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
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and Pasadena was rescinded by the Federal Highway Administration in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,
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 Cañada 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:
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.”
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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