State lawmakers Tuesday gave final approval to designating a section of the 134 Freeway as the President Barack H. Obama Highway in honor of the 44th president of the United States.
Supporters of the measure will now raise the private funds needed to place signs with Obama’s name along the section of the 134 between the 210 Freeway and the 2 Freeway, which includes parts of Glendale, Pasadena and Eagle Rock.
Obama, who left office in January, attended Occidental College in Eagle Rock in 1979 before transferring to Columbia University in 1981.
State Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) said he decided to seek renaming the stretch of the Ventura Freeway after learning Obama lived in Pasadena as a student and used the freeway to commute to class at Occidental.
Portantino made a veiled reference in his comments on the floor to President Trump’s decision that day to end a program that protects young immigrants from deportation.
“It is particularly proud to stand today to recognize [Obama’s] compassion and heart and dignity on a day when we sorely need compassion, heart and dignity expressed,” Portantino told his colleagues.
In an interview, the senator said the renaming makes sense because “President Obama has a strong and productive connection to Southern California, and particularly to this stretch of freeway.”
The Senate vote was 38 to 0 with most Republicans in support (two did not vote). In the Assembly, Republicans either voted against granting the honor or withheld their vote.
Assemblyman Matthew Harper (R-Huntington Beach) voted against the measure, saying the naming is premature and will confuse motorists given that Los Angeles is renaming a stretch of Rodeo Road in southwest L.A. as Obama Boulevard.
He noted that a section of the 90 Freeway was named after President Nixon until he ended up resigning after the Watergate scandal.
“With Obama being so young, it’s kind of undetermined what his overall legacy will be and how history will judge him,” Harper said. He called Obama’s link to Los Angeles County tangential, adding, “He didn’t even graduate from a California university.”
Caltrans will now do a cost estimate for the signage. The cost of signs for naming other stretches of freeways in honor of public figures has ranged from $3,000 to $7,000.
The late President Reagan was honored with his name on signs on a freeway east of Simi Valley.