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

Thursday, June 18, 2015

San Gabriel Valley COG recommends tunnel option for 710


By Steve Scauzillo, June 18, 2015


 The end of the 710 Freeway at Valley Boulevard in Alhambra on Friday, March 6, 2015. Caltrans and Metro released an environmental study examining a tunnel, a light-rail train, or a bus line to connect from Alhambra Pasadena.

After nearly three hours of debate, the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments voted to support the 710 Freeway tunnel Thursday night.

The 31-member group’s governing board voted 16-7 to endorse building a tunnel to connect the gap in the freeway, running under Alhambra, South Pasadena and Pasadena and connecting to the 210/134 freeway interchange.

A recommendation will be sent to Caltrans and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Agency for inclusion in their joint environmental impact report, ahead of the July 6 cutoff date for comments.

The SGVCOG’s governing board rejected suggestions by delegates from Pasadena, South Pasadena, Sierra Madre and La Canada Flintridge to take no position on this controversial project.

In one of his first appearances since leaving the position of mayor, Bill Bogaard of Pasadena suggested SGVCOG would be taking a premature action and urged the agency to wait until the final EIR is completed.

“This has been going on for decades. It blows my mind for you to say it is premature,” retorted Alhambra City Councilwoman Barbara Messina, who introduced the successful motion.

Messina said the support for a tolled tunnel is in line with the Southern California Association of Governments, which put the tunnel option into its Regional Transportation Plan in 2012.

“SCAG has the (710) tunnel in their RTP. It meets requirements of the federal government on air quality, mobility and congestion,” Messina told the board. Dissenters said the vote in support of a freeway tunnel would break the SGVCOG in half. Some urged a no position to preserve a unified voice in the region on transportation matters.

“I feel this is like the Middle East. Either we are damned if we do or do not. We are just splitting the cities,” said Sam Pedroza, Claremont City Councilman and SGVCOG member who did not attend Thursday’s meeting.

Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek lost an argument to stay neutral on the politically hot 710 Freeway tunnel.

“An advocacy position would have a detrimental affect on this organization. This is a knock-down, drag-out fight. It is a project that composes an existential threat to communities,” Tornek said.

Caltrans and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) spent four years at a cost of $40 million studying different ways to move traffic from one freeway stub — at Valley Boulevard in Alhambra — to the other near Del Mar Avenue in Pasadena, where the freeway would connect to the 210/134 interchange.

The resulting Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement looks at five options: a no-build option; a traffic management system that would upgrade streets and sync traffic signals at local intersections to move traffic more quickly; a dedicated busway with high-frequency service and few stops; a 7.5-mile light-rail line that would stretch from East Los Angeles to Pasadena and a 6.3-mile freeway tunnel, of which 4.2 miles would be completely underground.

While Caltrans has proposed “closing the 710 gap” for nearly 60 years, mostly as a surface route, the tunnel route has gained momentum since the release of the $40 million draft EIR/EIS. The 26,000-page report concluded building a freeway tunnel would provide the greatest amount of traffic relief and the fewest impacts of the five alternatives studied.

After years of opposition, Caltrans and Metro abandoned plans for a surface route and instead have proposed either a single-bore tunnel, with two lanes of traffic in each direction, or double-bore, twin tunnels with four lanes in each direction, as well as the other non-freeway alternatives. Neither agency has stated a preferred option.

Alhambra is a leading force in the 710 Coalition, which calls for “closing the gap” of the freeway that starts in Long Beach and is considered the missing link in the 14 Southern California freeways. Caltrans first proposed the extension in 1959. Other cities in the group include San Marino, Monterey Park, Rosemead and San Gabriel.

Opponents include the cities of South Pasadena, La CaƱada Flintridge, Glendale, Sierra Madre and Pasadena, members of the “5-Cities Alliance.”

Last month, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, for the first time came out against the tunnel project. He joined with those from the 5-Cities Alliance and national preservation groups to support a combination of street widening, bike paths and bus and rail improvements worth $705 million. These improvements can be done immediately.

Metro will wait until the comment period ends July 6, and for Caltrans to issue a final EIR before it votes on the project. That won’t happen until the middle of 2016, said Paul Gonzales, Metro spokesman.

Large trucks on all sides of 710 and its controversy: Letters


I understand the citizens of Alhambra wish to reduce traffic on Fremont Avenue. However, building the tunnel would not achieve this. The tunnel would really only provide trucks better access to the 210 Freeway, and I find it hard to believe that motorists would utilize the tunnel. While driving on the 710 Freeway I have sometimes found myself surrounded by large trucks on all four sides of my car.

I don’t suffer from claustrophobia, but it is somewhat anxiety-producing. And this is on an open freeway. I cannot imagine that people, especially those traveling with children in their car, would choose to drive surrounded by trucks in a 4-mile stretch of tunnel with no exits. What if there a crash, a fire or a natural disaster? As a nurse practitioner, I wonder how long it would take for emergency personnel to reach you, and would it be in time?

The estimated cost of building the tunnel is $5.6 billion, and what project is ever brought in on budget? Would it not be better to use that money to address any pediatric respiratory issues that arise from above-ground traffic?

— Jacqueline Ficht, South Pasadena

Closing the 710 freeway gap


By Kai Ryssdal, Produced by Daisy Palacios, June 17, 2015


 The gap between the 710 and 210 freeways near Los Angeles.

We're doing a series this week about the perilous state of the infrastructure in this country. The power grid, water supply, roads — all stuff an economy pretty much has to have to function. However, all that stuff in this country keeps breaking or doesn’t get built.

One example of this is right near Marketplace headquarters in Los Angeles. A 4 1/2-mile stretch of infrastructure that, so far, has not been built and has had people fighting over it for about 59 years.

It's dubbed the 710 Gap – just northeast of Downtown Los Angeles between Pasadena and the city of Alhambra – where two interstates, the 210 and the 710, were at some point supposed to connect. Instead, both highways just end – four and a half miles apart.

Highways are built in segments, as the 710 once was from the port of Long Beach north to Alhambra.
But when time came to build the 4 1/2 miles from Alhambra to Pasadena back in the 1990s, locals objected, sued and got an injunction.

Since then, thousands of cars dump out onto surface streets in the surrounding towns daily, causing major traffic, environmental issues and health problems. (Full disclosure: if the 710 Gap is ever closed, it's going to mean those thousands of cars are going to pass real close to my house.)

Anthony Portantino, a former state assemblyman for the district where the 710 Gap is, has been "an opponent of this project for well over a decade."

"The best way to move people through the region is through a multimodal approach: light rail, bus systems, traffic circulation," Portantino says. "Let's do all of it, not just build a $10 billion hole in the ground that's going to make all of it worse."

That "hole in the ground" is a tunnel that would connect the 710 and 210 highways. It's one of the options that CalTrans, the state transportation agency, and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority have offered the community as a solution to the region’s congestion problem.

All of the other options would leave the gap open but tackle traffic with light rail, bus lines or fixes to existing roads. There also is an option to do nothing and leave it as is.

A draft proposal on those five alternatives is out for public comment now.

"It's a project that's been studied and studied and studied, and that gap in 710 from Alhambra up through South Pasadena has been a real ole' struggle," says Bob Stevens, president of the American Society of Civil Engineers. "It may be a record on how long it's taken to go from building the road from both ends and having that gap that they can't get completed."

Marketplace is teaming up with Waze to look at transportation infrastructure across the U.S. Click here to find out how you can be a part of our series and report bad infrastructure on your own commute. 

Will I-710 ever be finished? A 4.5-mile gap dumps more than 43,000 vehicles onto the streets of Alhambra, California, every day. Neighboring South Pasadena opposes a plan, which includes a 4.9-mile tunnel, to close the gap. It doesn’t want the freeway’s noise and air pollution. Kai Ryssdal reports on the passion surrounding a highway that doesn’t exist.