By Dan Weikel, May 28, 2015
Trucks make their way along the 710 Freeway.
Opponents of a controversial proposal to extend the unfinished 710
Freeway unveiled a variety of options Thursday that they say would
eliminate the need for an underground highway between Alhambra and
A coalition of community organizations, environmental
attorneys and five San Gabriel Valley cities contends its Beyond the 710
plan could reset the longstanding debate over what to do about the
4.5-mile gap between Interstate 10 and the nexus of the 210 and 134
Rather than extend the 710 by tunneling under homes and
businesses at a cost of up to $5.6 billion, the group asserts that
simply expanding bus service, improving surface streets, adding bicycle
routes and developing more walkable communities will better address
traffic congestion, air pollution and the transportation needs of the
west San Gabriel Valley.
are hoping to move beyond the old, tired 710 Freeway debate, which is
wasting lots of time, money and resources,” said South Pasadena City
Councilwoman Marina Khubesrian, vice chair of the Connected Cities and
Communities coalition. “Some of these ideas are new, but they have great
The group presented its ideas to the board of the Los
Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is
evaluating a tunnel for the 710 and several alternatives. Coalition
members want the MTA and Caltrans to also study their proposals,
formulated with the help of Nelson Nygaard, a planning and
transportation consulting firm.
for the 710 are now in the environmental review process. They include a
bus system, a light rail line, a freeway tunnel and some upgrades to
street intersections—all of them questioned by tunnel opponents. The MTA
board is scheduled next year to select one or more options or leave the
route as it is.
Tunnel supporters, such as the 710 Coalition
formed in 1982, contend that opponents are trying to rebrand themselves
in an effort to undermine the environmental review process. They say
that more than 300 community and advisory meetings have been held during
the past four years related to the ongoing analysis that recently
released a draft environmental impact report.
“To disrupt this
process is unconscionable and disrespectful to the hundreds of residents
that have participated in the process throughout the years,” said
Alhambra Vice Mayor Barbara Messina, whose city is a member of the 710
Coalition along with four other San Gabriel Valley cities.
“This is all
politics. We can thank Congressman Adam Schiff for this,” Messina said.
Schiff (D-Burbank) opposes the tunnel project.
Instead of a
highway, Beyond the 710 envisions several surface street projects,
including a four-lane thoroughfare called Golden Eagle Boulevard that
would head north from the southern stub of the 710 to Fremont Avenue in
According to the plan, Golden Eagle would intersect
Valley Boulevard as well as Alhambra Avenue and East Mission Road,
allowing traffic to be distributed to other surface streets while
protecting residential neighborhoods.
group contends the improvements would reduce traffic congestion in the
area, especially around Cal State Los Angeles, where a large number of
car trips are made.
A proposal for the northern stub of the 710 in
Pasadena calls for it to be filled in—an idea that could provide 35
acres of open space or developable land for homes and commercial
Another key proposal is a north-south transit corridor
east of the proposed 710 route that would connect to Metrolink service,
the El Monte busway and the MTA’s Gold, Green and Blue light rail lines.
would provide access to Huntington Hospital, Cal State L.A., East Los
Angeles College, St. Francis Medical Center and the communities of Bell,
Maywood, Southgate and Long Beach.
Coalition members say the
transit corridor could be served by a variety of bus lines, with light
rail service added as ridership grows.
said the coalition opposes the elevated light rail option now
undergoing environmental review. She said it would not connect to the
Gold Line or go to many popular destinations. There is also opposition
in El Sereno, she added.
Coalition planners estimate that the
proposals that can be done immediately, such as street improvements,
bikeways, safe pedestrian crossings and expanded bus service, would cost
about $875 million. The figure is far less than the $3.1-billion to
$5.6-billion cost to build the 710 extension in a tunnel.
additional funding, the group says that the future projects, such as
improvements to Metrolink, extensions of the Gold Line, bus rapid
transit lines, and bike networks throughout the San Gabriel Valley could
be done at a cost of almost $3 billion.
If the coalition’s
proposals are approved, planners say they could create open space for
recreation, generate thousands of jobs and trigger private investment in
residential and commercial development in the western San Gabriel
Supporters of the tunnel claim, however, that the draft
environmental impact report illustrates the benefits of putting the
freeway underground. The opponents, they add, are desperate to combat
growing support for the project.
“This group is beyond reasonable.
They are not new. In fact, they are the same vocal minority that
continues to oppose the increasingly popular tunnel alternative,” said
Ron Miller, executive secretary of Los Angeles/Orange Counties Buildings
& Construction Trades Council.
A recent poll commissioned by
the 710 Coalition shows there is more than 2-to-1 support for the
freeway tunnel in Los Angeles County and in cities near the proposed