By The Los Angeles News Group Editorial Board, LA Daily News, March 17, 2015
Cars enter the 710 Freeway from Valley Boulevard in Alhambra
If you’ve ever seen the Master Plan of Freeways for Los Angeles
County from 1957, you know how many routes were once planned and yet
were never built.
The Whitnall Freeway, the Alessandro Freeway,
not to mention that famous Beverly Hills Freeway — all were planned, all
were never built.
Some longtime proponents of the completion, if
you are in one camp, or the extension, if you are in the other, of the
Long Beach (710) Freeway from its northerly terminus near Cal State Los
Angeles some six miles north to intersect with the Foothill (210)
Freeway have maintained that the new roadway would at last complete the
originally intended car and truck transit network of Southern
California. The missing link, some have termed it.
That’s not the case, as something on the order of half of the plans from almost six decades ago never came to be.
Metro and Caltrans have continued to press forward with plans for the
710, decade in and decade out, and Caltrans owns a huge corridor of land
from southern Alhambra into western Pasadena that was to be the home to
a surface version of the freeway. The original battle between Alhambra,
whose City Hall very much wanted the freeway to go through, and tiny
South Pasadena, whose City Hall very much didn’t, has provided one of
the great story lines of Southern California planning and infrastructure
in our time.
With this month’s release of an environmental impact report on
the 710 that comes in at over 2,000 pages, not counting tens of
thousands of pages of appendices, a former reporter for our papers
dropped a note: “I left L.A. for Albuquerque 25 years ago and you guys
are still writing about the same story!”
Actually, Metro and
Caltrans stopped pretending that the surface route for the freeway could
ever be built in the current political and planning environment, after
they put a terrible scare into residents of one old Pasadena and
Highland Park neighborhood by announcing that, since “all routes must be
considered” in the EIR process, a freeway up Avenue 64 must be
considered. It was considered in the sense that a line was drawn on a
map, but no one was ever going to build it.
The two agencies then switched to pretending they had no
favorites among the five possibilities for the corridor in the new EIR:
doing nothing, or “no build”; light rail; traffic management on current
surface streets; a dedicated bus line, or a mammoth tunnel bored under
Freeway critics, who have grown from the tiny group
of South Pasadenans — some of whom have now spent their entire adult
lives in the crusade — to most politicians and civic leaders in
Pasadena, Sierra Madre, La Canada Flintridge, Glendale and Burbank,
cynically predicted that the fix was in for the tunnel.
And now that the draft EIR is out, it’s clear that the cynics were
right. The document likes the tunnel best, saying it “would have the
largest increase in freeway and arterial performance” but admitting it
carries the highest price tag at an estimated $5.65 billion.
is who or what would build the tunnel — local agencies or a toll-road
company? Also unaddressed: Would trucks from the port of Long Beach be
allowed to use it? The public has until July 6 to help answer those
questions through a link at http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist07/resources/envdocs/docs/710study/draft_eir-eis/comments.php.