By Steve Scauzillo, March 6, 2015
A 710 Freeway tunnel extending 6.3 miles from Valley Boulevard in Alhambra to the 210 Freeway in Pasadena would provide the greatest amount of traffic relief of any transportation alternative and the fewest impacts, according to environmental documents released Friday.
So far, the “single bore” double-decker tunnel, which would consist of two northbound lanes on top of two southbound lanes in a single tunnel running beneath Alhambra, El Sereno, South Pasadena and the western part of Pasadena has gained the most traction. According to the EIR/EIS, impacts to land, air, noise and aesthetics are minor compared to the impacts from building a 7.5-mile light-rail train from East Los Angeles through Alhambra and Pasadena.
Messina called the release of the EIR/EIS “an important step in making this voter-approved project a reality” in a written statement.
Alhambra is a leading force in the 710 Coalition, which calls for “closing the gap” of the freeway that starts in Long Beach and is considered the missing link in the 14 Southern California freeways. Caltrans first proposed the extension in 1959. Other cities in the group include San Marino, Monterey Park, Rosemead and San Gabriel.
Opponents include the cities of South Pasadena, La Cañada Flintridge, Glendale, Sierra Madre and Pasadena, members of the “5-Cities Alliance.” The group has a budget of $250,000 to fight the 710 extension. South Pasadena has hired four different consultants to analyze the EIR/EIS and submit comments by the July 6 deadline, said Margaret Lin, principal management analyst.
“This report supposedly considers all possible alternatives but the only one they want is the tunnel,” said Bill Sherman, South Pasadena’s representative on the Metro Technical Advisory Committee for the 710 project. Opponents also point out that the real benefactors will not be Los Angeles and San Gabriel Valley commuters but truck drivers moving goods from the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. With a 710 Freeway that connects up to the 210, truckers can avoid downtown Los Angeles and the congested 5 and 101 Freeways.
“Can you put shipping containers from the ports into a light-rail car? You can’t,” Sherman said.
The report says the light-rail train would “disrupt the social fabric of the community” of East Los Angeles. Also, elevated trestles will block views of the San Gabriel Mountains.
Other impacts from the light-rail train include the displacement of 15 businesses along Mednik Avenue south of the 60 Freeway; acquisition of 58 full properties in Alhambra, East L.A., Monterey Park, Pasadena and South Pasadena; and the relocation of 73 businesses and the displacement of 645 employees.
The single-bore tunnel would require taking one full property in Alhambra and two in El Sereno and a total of one business and five employees displaced.
Construction of the freeway tunnel would increase the vehicle miles traveled, or VMT, on the 710 in both morning and afternoon rush hours by 2 percent, the report concluded. “By shifting trips to freeways, the (tunnel alternative) would divert VMT off local arterials, resulting in less cut-through traffic” in 2035, the study said.
“The only way to decrease air pollution from vehicles is by decreasing VMT,” Sherman argued. “This (tunnel) is redistributing the cars. It is like taking 10 dollars from your right pocket and putting it into your left pocket and saying you are richer.”
Construction would take five years for the tunnel, six years for the light-rail system, the report estimates.
Currently, $780 million has been put aside for the 710 Freeway gap project from Measure R, a 2008 half-cent sales tax passed by voters.
A final EIR/EIS will be written after public comments are received, said Caltrans.
Want to comment on the proposed 710 Freeway tunnel project?
Caltrans and Metro will hold public hearings on the 710 Freeway closure gap study:
April 11, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., East Los Angeles College, Rosco Ingalls Auditorium, 1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez Monterey Park.
April 14, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Pasadena Convention Center, Ballroom 300, East Green Street, Pasadena
An informal forum will be hosted by Cal State Los Angeles and the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs:
March 9, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p,m., Cal State Los Angeles. (postponed)
Send written comments on the EIR/EIS: Garrett Damrath, chief environmental planner, Division of Environmental Planning, California Department of Transportation, District 7, 100 S. Main St, MS-16A, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Send comments via email: http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist07/resources/envdocs/docs/710study/draft_eir-eis/comments.php
Deadline for all comments: July 6