710 alternatives raise concerns in local communities
Posted: 08/18/2012 07:18:15 AM PDT
Cars getting on South710 freeway from Valley Boulevard in Alhambra Friday, October 7, 2011. A bill sponsored by Assemblyman Gil Cedilo, D-Los Angeles, was signed in to law this week, giving the South Pasadena City Council back it's authority to control a possible extension of the 710 Freeway. (SGVN/Staff Photo by Walt Mancini)
The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority has narrowed down a list of more than 40 alternative routes to a set of 12 it is currently studying as solutions to fill the 4.5 mile "gap" between Alhambra and Pasadena.
Though officials said the list will ultimately be narrowed down to just "two or three" routes that Metro will study more in-depth, a number of the possible alternatives have caused concern among residents.
Many of the newly concerned live in Pasadena, La Canada Flintridge or Los Angeles. Most own or rent homes somewhere in the path of one of the newly-drawn freeway lines.
Doug Failing, Metro's executive director of highway projects, said the wide array of possible routes is part of a legally required environmental study process.
He added that many of the routes, specifically those in the western portion of the study area, originated from public input.
Others, he said, came from elected officials, including requirements that were attached to earmarked federal dollars obtained by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena, in 2005 for a study on the feasibility of a tunnel.
"Because of a lot of input, we may be looking broader than has ever been done in the past, but the process and the steps are exactly the same," Failing said. "Because we've been told by the project's
Pasadena City Manager Michael Beck said the new routes have caused fear in areas that could be affected by the "new" route alternatives, like those through the San Rafael neighborhood.
"A number of these are unfortunate because they don't make sense and it puts the residents in a very difficult position ... that potentially could put them at risk when refinancing or trying to sell their property," Beck said.
Freeway advocate Nat Read of Pasadena said he was sympathetic to residents afraid their house may soon get bulldozed.
"If a line is drawn on the map and it comes through my house or my neighborhood ... I'm going to come out and protest," Read said. "I think that is the inevitable result of being forced to offer a number of arbitrary alternatives."
Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-Pasadena, raised additional concerns that with residents in cities across Metro's "710 study area" opposing and supporting different routes, the proposals have caused a divide in the San Gabriel Valley community.
"I don't like pitting one neighborhood against another neighborhood," Portantino said.
And, Portantino added, he's not sure whether Metro is actually considering the new alternatives at all.
"I think the folks in downtown L.A. are going to try to put on a show to justify a predetermined conclusion," Portantino said. "Fundamentally, this is a flawed process."
Schiff said he believes Metro officials are primarily focused on building a tunnel that would disrupt neighborhoods.
"I have additional strong reservations about the direction Metro is taking," Schiff said. "In particular, I believe that the environmental review process Metro is currently engaged in has been excessively focused on the tunnel option without first considering the less costly and less intrusive alternatives."
For South Pasadena, the possible surface route connecting the 710 at Valley Boulevard in Alhambra to its proposed terminus at the 210 Freeway in Pasadena and La Ca ada Flintridge has been an issue in the city since the extension was first proposed.
In the new study, South Pasadena Transportation Manager Dennis Woods criticized Metro for not looking closely enough at light rail, public transit, walking and biking routes through the corridor.
"I think unfortunately the creativity they executed in doing (the study) was still within limits," Woods said. "I think some of our council members think it should have been more outside the box, more futuristic."
Failing said Metro is "seriously considering" several options and is not biased toward a specific outcome, despite the public's misgivings.
"I am not going to prejudice this process," Failing said.
He said Metro's presentation at a Technical Advisory Committee meeting on Aug. 29 would likely indicate the "handful" of alternatives that are most likely to make the final list. Those could be presented the Metro board as early as September or October.
"There is not a final report until later but it starts to become really evident to people which ones are going to be falling off the table," Failing said.
Caltrans will make the final decision on which alternative is the best. The Metro board decides if it gets funding.
As the process moves forward, Failing said concerned residents should understand that their voices will be heard.
"Everyone gets concerned that the public agencies are making decisions in back rooms," Failing said. "Having worked for many government agencies I can say Metro has the most open process I've ever seen, and we are doing public outreach at all levels."
For more information about the 710 study, visit www.metro.net/projects/sr-710-conversations/.
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