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

Sunday, August 23, 2015

2,500 comment letters received on 710 Freeway project, as legislators take sides


By Steve Scauzillo, August 22, 2015


 In this file photo, vehicles get on the southbound 710 Freeway at Valley Boulevard in Alhambra on Friday, October 7, 2011. Caltrans has received more than 2,500 letters responding to the 710 Freeway extension project.

Caltrans has received more than 2,500 letters responding to the 710 Freeway extension project, so many that two weeks after the six-month comment period has closed, the state transportation agency is still tallying the responses.

Aside from the sheer number and volume, the letters written by mayors and elected officials form a pattern: Those in favor of digging an underground tunnel to close the 4.5-mile gap from the 10 to the 210/134 freeways live south and east of the project, while those opposed live north or within the project footprint.

When a surface route going through the cities of South Pasadena and Pasadena was rescinded by the Federal Highway Administration in 2004, Caltrans and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority in 2009 reported a tunnel was feasible, launching a $40 million draft Environmental Impact Report/Study which took four years, contains more than 26,000 pages and was released for comment on March 6, 2015.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, who only recently came out against the tunnel option, wrote in his letter that going underground and thereby not wiping out houses in the path was supposed to provide the communities common ground.

That did not happen, he wrote.

Schiff is joined by Pasadena, South Pasadena, Glendale, Sierra Madre, La CaƱada Flintridge, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Los Angeles Conservancy, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the West Pasadena Residents Association and state Sen. Carol Liu, D-Glendale in opposing the tunnel and/or calling the EIR inadequate. Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena questioned the project in his letter.

A majority of cities and elected officials who wrote letters favored the tunnel as the best way to close the gap and reduce congestion on local streets. Other alternatives in the study included: a dedicated busway; a new light-rail line; a series of roadway widenings, bikeways and traffic signalization, or no-build.

Some cities on the list wrote letters of support in 2014, before the EIR/EIS comment period opened. The combined list includes:

Alhambra, Monterey Park, Rosemead, San Gabriel, Montebello’s Mayor Jack Hadjinian, San Marino, La Puente, West Covina, Covina, El Monte, La Verne, Pomona, Pico Rivera, South El Monte, Diamond Bar, Temple City, Huntington Park Councilman Johnny Pineada, Lynwood, South Gate, Commerce, state Sen. Bob Huff, R-Brea; state Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina; Assemblyman Ed Chau, D-Monterey Park; Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, D-West Covina; Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Montebello; Los Angeles Community College District Board Member Mike Eng; the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments and the Florence-Firestone/Walnut Park Chamber of Commerce. Plus, the tunnel project received letters of support from numerous local union groups, including ironworkers, pipe-fitters, electrical workers and sprinkler fitters.

Aside from these, Caltrans received letters of support from some atypical groups. For example, an administrator of the nonprofit that treats drug addicts and former gang members known as Victory Outreach wrote: “These men and women would rejoice over the opportunity to work on a project like the proposed 710 tunnel.”

Alhambra Councilwoman Barbara Messina said the city and its pro-tunnel coalition garnered support from most municipalities and elected officials in the San Gabriel Valley. She said letters from churches and regular people signal a commonality. “We reached out to everyone. We are all impacted,” she said.

Alhambra supports a dual-bore tunnel of four lanes in each direction of more than 4 miles underground without exits. “Freeway tunnel alternatives do the best job of alleviating traffic and improving air quality on local arterials,” said the city in its lengthy letter.

The city also makes the case minority communities where the freeway ends in El Sereno have a higher cancer risk than communities at the north end with fewer minority residents and that a freeway tunnel would balance that disparity.

South Pasadena, along with the 7,000-household West Pasadena Residents’ Association and the city of Pasadena, support a combined alternative not in the EIR/EIS. The “Beyond the 710” initiative, for example, would turn the end of the freeway into a boulevard that takes cars through to Cal State Los Angeles and connects to Alhambra Avenue and Mission Road, “allowing traffic to be distributed into the arterial grid while protecting residential neighborhoods.”

At the so-called “north stub” north of Del Mar Avenue in Pasadena, the group’s proposal calls for connecting streets and as many as 1,300 new residential units from 35 “new acres” of filled-in land linking West Pasadena with Old Pasadena, a vibrant shopping district.

South Pasadena calls for Caltrans to drop out and give the Federal Transit Administration and Metro a chance at developing transit, bike and car connections that don’t include a freeway tunnel.
Geoffrey Baum, president of the WPRA, said the group put together a dozen transportation and air quality experts to produce its 430-page letter which calls for a new EIR/EIS, saying this one does a poor job estimating cost, air pollution and traffic.

“If not, we will consider legal action,” Baum said, saying the letter is the first step toward suing to stop the project.

Messina reminds opponents that voters approved Measure R, a county half-cent sales tax measure in 2008 that included $780 million for a 710 freeway tunnel. Caltrans and Metro estimate the cost of the larger tunnel at $5.4 billion, but opponents say the cost will be above $10 billion.

Since the tunnel would require a public-private partnership, the cost of the tunnel would be recouped by tolls. Neither agency has set the price of the toll for riding the tunnel. Metro says the tunnel would carry 180,000 vehicles per day and these cars must exit the tunnel and connect with the 210/134 in Pasadena.

Metro and Caltrans will incorporate the letters and comments into a new and possibly final EIR/EIS expected to be released in the middle of 2016.