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

Friday, June 5, 2015

Tunnel Opponents Propose ‘Street Network’ for 710 Gap


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 in Pasadena.

“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 Gabriel Valley.

(EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

“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 of money.

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 South Pasadena.

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 exercised.”

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.