By Jacqueline Garcia, June 4, 2015
A coalition of community organizations and cities gathered at Metro
headquarters last week to publicly oppose to the construction of a
tunnel connecting freeways between Alhambra and South Pasadena and to
present what they said is a new direction in the SR-710 debate.
“Today is a new day in the 710 debate,” said Glendale Mayor Ara
Najarian, a firm opponent to the building of a tunnel to close the gap
between the terminus of the 710 Freeway in Alhambra and the 210 Freeway
“We are committed to finding solutions that work for everyone,”
Najarian said during the May 28 press conference to announce the Beyond
the 710 Plan, a new initiative backers say will do a better job of
reducing traffic and connecting people than the current options under
review for the 710 Freeway.
The cities of Glendale, La Canada Flintridge, Pasadena, Sierra Madre
and South Pasadena have all signed onto the coalition and support its
plan for expanding public transportation and building more pedestrian-
and bike-friendly paths to reduce traffic congestion in the western San
“There’s a lot of money at stake here,” said Najarian, referring to
the $5.6 billion it would cost to build the tunnel, one of five
alternatives currently under review. Najarian is also a member of the
Metro Board and said last week that the 710 Freeway tunnel is favored by
engineers, contractors and developers because they stand to make a lot
The closing of the 4.5 miles gap between where the 710 ends in
Alhambra and the 210 Foothill Freeway in Pasadena has been under debate
for nearly six decades. In March, Metro released a Draft Impact
Report/Environmental Impact Statement (DIR/EIS) that contains five
proposed alternatives for improving traffic through the region; a
freeway tunnel, a light rail train; a rapid bus line; a traffic
management system and the required “no build” option.
Several public hearings on the draft report have already taken place
in cities and neighborhoods that would be the most impacted by the
project: The tunnel and light rail line alternatives have by far
generated the most support and opposition.
Backers of the new Beyond the 710 initiative said last week that
Metro initially had more than 100 proposals to choose from and that
none of the five alternatives in the Draft Impact Report would be as
cost effective or good for the community as what they are proposing.
The group presented its plan to the Metro Board, which is in the
process of evaluating the alternatives for closing the 710 gap but did
not comment on the Coalition’s plan to expand bus service and build a
network of surface street projects, including a four-lane roadway –
Golden State Boulevard – that would travel from the south stub of the
710 freeway to Cal State LA, connecting along the way to Freemont
Street, Alhambra Avenue and Mission Boulevard.
They claim the surface street network will make using public
transportation easier by connecting both legs of the Metro Gold Line,
the Green and Blue Lines, as well as Metrolink’s San Bernardino,
Riverside and Orange County lines and the El Monte busway. The Coalition
said there would be stops on or near Huntington Hospital, Cal State LA,
East LA College, St Francis Medical Center and the communities of Bell,
Maywood and South Gate.
The plan also proposes restoring the Arroyo Rosa de Castilla, a
year-round creek that runs alongside and under the 710. Restoration
would provide over 30 acres of new parklands, three regular soccer
fields, and a 2.5-mile bike path connecting Alhambra, El Sereno and
Planners for the project estimate the cost at $875 million.
His TAP card in hand and bike at his side, South Pasadena Councilman
Michael Cacciotti said they are all he needs to get around. “It took me
45 minutes [to get] from Pasadena to Los Angeles,” he said, “and I
Claiming it would cause significant damage to their cities, the group
said building a tunnel is completely unacceptable. “Pasadena has
suffered the negative impacts of freeway ‘solutions’ and we recognize
that better options exist, such as great streets and smart transit,”
said City Manager Michael Beck.
On the other side of the issue, the 710 Coalition — which includes
several cities and communities along the 710 freeway that favor the
tunnel alternative — released a statement criticizing the new initiative
as too late in the game. Tunnel opponents have “rebranded themselves”
in an effort to undermine Metro’s ongoing DEIR/EIS process, which took
four years to be reviewed, processed and released, they said.
City officials, businesses, labor and local residents have been
engaged in the ongoing public comment process since March 6, the 710
Coalition pointed out.
“To disrupt this process is unconscionable and disrespectful to the
hundreds of residents that have participated in the process throughout
the years,” said Alhambra Councilmember Barbara Messina.
Metro and Caltrans have spent countless hours and millions of dollars
to support the review and analysis of the five alternatives to address
the incomplete 710 Freeway, the statement said.