of the 10 is fairly easy but there is a noticeable change when drivers switch to the 71 through Pomona.
"It's day and night," Rodriguez said. The 71 needed to be improved years ago "but somehow we got overlooked."
"Now that we have the opportunity, let's run with it," Rodriguez said.
Should the funding become available for the widening, the project will be completed well after a commercial center anchored by a Target store is built in the southern part of the city.
Having the center and an improved 71 Freeway will be good for Pomona and will complement each other, Rodriguez said.
The two projects will do something else.
"It goes back to showing people we are working together to improve Pomona and improve its infrastructure," Rodriguez said.
Reach Monica via email, follow her on Twitter @PomonaNow, or call her at 909-483-9336.