To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Opponents of 710 Freeway extension offer alternatives to tunneling


By Dan Weikel, May 28, 2015

710 Freeway
 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 Pasadena.

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 freeways.

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.
“We 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 potential.
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.
Options 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 Alhambra.

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.
The 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 buildings.
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.

This 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.

Khubesrian 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.

With 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 Valley.

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 project.