By Terry Tornek, July 15, 2016
A 710 Freeway stub in Pasadena.
Last month marked the first anniversary of the public release of
Beyond the 710, a proposal to resolve the nearly 50-year stalemate over
the north end of the 710 freeway. The proposal (www.beyondthe710.org)
could solve the problems of the current 710 configuration, improve
connectivity for all the affected communities and provide exciting
opportunities to better use newly freed-up land.
While there are
still obstacles to implementing a vision for the 710 that works for
everyone, we can celebrate that the Metro board of directors has taken a
major step forward by voting to place the proposed sales tax ballot
measure on the November ballot with a provision that makes clear the
funds generated by the new measure will not fund a tunnel that would
plow through and decimate our communities.
As leaders of the cities that are most opposed to the tunnel
proposal, I and the undersigned now encourage the board to separately
instruct its staff and Caltrans to add the Beyond the 710 proposal to
the current 710 north study. We see this as a path forward to ending the
stalemate between those bearing the brunt of the 710 Freeway bottleneck
traffic and those who fear the tunnel as an existential threat to their
And this fear is justified. The tunnel presents
significant health, financial, engineering, seismic, water, public
safety, traffic and legal problems. Studies have shown that the tunnel
would create cancer hotspots at the exhaust vents. Just as important,
the massive, multi-year project would have little positive effect on
traffic and commute times and in fact create new severe traffic
congestion and thus air quality impacts in other areas.
Further, while the cost of the 4.5-mile tunnel is estimated
between $5 billion and 10 billion, we all know that if it was ever
built, the costs would most likely be much higher.
At the same
time, our leaders recognize that the existing freeway “stubs” present
real problems for the surrounding communities. At the north end, the
stub is a huge gash in the fabric of Pasadena. On the south end, the 710
freeway funnels and dumps its traffic onto Valley Boulevard and does
not provide good connectivity to the surrounding communities.
But the Beyond the 710 proposal converts these problems into real
opportunities. It proposes to remove these freeway stubs, replace them
with four-lane great streets, and use the freed-up land to build new
parks and greenspace, transit, bikeways, residential and commercial
development, and affordable housing, and provide extra room for local
institutions such as Cal State Los Angeles.
On the north end,
this approach would reconnect and heal Pasadena. But it’s the south stub
transformation that would really be magical. Replacing the stub with a
grand boulevard would better disperse local traffic, making it easier to
get where people want to go and relieving congestion that currently
burdens Alhambra and other nearby communities. The price tag is 10
percent of the cost of a tunnel.
And that’s why our cities, along with organizations such as the
Natural Resources Defense Council and the National Trust for Historic
Preservation, believe that Beyond the 710 is indeed a path to moving
beyond the stale debate over the tunnel.
The Metro board needs to
step up and direct planners to formally study the proposal. It would
serve as a clear signal to voters that Metro is taking a truly balanced
approach to the issue, and would encourage them to support of the ballot
measure in November.
Voters must be assured that Metro works for them. By
demonstrating the vision necessary to resolve this issue, we’re
confident that we can move forward and ease congestion throughout the
county while preserving the quality of life our residents treasure.
Tornek is mayor of Pasadena. This column was also signed by mayors
Paula Devine of Glendale, Jonathan Curtis La Canada Flintridge and Diana
Mahmud of South Pasadena; Sierra Madre Councilman John Capoccia;
Glendale Councilman and Metro board member Ara Najarian; and South
Pasadena Councilwoman Marina Khubesrian.