By The Editorial Board, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, June 4, 2015
The end of the 710 Freeway at Valley Boulevard in Alhambra.
Caltrans and Metro and their predecessors have been looking at
extending the 710 Freeway from Cal State L.A. to Pasadena for over half a
Both bureaucracies at the time had a natural prejudice
in car-happy Southern California toward freeways over any alternative
transit modes. In the late 1960s, Caltrans drew an old-fashioned line on
the map and bought up all the properties in the way through eminent
domain in the early 1970s. At first, just tiny South Pasadena formally
objected, and fought a David-vs.-Goliath battle against a freeway
cutting it in half, using almost all of the city’s resources for years.
Now, in a vastly different county of 10 million people in which
every freeway that is built or widened achieves rush-hour gridlock as
soon as it is opened, transportation mindsets have changed.
isn’t just about saving hundreds of historic homes and rescuing the
heart and soul of South Pas any longer. The giant, $5.6 billion freeway
tunnel now backed by Caltrans — which insists, of course, that it backs
nothing of the sort, and has its collective mind open — did seem like a
win-win solution for a time even to smart area politicians such as Rep.
Adam Schiff, D-Burbank. But last week Schiff joined a rapidly growing
coalition of area cities — South Pasadena, Pasadena, Glendale, La Canada
Flintridge and Sierra Madre — and forward-thinking national groups and
individuals with a practical vision for solving transportation problems
in the 710 corridor rather than a Looney-Tunes make-work hole in the
ground whose billions could better be spent elsewhere.
The group Beyond the 710 proposes a $705 million package of
immediate fixes that deal with the very real traffic problems that
especially plague Alhambra streets along the north-south corridor
between Valley Boulevard and the 210 Freeway in Pasadena. These realists
don’t pretend that the “gap” is any more of an anomaly than any other
of the dozens of drawn-but-not-built freeways that once were on a
fanciful 1950s map of possible Southern California car-and-truck routes.
But they do understand that Alhambra in particular needs help in
mitigating the surface-street traffic jams that hit it each morning and
evening. Alhambrans need to get out of the one-solution mindset its
politicians have afflicted it with for decades, to no end, and work with
this new coalition to get us moving rather than rallying around a
freeway that likely will never happen.
The coalition recognizes that just turning to one a la mode
solution such as light rail through the corridor is not the answer,
either — though light rail could play a small part. Its main and
eminently practical suggestion is to build a Cal State-themed “Golden
Eagle Boulevard” from the south stub at Valley just north of the 10
Freeway to Mission Road that could include bus lanes and a separated
bike path. Add more bus service, the immediate sale of Caltrans-owned
houses to free up funding and a “complete street” innovation in the
current big ditch in west Pasadena’s 710 stub — a roadway for
pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders as well as shops
and businesses — and suddenly we’re talking about genuinely creative
solutions to a real problem. All parties, no matter their longtime
allegiance to one solution or another, should welcome the ideas of
Beyond the 710 to the conversation, a far broader one than the old talk
of a freeway or lack thereof.