June 20, 2014
Close-the-gap banners. One of the street banners Alhambra officials have placed throughout the city urging regional and state transportation planners to close the gap in the Long Beach (710) Freeway.
ALHAMBRA — Citing gridlock on city streets, city officials here are again trying to raise awareness and move the process they hope will lead to the closure of the 4.5–mile gap in the Long Beach (710) Freeway.
Earlier this month, city officials unveiled banners with terse messages like “Dig It…the 710 Tunnel” and “Put Traffic in Its Place” along Fremont Avenue near where the freeway currently ends.
The Long Beach Freeway is a main north-south artery between the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, and distribution centers and rail facilities throughout Southern California. It ends at Valley Boulevard, resulting in what officials call documented environmental impacts in local communities.
Officials say local streets are flooded with commuters traveling north and south on surface streets trying to connect with other freeways.
“It’s not fair to our communities, not safe and puts our residents at risk,” Alhambra Mayor Stephen Sham said.
Efforts to address the gap, which would link the 710 with the Ventura (134) and Foothill (210) freeways have been underway since 1965, when freeway construction was halted at Valley Boulevard.
Since then, the debate about closing the gap in the freeway has raged with city officials and residents of Alhambra and Monterey Park arguing for the completion of the freeway and their counterparts in Pasadena and South Pasadena arguing against it.
The argument in favor of completing the freeway was that the freeway dumped thousands of cars a day onto the surface streets in Alhambra and Monterey Park, causing congestion and environmental woes.
In Pasadena and South Pasadena, residents complained extending the freeway would eliminate entire residential neighborhoods that had been there for years.
In 2006, the state Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority conducted two tunnel feasibility assessments and found that a tunnel was a viable solution warranting more detailed evaluation.
Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 416 by state Sen. Carol Liu, D-La Canada Flintridge, removing from consideration the alternative to build a surface and depressed freeway to close the gap. Caltrans’ ownership of hundreds of homes along that proposed alignment through South Pasadena, Pasadena, and in the El Sereno community of Los Angeles has been a contentious issue for decades.
The MTA is currently studying several alternatives including the tunnel option, which could avoid or reduce many of the environmental impacts of a surface/depressed freeway. When the environmental evaluation process is completed, the selected and adopted solution will close the 4.5-mile gap between Alhambra and Pasadena.
Caltrans has announced it will be putting on the market some of the 461 homes that it owns along the 710 Gap in Pasadena, South Pasadena and El Sereno. The sale of properties deemed excess will begin in the fall, after proposed regulations governing the sales are approved and adopted.
SB 416, in part, requires Caltrans to offer the surplus residential properties to current and former tenants in good standing, respectively, and to purchasers who will be owner occupants.
In his announcement of public hearings to get comments on the proposed regulations, Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty said, “we are committed to getting out of the residential landlord business so we can focus on our mission to provide a safe, sustainable and efficient transportation system in California.”
The sales will take place in three phases. In the first phase beginning in the fall, the sale of the single-family and multi-family properties will include those that are not affected by the remaining project alternatives in the draft environmental documents for the freeway.
Caltrans is seeking comments on the regulations proposed to govern the sale of the excess properties. The agency will host public hearings on July 15 at Cal State Los Angeles, and on July 17 at the Pasadena Convention Center. A 45-day comment period on the proposal began May 30.