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

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Rosemead sues Metro to force 710 Freeway extension back into courts


By Steve Scauzillo, July 24, 2017

 The 710 Freeway looking north from Hellman Ave. towards Valley Blvd, where the freeway ends.  (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)
 The 710 Freeway looking north from Hellman Ave. towards Valley Blvd, where the freeway ends.

The 710 Freeway extension is heading back to court.

Two months after the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority board voted against building a tunnel from the freeway’s terminus near Alhambra to the 210 and 134 freeways interchange in Pasadena, the city of Rosemead filed a lawsuit asking the court to throw out that decision.

Rosemead is suing Metro in Los Angeles Superior Court, saying the board’s vote was premature and violated state environmental laws.

“We want the MTA’s May 25 decision to be vacated, to have that undone,” said Dennis Ehling, attorney with Blank Rome LLP , a Los Angeles-based firm hired by the city.

The complaint alleges that Metro’s board should have waited until the final environmental study was certified by its partner, Caltrans, which isn’t expected until early next year. The lawsuit calls the action “a clear breach” of the environmental review process begun by Caltrans and Metro in March 2015.

Metro spokeswoman Kim Upton said the transportation agency does not comment on pending litigation.

The legal challenge comes as somewhat of a surprise, since the Metro board vote portended the end of any freeway extension after nearly 60 years of debate from city halls, which included a 1999 federal court decision won by South Pasadena scuttling a surface route.

Metro’s board rejected the 6.3 mile tunnel option, which would cost between $3 billion and $5.3 billion, saying the agency does not have the funds.

Instead, it chose as a “preferred local alternative” — a range of roadway improvements and other traffic management fixes along the 4.1-mile gap.

For those projects, the board allocated $105 million, taken from then $780 million pot intended for an “I-710 North Gap Closure (Tunnel) project” through Measure R, the half-cent transportation sales tax passed by voters in 2016.

Other projects also would be considered by Metro, including a new north-south roadway and improved freeway off-ramps at the 110. Metro could also include a new busway system. Cities were rushing to present projects to the Metro board as early as next month.

In a statement, Rosemead said it obtained an agreement with Metro not to move ahead on any projects nor spend any Measure R money for at least 55 days from July 20, so the court can consider its claim. Upton would not comment and did not confirm the existence of such an agreement.

“I am somewhat puzzled by the stance Rosemead is taking, given that they are not all that impacted,” said South Pasadena City Councilwoman Marina Khubesrian on Monday.

Rosemead’s complaint says even though the city is located several miles east of the 710 corridor, its streets are affected when cars are forced off the freeway at Valley Boulevard, creating a traffic glut.
Rosemead Boulevard, the nearest north-south thoroughfare, takes on a lot of this added traffic, according to the complaint.

The move comes a week after anti-710 representatives Khubesrian and Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek, along with representatives from pro-tunnel cities such as Alhambra and Monterey Park, sat down with Los Angeles County Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Hilda Solis.

The meeting was described as a first step in a collaborative effort to spend Measure R money to fix traffic snarls in affected cities.

Ehling said the city is not asking the court to choose the tunnel but to choose an option that closes the 710 Freeway gap. He said the Metro board ignored two staff reports saying the tunnel was the best option for improving traffic flow.

The city hopes the court will force L.A. Metro to review other alternatives, especially the tunnel option.

“Rosemead and other cities in the neighborhood believe the tunnel is the preferred alternative,” Ehling said. “We believe the clear intent of voters was to close the gap and relieve the traffic problems.”

Khubesrian said she’s not sure what a court can do in this instance.

“The court can’t force Metro to fund a project when there is not funding,” she said.

The complaint has not yet been assigned to a courtroom, but Ehling believes a hearing is forthcoming.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Joe Cano Video: Metro Board Meeting Pt. 2

Joe Cano: Metro Board members comments & vote to kill 710 tunnel project.

Joe Cano Video: Metro Board Meeting Pt. 1

Joe Cano: "Please note due to the overwhelming amount of participants at this meeting it was unavoidable the side camera used for the comments section kept getting bumped by people from time to time. Also, some folks kept leaning on the intercom phone behind me. It was a war zone alright."

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Metro Board supports local road improvements to help remedy 710 gap traffic


By Steve Hymon, May 25, 2017

The Metro Board of Directors approved a motion today by a 12 to 0 vote that calls for Metro to fund local road improvements to address traffic congestion caused by the 4.5-mile gap in the 710 freeway between Alhambra and Pasadena. Many Board Members said they hoped to do something immediate rather than wait years for a freeway tunnel that may never have enough funding and/or political support to be built.

Among those improvements that can now be funded: traffic signal upgrades and synchronization, local street and intersection improvements, improved connections to existing bus service and the promotion of rideshare in the area.

The motion approved by the Board today is the latest development in the decades-long saga involving the freeway gap. The 710 opened to Valley Boulevard in Alhambra in 1965 but a planned extension north to a junction with the 134 and 210 freeways in Pasadena has since met near constant funding and legal challenges. Over the years, there has been widespread agreement the gap increases traffic on local roads but considerable disagreement over what should be done about it.

“I’ve thought the tunnel was the best approach, but I’ve also come to the realization that it’s un-fundable and if it happened it was many, many years away,” said Board Chair and Duarte Mayor Pro Tem John Fasana, adding that the tunnel would not confer immediate benefits to residents and businesses impacted by the gap.

In 2011, and with $780 million in new funding from the Measure R sales tax (approved by L.A. County voters in 2008), Caltrans and Metro essentially started from scratch with a new environmental study to identify a project to tackle and help relieve traffic caused by the gap. The project’s environmental study looked at five alternatives: the legally-required no build option, a freeway tunnel, light rail, bus rapid transit and the “Transportation System Management/Transportation Demand Management (TSM/TDM)” alternative — which is now the Metro Board’s official ‘locally preferred alternative’ for the project.

The new study found a freeway tunnel would meet the project purpose and need, and offer the most mobility improvements (see this project status update and the project’s performance evaluation matrix below). But the Metro Board was faced with this dilemma: there was only $780 million in funding available for a tunnel expected to cost much more. And with more legal challenges to a tunnel likely on the horizon, prospects were very dim for finding other funding sources.

Under the motion approved by the Board, $105 million from Measure R would be used for local road projects described above. The remaining funds from Measure R could be used for new mobility improvement projects.  

Under the motion approved by the Board, $105 million from Measure R would be used for local road projects described above. The remaining funds from Measure R could be used for projects including — but not limited to — sound walls, transit and rail capital improvements, bikeways, pedestrian improvements, signal synchronization, left turn signals, major street resurfacing and reconstruction. Those projects would be located in Alhambra, La Canada-Flintridge, Pasadena, South Pasadena and the 90032 zip code, which includes parts of the city of L.A.

Other funds would also be available to Metro’s Central Subregion — i.e. unincorporated East Los Angeles, El Sereno and the city of L.A. — would be prioritized for ‘multi-modal and safety enhancements’ that are within the project’s study area.

Public testimony continued for well over an hour. There was considerable support for the Board’s action with many speakers heaping scorn on a prospective tunnel while saying it was time to move on to other options.

The project’s final environmental study is scheduled to be completed later this year. Even if Caltrans selects the freeway tunnel as the preferred alternative, the motion approved by the Metro Board would prevent funding a tunnel with Measure R funds — the only money currently available for a tunnel.

Metro Board Sets New Path for SR-710

 By Connected Cities and Communities, May 25, 2017

Metro Board Sets New Path for SR-710

Board votes unanimously to end the tunnel project and distribute allocated funds to the affected communities

LOS ANGELES—In a historic vote today, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) Board ended the 50-year debate over the SR-710 “connector” in the San Gabriel Valley. The unanimous vote is a major step forward that will finally allow the communities in the western San Gabriel Valley to pursue strategic, sustainable, multi-modal projects that will enhance mobility for the region, while removing the potential of exorbitant costs and destructive effects of a 5.4-mile, 60-foot wide tunnel proposal.

The leaders of the Connected Cities and Communities (C3) coalition praised the vote as a forward-thinking and cost-effective solution for the region’s transportation needs. The C3 coalition brought
together the cities of Glendale, Pasadena, La Cañada-Flintridge, South Pasadena and Sierra Madre, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the No 710 Action Committee as partners who share a vision of better transportation solutions.

“Today’s Metro Board decision is a vote for healthy communities, fiscal responsibility and a 21st
century approach to transportation in Los Angeles County. The time has come for us to move beyond this outdated project," said Ara Najarian, the chair of the C3, and a member of the Metro Board of Directors and a Glendale City Councilman. “I applaud the leadership of Metro Board chair John Fasana, who recognized that the tunnel was not viable, and the millions of dollars designated for the project should be put to better use.”

The tunnel project has been under environmental review since 2011. While the Metro Board
received a staff report recommending the tunnel, the Board acknowledged that the contentious multibillion dollar project lacked a viable financing plan and they wisely chose to redirect the funds toward a package of new local transportation fixes.

“After years of requesting bettermobility for the region, the residents of South Pasadena and our
C3 coalition partners are relieved to know that the SR-710 tunnel is now highly unlikely,” said Marina Khubesrian,M.D., vice chair of the C3 and amember of the South Pasadena City Council. “We look forward to working with all of the corridor cities to develop projects that will be better for their communities, relieve traffic and provide more options for people to travel to their homes, jobs, schools, and doctors’ appointments.”

“Cities are only effective when they work for everyone,” said Stephanie K. Meeks, president and
CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “Since naming the historic neighborhoods along the 710 to our annual list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, we have advocated for a solution that addresses the growing region’s need for equitable transportation while preserving its unique history. As such, we are pleased that today’s Metro Board decision will enhance the character and identity thatmakes these diverse communities thrive.”

According toMetro staff, approximately $730 million remains in the SR-710 fund appropriated in
Measure R. Today’s vote devoted $105 million of that fund to implement the Transportation System
Management and Transportation Demand Management (TSM/TDM) list of projects already identified in the Environmental Impact Report. The remainder of the money will be made available for new projects in the corridor communities, which will be developed collaboratively with Metro.

“Taking the divisive tunnel project off the table heralds a new era of cooperation among San
Gabriel Valley cities, to the benefit of everyone,” said Terry Tornek, the mayor of the city of Pasadena. “The vision of leaders such as Supervisor Katherine Barger and John Fasana will allow our cities to work together in pursuit of smartermobility improvements, such as those outlined in the Beyond the 710 Plan."

# # #

About the Connected Cities and Communities (C3) Cities, organizations and individuals that make up C3 have come together to find the best way to relieve traffic, connect communities, promote smart growth, and help people get to their jobs, schools, shopping, and recreation. C3 is about connecting communities, increasing everyone’s quality of life, and putting scarce transportation dollars to their best use. This ever-growing coalition is comprised of the Cities of Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, Pasadena, Sierra Madre, South Pasadena, plus the Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and No 710 Action Committee.


The 710 tunnel appears to be dead at last!  This morning the LA Metro Board voted unanimously to drop its support for the 710 Freeway tunnel, and to allocate hundreds of millions of dollars that had been earmarked for the tunnel to local transportation alternatives instead.  

So many persons in my Council District, Pasadena, South Pasadena, La Canada,  Glendale and beyond, including my office, have worked together tirelessly for literally decades to put an end to the 710 extension.  The surface route was eliminated a few years ago, and the tunnel was the last gasp for the 710; and now that's been eliminated too!

I could not possibly name everyone to whom gratitude is owed, but many thanks to everyone who supported my motions in 2000 and 2012 (making the official position of the City of Pasadena to oppose the 710), to those who participated in and attended the several 710 forums we held over the years, to the dedicated freeway fighters in Pasadena and our region, and very special thanks to the Metro Boardmembers for making this historic decision, especially LA Mayor Eric Garcetti and County Supervisor Kathryn Barger.  It has been a long but important and worthwhile fight and in the end we have prevailed.   I'm sure we will organize a celebration in the near future, as we look forward to reclaim the freeway "stub" and reintegrate it and the CalTrans homes back into our West Pasadena neighborhoods.

Steve Madison
Pasadena Councilmember

Joe Cano Video: Metro Board Vote to Kill the SR710

Alhambra Babs sitting in the 2nd row and Terese Real Sebastian across the isle. Mad as hell for sure.

Metro board squashes 710 freeway tunnel

The agency will focus on small infrastructure improvements instead.

By Elijah Chiland, May 25, 2017


Originally planned to link up with the 210, the freeway currently lets riders off just north of Interstate 10.

The Metro Board of Directors closed out another chapter in the long saga of the never-finished 710 freeway Thursday, nixing a plan to extend the route north via an underground tunnel.

In a unanimous vote, the board approved a motion submitted last week by chairman John Fasana calling on the agency to pursue an alternative to the tunnel that focuses instead on smaller infrastructure improvements in the area.

Fasana previously supported building the tunnel, but said Thursday it was simply too costly for Metro to finance. In the works for well over a decade, the project, Fasana suggested, needed a resolution. “I think we’ve reached a point where a decision needs to be made,” he said.

With the board’s vote, Metro will now pursue the so-called “Transportation System Management/Transportation Demand Management” alternative—one of five options proposed by Metro in a 2013 study that analyzed possibilities for closing the 710 freeway gap.

Original plans for the route had it stretching between Long Beach and the 210 freeway, rather than abruptly ending just north of Interstate 10 at Valley Boulevard, as it does today.

Other possible alternatives to the tunnel included a light rail line and a rapid bus system, but those projects would have also commanded relatively high price tags.

Instead, Metro will pursue bringing smaller changes to the communities the tunnel would have linked. Those include more frequent bus service, widening certain streets, and better traffic signal synchronization.

The infrastructure improvements will be paid for with $780 million in funding set aside for the 710 project through Measure R

Fasana’s original motion called for the bulk of those funds to go toward “mobility improvement projects” in the San Gabriel Valley, but was later amended to include communities like El Sereno and unincorporated East LA that have been affected by the project.

 As board members at the meeting expressed their support for the proposal, it became clear that the vote was in part a referendum on the future of transportation in Los Angeles. 

Director and Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian called the tunnel “outdated,” while Mayor Eric Garcetti said that freeway projects like this one were no longer a viable solution to LA’s traffic woes.

Fasana agreed, suggesting Metro will have its work cut out for it going forward. “The highway system we have today is what we’ll have 100 years from now,” he said. “We have to live with the [system] we have.”

A brief history of the not-so-brief battle over the 710 Freeway extension, which may be coming to a close


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

710 Freeway Epansion Tunnel Hits Roadblock

The LA City Council voted to support a bill prohibiting the constructions of a 710 Freeway tunnel to Pasadena. 

May 24, 2017

 710 Freeway Epansion Tunnel Hits Roadblock

LOS ANGELES, CA — The Los Angeles City Council threw its support Wednesday behind legislation that would prohibit the construction of a tunnel to extend the Long Beach (710) Freeway and establish a link between Alhambra and Pasadena.

The bill would create the I-710 Gap Corridor Transit Zone Advisory Committee, which would review a wide range of mass transit options for the 6.2- mile gap between Alhambra and Pasadena, which currently are linked only by surface streets, and recommend solutions that do not include a tunnel or a surface freeway.

The panel would include representatives from the cities of Alhambra, Los Angeles, Pasadena and South Pasadena, along with Caltrans, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and select members of the California Legislature.

Councilman Gil Cedillo, who represents communities in northeast L.A. near the 710 gap, was the lone dissenter to the resolution supporting the bill by Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena.
Cedillo expressed support for a tunnel.

"We should move away from the kind of hysteria that gets engendered by this discussion and move into a dispassionate discussion about the benefits of a tunnel and how it accomplishes the goals of all of those communities impacted," Cedillo said.

Councilman Jose Huizar, who also represents communities in northeast L.A. near the 710 gap, voiced support for the resolution and said Mayor Eric Garcetti and county Supervisor Hilda Solis are opposed to the tunnel.

"All of us agree that it's time to get away from this boondoggle of a project that's going to cost billions of dollars but not ease much traffic ... that those dollars instead be used for a more efficient way, a more 21st century way, in planning for transportation," Huizar said.

The possibility of a 710 Freeway extension has been on the table for decades, but has been thwarted by generations of opposition from some of the communities in its path, including South Pasadena.
Caltrans began in the 1950s and 1960s buying empty lots, houses and apartments along the planned route of the 710 Freeway extension between Pasadena and Alhambra. Last year, Caltrans began the process of selling off the houses and apartments as part of its shift toward a tunnel or other options.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

710 Tunnel Update

From Sylvia Plummer, May 23, 2017


  1.  LA Times Editorial -- Pull the plug on 710 tunnel
The Los Angeles Times published this editorial today (May 23) -- a significant step in acknowledging that the tunnel has no future in the transportation future of Los Angeles.   http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-710-tunnel-20170523-story.html
2.  Recent developments in SR 710 
The latest and most significant development occurred at a meeting of Metro’s Ad Hoc Congestion, Highway and Roads Committee meeting last Wednesday.  At that meeting, the decision was made to forward to the entire Metro Board a motion to recommend the Transportation System Management/Transportation Demand Management alternative as the locally-preferred alternative – NOT THE TUNNEL IN EITHER CONFIGURATION (SINGLE- OR DUAL-BORE).  This recommendation was made even though the SR 710 North Study staff reported to Metro that the Single-Bore Tunnel alternative offered the best performance and financial return (a flawed conclusion).  As you will read in the motion, the Committee has come to the realization that the tunnel is not fundable.  We know for a fact that no private partners have come forward with interest in financing and building the tunnel – an indication that the project does not “pencil out” and represents too great a financial risk.  The motion also addresses the disposition of the remainder of the original $780 million from 2008’s Measure R.  This portion of the motion has been somewhat controversial, and we may see modifications of the original motion, or even introduction of an alternate motion  on Thursday .  We believe the Board is poised to act favorably on the committee’s recommendation.  You can view the Board Meeting agenda at:  http://metro.legistar1.com/metro/meetings/2017/5/1210_A_Board_of_Directors_-_Regular_Board_Meeting_17-05-25_Agenda.pdf .  The action is item 29 on the agenda, and the text of the original motion is included as item 29.1.
3.  Call to Action:  Metro Board of Directors to act on committee’s recommendation this Thursday, May 25th.   We need people to attend what may be an historic decision!
9 am
One Gateway Plaza
METRO Board Room - 3rd Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90012

This is a VERY important meeting because the METRO Board will be discussing and voting on a Motion, which, if passed, will be another MAJOR step forward in killing the 710 Freeway Tunnel.
We need you there!!

Speakers will probably be limited to  a 1 minute presentation so if you choose to speak, it is wise to have prepared a statement ahead of time. It is not necessary for all of us to speak but we do  need a real show of support for ending the tunnel.  
We want to continue to demonstrate our commitment to opposing the tunnel and our support for a motion to remove the tunnel by having a large number of the engaged public at the meeting.  Even if you don’t  speak, those who do will be able to point to our group as supporters of their statements.  Optics play an important role.
So – please come and bring your friends and neighbors!
4.  Message from State Senator Anthony Portantino
 Dear Freeway Fighters and Interested 710 Friends,
What an exciting series of events. Clearly, the motion being contemplated for
action Thursday of this week by MTA is a very positive step forward for the Metro
Board and our communities impacted by the threat of the 710 tunnel. Designating
the Transportation System Management/Transportation Demand Management
Alternative as the Locally Preferred Alternative and recommending expenditure of
the Measure R dollars on local projects rather than the tunnel is an effective way
of bringing the 710 tunnel saga to a close.
Is it the perfect solution? Perhaps not. But is it an appropriate solution for the
many of us who have opposed the above‐ and below‐grade 710 freeway
proposals for five decades? I would say a resounding YES! Recognition by the
MTA Board that the tunnel does not enjoy broad local support and is not
economically feasible is a giant leap forward from the time proponents were
exhibiting optimism about breaking ground in 2015, curtailing studies to predetermine
outcomes and fighting the release of the cost benefit analysis. And, for
those who were hoping the final EIR would include the tunnel as the preferred
solution the proposed motion is a significant disappointment.
The many activists and community leaders who championed the NO 710
FREEWAY/TUNNEL cause are to be commended. Those folks who ensured the
failure of Measure J, which included money for the tunnel and the subsequent
success of Measure M, which did not, deserve a healthy pat on the back.
Metro, though long struggling with this project and still containing Board
Members who have sought the completion of the tunnel, is also to be
commended for putting personal feelings aside for a practical and just conclusion.
And, those communities that have long felt that their unique local transportation
needs would benefit from the tunnel should be appreciated for working with
Metro leaders on setting aside their decades’ long passion on the hope that local
mitigating measures funded by Measure R can bring relief to their communities.
In short, there is much for everyone to be cautious about as the detente solution
is finally discussed and passed this week. But, I believe that folks should feel
comfortable supporting the motion being contemplated by MTA this Thursday.
Here are two reasons why: First it is a good‐faith effort to end this situation in a
manner that makes it clear the 710 tunnel is not the preferred alternative. And
second, it is also important to remember that Caltrans will make the final
determination and certification of the Environmental Impact Report. I have been
in almost daily contact with the Department of Transportation for the past six
months and I anticipate a positive conclusion. I also want to reassure everyone
who has trusted my efforts to fight the tunnel, and before that the freeway, that I
am committed to protecting local interests and the right outcome. Although I
have not been touting these months‐long efforts in the news or endeavoring to
make splashy headlines, I have been intimately involved with helping to bring this
issue to its rightful conclusion. I will continue to lead that effort as your State
Senator and two‐decade compatriot in this effort.
Last week, I held a town hall with 710 tenants and Caltrans to help facilitate the
sale of the Caltrans owned houses; while simultaneously my legislation to ensure
the low‐income tax benefits for the Caltrans tenants is on its way to becoming
state law. This necessary tax fix has complete support of the County Assessor and
of Caltrans.
So, in conclusion, I’m optimistic that the rightful outcome is at hand and steadfast
in my resolve to ensure its happens.
Anthony J. Portantino
State Senator, 25th SD

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Metro Board to Consider Motion on 710 North Project Alternative

By Steve Hymon, May 17, 2017

A motion that would support one of the five alternatives for the 710 North project -- to improve local roads -- as the project's 'locally preferred alternative' was approved on a 3 to 2 vote Wednesday by the Metro Board of Director's Ad Hoc Congestion, Highways and Roads Committee.
The alternative's official name is "Transportation System Management/Transportation Demand Management" (TSM/TDM) and includes traffic signal upgrades and synchronization, local street and intersection improvements, improved connections to existing bus service and the promotion of rideshare in the area around the gap in the 710 between Alhambra and Pasadena. These are the kind of projects that Metro staff have said could provide immediate travel benefits.
The motion is posted above. Something worth highlighting: the motion calls for spending $105 million on the TSM/TDM alternative and using the remaining project funds -- potentially hundreds of millions of dollars -- for new mobility projects in the San Gabriel Valley area. Please see the motion for details.
In committee, the 'yes' votes were from Board Members John Fasana, Kathryn Barger and Ara Najarian and the 'no' votes were from Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker and Janice Hahn. The full Board will consider the item at their meeting next Thursday (May 25) at 9 a.m. The public can listen and watch Board meetings online.
The project's final environmental study is due to be released by the end of this year. The five project alternatives studied include a freeway tunnel, light rail, bus rapid transit, TSM/TDM improvements and the no-build option. Here is is the project homepage, which includes much more background about the project.

Joe Cano Video: Metro Board of Directors, May 17, 2017

Metro Board of Directors Ad-Hoc Congestion, Highway and Roads Committee, May 17, 2017


Metro Board could dash plans for a 710 freeway tunnel next week 5 comments Board Chair John Fasana wants smaller street improvements instead

Board Chair John Fasana wants smaller street improvements instead

By Eljiah Chilan, May 18, 2017


In a blow to advocates of a 710 freeway tunnel, a Metro committee yesterday approved a motion calling on the agency’s Board of Directors to support an alternative to the project that would facilitate street improvements and better connections to public transit in the area, rather than building the multi-billion tunnel.

The Metro Board’s Ad Hoc Congestion, Highways and Roads Committee approved the motion, introduced by Board Chair John Fasana, in a contentious 3-2 vote, as The Source reports. It will be considered by the full Board at its next meeting on Thursday, May 25.

The question of how to compensate for a never-built extension of the 710 freeway has been debated for years. In 2013, a Metro study presented five options for closing the gap between the freeway’s current terminus just above the 10 freeway to the 210 in Pasadena.

Only one of those plans—the tunnel—would create a new path for drivers. The others, which include a light rail system and a rapid bus line, are focused on expanding options for commuters in the area.
Fasana’s motion favors the so-called “Transportation System Management/Transportation Demand Management” alternative, which focuses on smaller-scale improvements that could help relieve congestion in the area. Those include more frequent bus service, widening certain streets, and better traffic signal synchronization.

Fasana notes in the motion that the agency lacks the money needed to construct the tunnel (costs are projected to be over $3 billion), while light rail and rapid bus options “may not produce the expected traffic impact mitigation.”

When LA County voters approved Measure R in 2008, $780 million was set aside for the 710 project. Fasana’s motion calls for $105 million of those funds to be dedicated to the TSM/TDM plan, while the remaining money would be used for “mobility improvement projects” in the San Gabriel Valley.
This isn’t the only threat to the tunnel’s possible construction. In February, Assemblymember Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, announced a bill that would effectively prohibit building the costly project.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Bill Introduced by Holden Designed to Kill 710 Tunnel


By South Pasadena Review Online, April 19, 2017

Assemblyman Chris Holden, whose 41st District represents South Pasadena, continues to make efforts to kill the proposed 710 tunnel.

Holden invited a group of No 710 activists to a meeting at the Pasadena Women’s City Club last week to discuss his proposed Assembly Bill 287. The bill would remove the segment of 710 Freeway from Route 10 to the 210 from the state Streets and Highway Code. It also declares that the department shall not implement a 710 freeway tunnel or surface freeway between 10 and 210.

In addition, it creates a committee to study the 710 North Project area for solutions to congestion and adverse environmental conditions.

 His bill came before the Transportation Committee of the state Assembly on Monday, but did not receive enough votes to move it on to the Appropriations Committee. The bill received two positives votes and 1 vote against it. It needs eight votes in support to get it out of committee. South Pasadena City Manager Sergio Gonzalez said the bill will most-likely go back to the Transportation Committee next Monday for reconsideration.

Holden said he will continue to work to get the votes. He has also been speaking to L.A. County Supervisors and Metro Board members seeking their support. Metro Board members in May are scheduled meeting to oppose, support, or take no position on the proposed bill. “He feels that these entities do not favor the creation of the tunnel,” explained Bill Sherman, a South Pasadena resident and longtime freeway fighter. “He feels that Caltrans senior leadership does not favor the tunnel. His bill attempts to align this local issue with state mandates for decreasing greenhouse gasses and combating climate change.”

Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek, in Sacramento on Monday, stressed that the momentum is against tunnel construction and asked 710 Freeway opponents to keep the pressure on to stop it.

Holden requested the help of those in Sacramento to contact state Assembly Transportation Committee members and encourage them to support SB 287. He was joined on stage by Tornek, South Pasadena Council member Marina Khubesrian and a representative from the Natural Resources Defense Council when he made his presentation to the Transportation Committee seeking their support for the bill he authored.

Khubesrian spoke on Monday at the request of Holden and represented not only the City of South Pasadena but also a group calling itself “Connected Cities and Communities,”including, the cities of Pasadena, South Pasadena, Glendale, La Canada, Sierra Madre and the Natural Resources Defense Council and National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“We look forward to working with Assemblymember Holden and all our representatives in Sacramento and on the Metro Board to redirect resources and efforts away from a car tunnel and toward finding a viable 21st Century proven solutions to the real problems of bottlenecks and poor transit access for the communities in our region,” said Khubesrian.

Holden and a coalition of city councilmembers, community leaders, and non-profit organizations gathered outside Mission Street Metro Station in February to announce the introduction of AB 287, which the lawmaker says finds a solution to the 710 corridor gap between the I-10 and I-210 freeways and prohibits the construction of a freeway tunnel.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Labor Unions Take A Stand In California Tunnel Controversy


By Ted Goodman, March 17, 2017

 Traffic moves through the rain along interstate 5 in Encinitas, California December 3, 2014. Nearly two-thirds of Americans would support roadway user fees to help fix the country's crumbling transportation infrastructure, according to a survey to be published on April 28, 2016 that was seen by Reuters.

 Labor unions from across California are advocating for the construction of a massive tunnel to close a six-mile gap between the 10 and the 210 freeways in Pasadena, Calif.

Proponents of the tunnel, who say it is the most feasible solution to major traffic congestion, can count on the support of 16 labor unions, who joined a coalition in support of the project.

State Assemblyman Chris Holden introduced a bill that would kill the tunnel idea in February, saying that the, “710 tunnel project is a misguided and obsolete solution.”

The project would extend the 710 Freeway from Valley Boulevard under El Sereno, a mostly Latino neighborhood of Los Angeles, and pass under South Pasadena and into Pasadena, where the 4.5-mile tunnel would connect above-ground at the 210/134 freeway interchange near the Pasadena convention center.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Publication Cites 710 Freeway Fight, Activist Joanne Nuckols


February 22, 2017

South Pasadena has made it onto the front page of a leading national business newspaper. The controversy about the proposed State Route-710 (SR-710) freeway north extension was featured on page 1 of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Feb. 13.

Joanne Nuckols, a prominent South Pasadena anti-SR-710 activist, was also quoted and pictured in the article. In the print article “Speed Limits Await Infrastructure Spree,” writer David Harrison describes how environmental reviews and lawsuits have delayed construction projects nationwide.

The online version of the article is titled “Speed Limits on Trump’s Infrastructure Drive: Federal Laws, Rare Species and Nimbys.”   “Environmental regulations and neighborhood opposition routinely bog down projects,” its writer states, “and will likely constrain the [Trump] administration’s plan to spend $1 trillion” on infrastructure.

Harrison includes as his first example the SR-710 north extension. “The project remains under review,” he says, 60 years after it was proposed.

He describes major infrastructure work in Georgia, Maryland and other states that had also been delayed. Former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama faced such delays in completing needed improvements, the writer says. He indicates President Donald Trump will likely encounter the same obstacles.

“The article is a bit misleading,” said City Manager Sergio Gonzalez, “stating that the SR-710 extension has been prevented due to a NIMBY [not in my back yard] stance by our city.”

“The freeway extension above ground or as a tunnel would not do anything to fix the congestion issues between the 10 and 210 freeways,” he said. Nuckols said she was interviewed for the article in October 2016.

However, its publication was then postponed. She said a few weeks ago Harrison contacted her for an update and to arrange for photographs.

Nuckols appears in a picture accompanying the article. She is shown seated on the front porch of her 1909 Craftsman home. Prominently featured next to her is an American flag, which hangs from her porch roof. A small sign displaying the No-710 symbol can be seen on a window behind her.
Harrison describes Nuckols as a “board member of a local preservation group [South Pasadena Preservation Foundation] who has been fighting the road for 30 years.”

A second photograph shows the traffic-congested SR-710 near Alhambra. No other photos appear in the story.

Several paragraphs address the SR-710. The writer says opponents reject the current tunnel proposal alternative. This, he says, is due to concerns about weakening the ground under the city’s historic Craftsman homes. He cites Nuckols as saying, “This is something that can never be built.”

Harrison ends with a statement made by Barbara Messina, an Alhambra councilmember. She has long supported the project.

Referring to Nuckols, Messina is quoted as saying, “God forbid we had people like that when we had our major infrastructure projects done. We would never have gotten anything done.”

In response, Nuckols told the South Pasadena Review, “Thankfully we had those environmental laws. That was what saved South Pasadena and was the foundation of the legal case that we won.”

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Bills eye 710 Freeway gap project


Friday, February 10, 2017

Reaction to Assemblymember Holden’s Bill to Kill the 710 Extension Tunnel: Enthusiasm to Outrage


February 10, 2017

Reactions to Assemblymember Chris Holden’s announcement he has introduced a bill in Sacramento to prohibit construction of a tunnel to complete the 710 Freeway gap between the I-10 and I-210 freeways in Pasadena range from glowing support to outrage.

The 710 Coalition, a grouping of cities, school districts, businesses and individuals that support the tunnel alternative, called Holden’s proposal an “audacious maneuver by 710 tunnel opponents to thwart years of progress toward completion of the freeway.

Pasadena officials, on the other hand, enthusiastically supported Holden’s legislation.

“This is really exciting for our community,” District 6 Councilmember Steve Madison said. “Chris’s proposal is to have a committee appointed to study approaches to certain regional transportation needs, including the 710 corridor, but it would prohibit the study of the 710 tunnel. It would put an end to the tunnel, for sure.”

Mayor Tornek agreed.

“The great value of what Chris is proposing is he’s not just saying no; he’s suggesting a method to study alternatives in a way that should be productive and allow our people to really start to move towards something other than an early 20th century solution,” Tornek said. “The tunnel project just doesn’t hold up to any scrutiny at all. They’ve already spent $30 million on the EIR (environmental impact report), and that’s money that could have been put towards actual solutions.”

With the tunnel alternative possibly on the way out, Tornek said Pasadena officials would continue to meet with Metro, Caltrans, and all the other stakeholders as well as the community, and cooperate in the search for a better solution.

Former Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard said Holden’s bill is a great step in a battle that’s been going on for more than 40 years.

“Chris has come around to a very strong position of opposition based on the facts,” Bogaard said. “The information that is now available indicates that this project, at a cost of five to $10 billion, simply does not make traffic improvements of the kind that this region needs. It’s great to have someone of Chris’ stature and standing to take this position.”

Bogaard also expects there will be continuing discussions among people who still think that building a tunnel has a role to play in the interconnection project.

“But when the facts are known – the environmental facts, the financial facts, the absolute need for other improvement in transportation in this region – the answer will be clear: the tunnel has no role in the future of Southern California,” Bogaard said.

Pasadena City Councilmember Steve Madison said he believes the Holden bill could “finally kill this 710 tunnel.”

The 710 Coalition, which includes the cities of Alhambra, Monterey Park, Rosemead, San Gabriel and San Marino, said Holden’s proposal would disregard years of money and effort invested into the SR-710 interconnection project. Sixteen other Southern California cities support the Coalition.

“Hundreds of project related meetings and hearings have occurred over the last five years,” a 710 Coalition statement said. “To disrupt the process is unconscionable and disrespectful to all involved. The tunnel is the best way to close the gap – it provides reductions in traffic and the biggest job boost to the local and regional economy.”

Holden filed the bill in the light of a landmark climate legislation mandating the rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the state.

“It is clear that the State Route 710 tunnel project is a misguided and obsolete solution,” Holden said. “The tunnel option puts billions of taxpayer dollars on the line with no hard evidence pointing to traffic relief for the San Gabriel Valley. The freeway tunnel may have been a viable option 50 years ago but it is not in today’s or tomorrow’s reality.”

Holden stressed that there is now a real opportunity to set a precedent for what transportation should be in California.

“Our state led the way by building one of the most advanced freeway systems in America,” Holden said. “We should lead the way now by taking a 21st century approach to addressing our transportation needs.”

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Holden Takes 710 Tunnel Off the Table

His bill, AB 287, would prohibit state from building 710 tunnel extension


By Eddie Rivera, February 9, 2017


In a dramatic development in the 50 year-old battle over the extension of the 710 Freeway and the construction of a tunnel to fill the corridor gap between the I-10 and I-210 Freeways, State Assemblymember Chris Holden has introduced a bill which, if passed, will completely remove the possibility of a tunnel to extend the freeway.

“In light of California’s landmark climate legislation that mandates the rapid reduction of our greenhouse gas emissions, it is clear that the State Route 710 tunnel project is a misguided and obsolete solution,” said Holden at a press conference this morning at the South Pasadena Metro Station.

Joining Holden in announcing the bill—AB 287—were Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek, and Councilmembers Andy Wilson and Steve Madison. along with leaders from a number of San Gabriel valley cities, including South Pasadena and Sierra Madre.

The bill would establish the I-710 Gap Corridor Transit Study Zone Advisory Committee, with representatives from Pasadena, South Pasadena, Alhambra, Los Angeles, Caltrans and Metro. The committee would also include legislators representing the 710 Corridor Gap Communities.

Said Holden, “This committee will be tasked with recommending the most appropriate and feasible solution for the 710 Corridor gap that effects the San Gabriel Valley. The committee will review a wide range of traffic calming, green space and mass transit options for the 6.2 mile gap and recommend a viable community supported solution that creates jobs for the San Gabriel Valley.”

The bill specifically prohibits the State Department of Transportation from building the 710 Tunnel.
Speaking to the cost of the proposed tunnel, Holden said, “Constructing a tunnel could cost up to a billion dollars per mile. Compare that to the recent extensions of the Gold Line which cost less than a billion dollars for 20 miles.”

“It’s really important that (Assemblymember Holden) has added his powerful voice to the rising chorus of voices that continue to object to trying to impose this early 20th-Century solution to this 21st Century problem,” said Mayor Tornek. “The important thing is that it’s not enough to just say ‘no’ to something, you have to say, ‘What do we do?,’ and his bill contemplates taking a look at the alternatives, and simply objecting to something we are not even considering anymore.”

“It’s nice that people like Chris are finally waking up to this problem,” said Jim Miller of the No 710 Action Committee. Asked what the bill would mean to the work that his committee has done, Miller said, “After fifty years, it may be over.”

Thinking beyond the 710 issue, and discussing the larger transportation issues in the San Gabriel Valley, Holden also suggested extending the Metro light rail system to create a loop that connects cities beyond the San Gabriel Valley, into communities like Downey and Whittier.

Added Holden, who cautiously anticipated swift movement of his bill, “Before any final recommendations are made, we have the opportunity to set a precedent for what transportation can be in California. Our state led the way by building one of the most advanced freeway systems in America, and we should lead the way now by taking a 21st Century approach to addressing our transportation needs.”

Monday, February 6, 2017

Freeways Without Futures 2017


Communities across North America are facing a watershed moment in the history of our transportation infrastructure. With cities, citizens, and transportation officials all looking for alternatives to costly highway repair and expansion, these ten campaigns offer a roadmap to better health, equity, opportunity, and connectivity in every neighborhood, while reversing decades of decline and disinvestment.

 Freeways Without Futures 2017 brings together decades of lessons, resources, strategies, and sweat equity into a comprehensive look at the current state of urban highway removal. This report sets out to empower local highway teardown advocates, political leaders, and forward-thinking engineers working in their communities to forge ahead.

Above all, these ten highways are opportunities for progress. Each one presents the chance to remove a blight from the physical, economic, and environmental health of urban communities. Their intended benefits have not justified the tragic consequences, but converting these highways into human-scaled streets offers a chance to begin repairing the damage. From Buffalo to San Francisco, these are the freeways without futures.
Freeways Without Futures

Scajaquada Expressway
 Buffalo, New York
When the Scajaquada Expressway was built along New York State Route 198 in Buffalo, it bisected and severed Delaware Park—a masterpiece designed by the celebrated urbanist Frederick Law Olmsted. In May 2015, the decades-long safety consequences of that decision reached a breaking point when a sedan traveling on the expressway jumped a barrier, veered into Delaware Park, killed a three-year-old boy, and severely injured his five-year-old sister.
Constructed in the early 1960s, the 3.6-mile four-lane highway carries between 37,600 and 65,000 vehicles per day between Interstate 190 and State Route 33, another expressway. In addition to cutting through Delaware Park, the Scajaquada runs alongside the 10,000-student campus of Buffalo State, approximately two miles north of downtown.

For decades, community members have demanded that the expressway be redesigned as a parkway to cut noise, pollution, and dangerous high-speed traffic—and to reconnect Delaware Park to adjacent neighborhoods. Now, the project has support of Governor Andrew Cuomo, the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), and local Buffalo stakeholders.

In 2005, the City of Buffalo and NYSDOT conducted a study known as the Expanded Project Proposal (EPP) to explore ways to redesign the Scajaquada and alleviate negative impacts on the community. With significant public input, the EPP established a preferred design that reduced vehicular speed to 30 miles per hour, improved the aesthetic of the thoroughfare, and incorporated pedestrian crossings and bicycle lanes.
Photo / NYSDOT rendering of intersection at Parkside Avenue, criticized locally for being a danger to pedestrians. Credit / NYSDOT
Photo, top / The Scajaquada Expressway, 2013. Credit / Mike Puma, Buffalo Rising
In the summer of 2015, following the tragic crash, NYSDOT made swift short-term improvements, decreasing posted speeds from 50 to 30 mph, and reducing all 12-foot lanes to 11 feet. Later, the DOT installed raised-table pedestrian crosswalks, new, sturdier guard railings, and additional safety improvements.

In April of 2016, Cuomo dedicated $30 million in state funding for the conversion of Scajaquada Expressway into a low-speed urban boulevard. At the time, Cuomo told the Buffalo News: “In the mid-’50s, we had a better idea and it turned out not to be a better idea, which was to move vehicles in and out of Buffalo faster by building a highway. This was not just in Buffalo; this was all over the United States. Most places have reversed their mistakes, and that’s what we are going to be doing here.”

For the project, NYSDOT estimated a total construction cost of $115 million. Alternatives are being evaluated, and the Scajaquada Corridor Coalition, a group of local stakeholders, continues to push for more people-oriented design. “At no additional cost, the community’s Scajaquada Boulevard vision could cement our city’s renaissance if vehicle traffic is not the sole consideration of its design; instead, people are,” says the coalition. Construction is expected to begin Winter of 2017/2018 and completed Fall 2018.

Interstate 345
Dallas, Texas
For two generations, I-345 has been a fact of life in Dallas, Texas. Running almost two miles along its elevated course, the freeway cuts off downtown from the adjacent historic Deep Ellum neighborhood, a major 20th-century jazz and blues hotspot. Now, surrounded by vacant lots, empty streets, and disinvestment, the highway is nearing the end of its original design life.
In Dallas, a firmly auto-oriented Sunbelt city, few dared to imagine downtown without this concrete behemoth carrying roaring motor vehicles above—until an audacious group of local activists began to run the numbers. Calling themselves A New Dallas, and led by locals Patrick Kennedy and Brandon Hancock, they made a compelling case for demolishing I-345 and reuniting downtown Dallas with Deep Ellum. Here is what they found, according to D Magazine:

“Blowing up I-345 would free up 245 acres for development that could bring in another 27,540 downtown residents and, based on developable-square-footage estimates, more than 22,550 jobs. … And those estimates are conservative. It would restitch the grid, reconnect Deep Ellum and East Dallas to downtown, and allow the active development happening farther up Central Expressway to move south. … What happens then? Within 15 years, as much as $4 billion in new investment and more than $100 million in yearly property tax revenue.”

In Dallas, a pro-growth city, those numbers attracted significant attention. But, critics asked, what would happen to the cars and trucks? Luckily, a significant portion of I-345 includes regional traffic, which could shift to other options like Loop 12, Interstate 635, and Highway 190. Meanwhile, some local traffic might shift to walking or other modes—and the rest could be handled by the city’s grid, which has excess capacity.
Photo / Removed elevated highway and opened-up land between downtown and Deep Ellum Credit / CityMAP Dallas, TxDOT
Photo, top / I-345 today. Credit / Scott Womack
In the time since I-345 was built, the city has changed profoundly. Downtown Dallas has roared back to life since 2000, adding over 8,000 residents. Deep Ellum and nearby neighborhoods like it are also gaining residents—especially in the newly transit-connected Uptown and Oak Cliff areas. In this new urban environment, A New Dallas’s ideas garnered media attention, causing the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to abandon the nine options to rebuild the highway that they had originally presented.

Most recently, the nonprofit A New Dallas has spawned the political action committee Coalition for A New Dallas, dedicated to revitalizing Dallas and electing, educating, and empowering elected officials. This extraordinarily diverse group, which unites grassroots activists with the local business community, has successfully persuaded TxDOT to launch CityMAP, a feasibility study of three options for I-345—including removal, a below-grade option, and a modified version that simply removes exit ramps.

This document is the first of its kind to study the economic and quality-of-life impacts outside of the corridor boundaries. The report indicates that, thanks to the tireless effort of local activists and stakeholders, TxDOT is seriously considering a highway teardown for I-345 to make way for walkable development—a hugely forward-thinking step toward a high-performing urban transportation system.

Interstate 70
 Denver, Colorado
For over half a century, urban highways in North America have disproportionately impacted minority communities. Running through historic neighborhoods, they have severed connectivity, demolished homes and businesses, and left blight in their wake. In Denver, the construction of Interstate 70 inflicted its ill effects on three urban neighborhoods: Elyria, Swansea, and Globeville.
In those historic minority communities, residents were cut off from opportunity, access, and needed services. Now, like many mid-20th Century highways, I-70 in Denver is reaching the end of its life cycle—and one viaduct along its route needs major repairs.

Instead, however, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has announced a $1.2 billion plan to tear down the viaduct, bury part of the highway, add four more lanes, and expand toll lanes, shoulders, and service roads. Along the way, the plan would require the state to acquire and demolish 80 residences and 17 businesses—including the neighborhood’s only source to purchase food.

Now, a group called Unite North Metro Denver has a better proposal: Reroute interstate traffic to the north, and redesign I-70 as a bike- and pedestrian-friendly boulevard. Such a plan would cut noise and air pollution while bringing new investment opportunity to neglected neighborhoods.

Furthermore, the boulevard would cost less, open up developable land, and reunite areas that have been blighted by the highway.

As the debate over I-70 has grown, national and state groups have taken notice. Environmentalist leader the Sierra Club has filed a lawsuit against EPA over the proposed widening. Meanwhile, a recent report by Colorado Public Interest Research Group advises against the expansion. The report estimates $58 million in taxpayer dollars will be wasted on a project that encourages more driving and doesn’t include expansion of mass transit.
Denver capDenver boulevard
Photo, above / Cut and cap plan, latest rendering. Credit / CDOT / Photo, bottom / Tree-lined boulevard concept. Credit / Unite North Metro Denver
Photo, top / I-70 today. Credit / CDOT
Under CDOT’s proposal, burying part of the expanded I-70 would involve digging below the water table and into polluted soils. A partial 800-foot grass cover is proposed, which will be isolated between two large frontage roads, creating an isolated “recreation island” inaccessible by pedestrians or bicycle. Moreover, the data used to justify the project is more than a decade old and ignores trends of lower-than-expected motor vehicle use.

“Instead of a grade-separated, widened superhighway, dedicated to cars and trucks,” the United North Metro Denver imagines, “a tree-lined, pedestrian-friendly boulevard emerges. Long-broken bicycle pathways are re-established.” Roundabouts could replace interchanges, freeing up land for development, tax revenue, and potential affordable housing. The traditional grid is reestablished, healing the long-separated neighborhoods.

Designed through a contextual and community-driven process, the new boulevard would open up and connect several neighborhoods and districts—including the National Western Complex, a set of historic venues associated with the National Western Stock Show and other events. Denver citizens recently voted to fund a restoration of the complex.

One city Councilman, Rafael Espinoza, has publicly embraced this planning approach. “For me, it’s not a matter of opinion — there’s hard science behind this,” he told The Colorado Independent. “Other communities have gotten wise to the fact that you get overall better communities by removing [large central highways], not expanding them. Rather than improving the quality of life in the core, we go to the status quo of displacing people and expanding urban sprawl.”

Interstate 375
 Detroit, Michigan
In Detroit, Michigan, a city built largely by and for the automobile industry, demolishing a highway seems as far from likely as anywhere. Now, however, the removal of the mile-long downtown freeway spur called Interstate 375 has emerged as a possible project—and a potential major breakthrough for the city’s urban renaissance.
Constructed in 1959, the four-lane below-ground spur that makes up Interstate 375 is a concrete barrier between Detroit’s Riverfront, Greektown, Eastern Market, and Stadium districts. To local residents, its legacy is tied to the failed urban renewal efforts that destroyed many of Detroit’s African-American neighborhoods—including several, like Black Bottom, legendary for their culture and nightlife.

In the 1940s and 50s, notes the Detroit Free Press, “The Black Bottom district…housed the city’s African-American entrepreneurial class, with dozens of thriving Black-owned businesses and the Paradise Valley entertainment zone, where Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie performed.” When I-375 was constructed, its designers plowed through the commercial heart of communities like Black Bottom and Lafayette Park—and the creation of public housing projects to the north leveled the rest.

Today, Detroit faces many challenges, including maintaining its outsize infrastructure burden despite a shrinking population. Annual daily trips on I-375 have decreased to approximately 80,000 vehicles at its north end and only 15,000 vehicles at the south, according to Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT).
Detroit blvdDetroit crosssection
Photo, above / East Edge Boulevard alternative. Credit / Future 375 Photo, bottom / East Edge Boulevard alternative cross-section. Credit / Future 375
Photo, top / I-375 today. Credit / Detroit Free Press
An Environmental Impact Statement was written to expand the highway in the early 2000s, but a lack of funding and changing conditions in the city delayed the project. When downtown strongly recovered this decade, advocates pointed to the removal of I-375 as a potential catalyst for revitalization. Replacing I-375 with a boulevard could open up about 12 acres for redevelopment, said MDOT director Kirk Steudle. “This is a significant piece of downtown Detroit,” he said.

In 2014, a coalition including MDOT, Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, and the Detroit Downtown Development Authority began studying options for the I-375 corridor. A report with six alternatives was released in 2016—including an option for rebuilding the highway ($60-70 million), replacing the highway with a multimodal boulevard ($40-50 million), and replacing it with a sunken greenway ($40-50 million).

“Scenarios retaining the freeway would operate below capacity, but existing operational issues would persist,” the study concluded, and “Freeway removal scenarios increase travel time, but acceptable operations could be achieved.”

The report left the door open to a secondary study of Jefferson Street, an equally important thoroughfare that is impacted by I-375. A careful analysis of Jefferson Street is needed if freeway demolition is to succeed. At 7-9 lanes across and carrying 29,000 cars per day, crossing Jefferson is jarring. It used to be one of Detroit’s great urban streets.

Though the lack of consensus and funding questions have put a final I-375 recommendation on hold, the City of Detroit remains open to the idea of removing the highway. All six alternatives are on the table—including a boulevard that would better connect the rapidly redeveloping east riverfront district—and as the reemergence of downtown Detroit continues, the fate of Interstate 375 will only become more and more crucial.

Interstate 980
 Oakland, California
In the city of San Francisco, two of North America’s most successful freeway removals have yielded celebrated results: the Embarcadero and Octavia Boulevards. Now, just across the bay, the City of Oakland is considering replacing an underutilized below-grade section of Interstate 980 with a surface boulevard that would reconnect West Oakland to Downtown.
The project, which has gained widespread support in recent months, would reuse the freeway space for major regional rail service running under a surface boulevard.

While the idea of removing I-980 has been discussed since its completion in the mid-80s, the current leading design concept came from a citizen-led campaign called ConnectOAKLAND, started in 2014 to advocate for the removal of the freeway and the reconnection of the street grid.

ConnectOAKLAND’s vision would create or re-open 21 new city blocks—totaling approximately 17 new acres of high-value, publicly controlled land.

“With imaginative engineering and design, [I-980] could be replaced by a boulevard lined with housing at all price levels, reknitting the urban landscape,” wrote John King of the San Francisco Chronicle, in a major review of the concept last year.
Photo / Rendering of I-980 as a multi-way boulevard. Credit / Dover, Kohl & Partners
Photo, top / I-980 today. Credit / ConnectOAKLAND
ConnectOAKLAND’s vision has gained support with community leaders and in City Hall, including from Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. “Our I-980 is a cautionary tale,” says Schaaf. “It was proposed as a part of a plan to build another Bay Bridge and a shopping mall—but this broken promise leaves us with a scar across our city that separates our residents from opportunity. In its place, we want to reknit our community, building infrastructure that creates local economic opportunity, reconnects neighborhoods, and helps connect the region.”

The freeway is now an underused remnant connecting CA-24 and I-580 to I-880. While it carries only 73,000 cars a day and no freight traffic, it cuts an enormous 18-lane swath through the center of Oakland and isolates the West Oakland neighborhood. The design of the freeway was typical of large scale 20th century infrastructure projects, which disproportionately affected low-income communities of color in a quest to improve commutes for affluent white suburbs.

A new design for this corridor could help repair the wounds of past decisions. “We believe the I-980 project must focus on equity, integration and investment in the community,” says campaign founder Chris Sensenig. “ConnectOAKLAND will continue to work with the City of Oakland to make sure the proper mechanisms are in place to improve the quality of life in the neighboring communities and limit displacement.”

The City of Oakland included the I-980 corridor multi-way boulevard into the Draft Downtown Specific Plan, and is now seeking funding for community outreach, project planning, and engineering studies. The Mayor’s Policy Director for Transportation and Infrastructure, Matt Nichols, has been actively engaging key agencies, including Caltrans, the state’s DOT, as well as HUD and FHWA, affordable housing lenders, and social equity institutions such as PolicyLink.

“While still in the early stages,” says Nichols, “the I-980 transformation could provide not only a ‘highway-to-boulevard’ repair of our urban fabric, but also a showcase for how social equity-led design could be profoundly transformative for Oakland and the region.”

Route 710
 Pasadena, California
Five mayors in the region have common sense: Why spend $6 billion for a tunnel and freeway across Pasadena, South Pasadena, Alhambra, and Los Angeles that citizens have been fighting for more than a half century? Why not use a grid of streets—the tool of a traditional city—to distribute the traffic, contributing to quality of life and land values?
The north State Route 710 tunnel, one of three alternatives proposed by California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) and supported by lobbyists, would likely induce more traffic—yet it seems to have grown a life of its own.

In 1964 the State of California seized a half-mile swath of Pasadena’s most valuable land, demolishing hundreds of houses to extend the 710 Freeway to the 110 and the 134 and 210 freeways. The stub now interrupts the street grid of neighborhoods to the east and west and separates desirable Old Pasadena from key schools, civic assets, and businesses. A similar stub was built in Alhambra and Los Angeles at the southern end.
Photo / Rendering of 710 stub removal with new development. Credit / Moule & Polyzoides
Photo, top / Route 710 stub today.
The Connecting Pasadena Project (CPP) is a community-based initiative that aims to reclaim this land for mixed-use and diverse housing. Two public workshops have generated a detailed vision based on five principal ideas: “1) Fill the freeway stub with parking and other service uses; 2) Convert the freeway into a multi-way boulevard as it enters the city; 3) Create a new network of blocks, streets and open spaces to stitch together the disconnected sides of the city; 4) Use the reclaimed land for new infill development; and 5) Regulate development in a form that is sensitive to the surrounding context.”

A five-city coalition—Glendale, Pasadena, Sierra Madre, South Pasadena, and La Cañada Flintridge—has been fighting a variety of completion schemes for decades. CPP’s proactive 710 Reclaim plan illustrates the manifold benefits of abandoning the Caltrans/Metro completion plan. The state-owned land between California Boulevard and the 210 Freeway represents nearly 2.5 million square feet of potential development, according to the Pasadena Star-News. A property with 50 developable acres does not exist anywhere else in Pasadena and would be hard to find in Los Angeles County, the paper reports.

Caltrans/Metro is currently completing their Environmental Impact Report, including proposals for both regional surface transportation alternatives such as Bus Rapid Transit and light rail as well as an abandonment/development option. Three years ago, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill effectively killing the surface option for north 710. This left the tunnel on the table as the only freeway alternative. “Except for profiting large engineering firms, the freeway provides no benefit,” says Ian Lockwood, an engineer who helped design the CPP alternative. “Even Caltrans’ traffic models show that the proposed freeway just rearranges the congestion while solving nothing.”
“It’s time for this governor, a distinguished environmentalist and urbanist, to put a final end to this disastrous boondoggle and heal the wounds inflicted by an unnecessary urban freeway,” says Stefanos Polyzoides, an architect and urbanist who led Pasadena meetings and developed the alternative land-use proposal.

Inner Loop
 Rochester, New York
First completed in 1965, the Inner Loop of Rochester, New York was designed to wrap like a noose around downtown. Combined with the rolling demolition of urban renewal, the Inner Loop served to lure and siphon residents out of the city center—and Rochester’s downtown population plummeted. “We built an evacuation route,” jokes Rochester City Engineer James McIntosh. “It worked. Everybody evacuated.”
In the past decade, however, downtown Rochester has staged a dramatic comeback. Business and retail activity has returned to the city, and its downtown population is expected to rise more than 400% by 2020. The partial removal of the Inner Loop, a groundbreaking project currently in its finishing stages, has helped drive that renaissance.

With community support and funding assistance via a USDOT TIGER grant, a one-mile segment of the Inner Loop is being filled in and restored as a walkable, multimodal at-grade boulevard surrounded by mixed-use development. While the original highway boasted twelve travel lanes despite only carrying 6,000 vehicles per day, the replacement boulevard design will require only three lanes of space—plus on-street parking, sidewalks, and green space.
Photo / Inner Loop during consturuction, circa 2015. Credit / Stantec
Photo, top / Inner Loop, prior to being filled-in. Credit / Stratus Imaging
While other cities have removed elevated and surface highways, Rochester may be the first to fill in a below-grade highway, according to The New York Times. As part of the Inner Loop conversion project, north-south streets are being reconnected for two-way traffic for the first time in more than 50 years. In effect, the project has reopened downtown for residents of Rochester’s neighborhoods.
Thanks to the project, six acres of government-owned land, and more private land, is available for redevelopment. Every parcel has a developer on board, with a mix of residential, retail, commercial, and civic uses planned. One large residential project has already completed its first phase, featuring 70 new market-rate apartments, and additional for-sale townhouses and affordable apartments are planned.

“We had a moat that separated the East Side neighborhood from downtown,” Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren told The New York Times. “Filling in the Inner Loop gives people the ability to more easily get around. It gives us more space to develop. Before this, businesses had to stop development. They had nowhere to go because of that highway.”

Now, the City of Rochester wants to fill in the northern section of the Inner Loop, which carries just 20,000-25,000 vehicles a day, and replacing it with a surface street—reconnecting the entire east and north side of downtown to nearby neighborhoods. Studies have shown that the majority of the traffic can absorb into the downtown street grid, which is well-equipped to handle the load.

Beyond even that section, the remaining Inner Loop continues to pose physical barriers between the downtown and adjacent neighborhoods, and much of the land on the corridor is vacant with an opportunity for development. The Inner Loop transformation may continue to drive Rochester’s growth in the future—revitalizing neighborhoods, bringing businesses, and adding jobs.

Interstate 280
 San Francisco, California
When the City of San Francisco chose to demolish rather than rebuild two earthquake-damaged freeways in 1989, it began a historic natural experiment in urban planning. Ultimately, that example would prove to the world that removing in-city highways could boost quality of life, economic development, and housing affordability.
Now, the City is looking toward its first fully voluntary freeway removal: 1.2-mile spur of I-280, north of 16th Street, which currently links US 101 to Mission Bay.

Just as the property tax base rose and thousands of units of affordable housing were added after the Embarcadero and Central Freeway came down, removing the I-280 Spur would open new opportunities for market-rate and affordable development in the city’s urban core.

The removal of the I-280 Spur and its replacement with a surface boulevard has been endorsed by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and studied by Bay Area nonprofit SPUR. In December 2012, a report by the City of San Francisco Planning Department compared the direct costs and benefits of replacing the 280 with a modern highway versus converting it to an urban boulevard alongside the redevelopment of the 4th/King Railyards.

Crucially for San Francisco, this project could reconnect severed neighborhoods like Mission Bay, Potero Hill, and SoMa. Once-undesirable land would be opened up to new housing and commercial development. In the face of the Bay Area’s housing crisis, this development could copy the highly successful Market & Octavia Area Plan—using diverse housing types and mixed-use buildings to fit into the established character of the neighborhood.
Photo / Drawing showing I-280 converted to an urban boulevard. Credit / SPUR
Photo, top / I-280 Spur today. Credit / Jessica Christian, SF Examiner
Moreover, the removal of the spur could serve as a catalyst for transformative projects such as the forthcoming Transbay Transit Center—scheduled to be completed late 2017—and a possible high-speed rail station where I-280 currently terminates. The freeway removal project, with its considerable political will and likely high return on investment, is a critical first step. The Railyard Alternatives and I-280 Boulevard Feasibility Study is currently underway to examine this removal.

A new neighborhood at the 4th and King Street railyards is one of many opportunities offered by the removal of the I-280 spur. “Together, these facilities consume more than 30 acres (about 1.3 million square feet) and represent antiquated uses in high value area,” wrote Gillian Gillett, the city’s transportation director, in a memo to Caltrain, which runs a commuter rail line on the San Francisco peninsula. “These sites also become the catalyst for the next round of center city job creation.”

She adds: “The region is in a position to undertake a series of major transportation moves to unify the high speed rail project, through the early investment in Caltrain electrification. It would be a mistake to move forward with electrification without also planning for transit oriented land use changes, such as an entire new neighborhood at 4th and King, that could produce significant ridership, create hundreds of millions of dollars of joint land use development opportunities and even more dynamic neighborhoods centered around the Caltrain stations.”

Interstate 81
 Syracuse, New York
For over 50 years, the elevated 1.4-mile stretch of Interstate 81 known as The Viaduct has cut like a knife through the heart of Syracuse, New York. For the urban neighborhoods in its path, I-81 has had the same effect as most urban interstates: it destroyed a historic African-American community, disrupted the flow of city streets, and paved over countless historic homes and sites.
Historically, The Viaduct’s construction forced the displacement of nearly 1,300 residents from the 15th Ward as it severed downtown Syracuse from University Hill and the Near Eastside. It created acres of abandoned property and vacant lots in what had been some of the densest parts of the city. As the path of displaced residents sparked white flight in other neighborhoods, the interstate’s effects rippled out across the city.

Now, Syracuse faces a unique opportunity to replace the elevated viaduct with a boulevard designed to reconnect the city and reverse its urban decline. Recent studies have shown that current thru-traffic could be rerouted to I-481, avoiding a crush of congestion while reopening the city grid to local residents. Today, that common-sense proposal has the support of the mayor, governor, and city council.

With The Viaduct nearing the end of its design life, two options remain for the New York State Department of Transportation: Rebuild the elevated freeway, or replace it with a surface boulevard. Compared to rebuilding, teardown would save $400 million, preserve 24 buildings, and open up the downtown to more economic development.
Photo / Rendering showing the development possbibilities of a removed I-81. Credit / ReThink81
Photo, top / I-81 today. Credit / Ryan Delaney, WRVO News
A proposed third option, involving a $2 billion highway tunnel across the city, has failed repeated technical evaluations and enjoys little support among the public. Despite this, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently directed the state DOT to revisit this and other alternatives for I-81, which could spell disaster for Syracuse.

“ReThink81, a coalition of planners, residents and other local stakeholders based in Syracuse, found that replacing I-81 with a boulevard would open up at least seven acres of land for potential development with almost $140 million in market value and $5.3 million in annual taxes,” according to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “In contrast, rebuilding The Viaduct ultimately could cause Syracuse to lose $85 million between increased taxes, significant takings of private land and buildings and depressed property values—as well as a reduction of more than $3.2 million in yearly tax receipts.”

Currently, NYSDOT is drafting an environmental impact statement identifying the preferred alternative, which is expected to be made public in early 2017.

Taking down The Viaduct “could be a transformative project that really jump-starts the entire region,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in an August 2016 speech. “I-81 did a lot of damage — a classic planning blunder. ‘Let’s build a road and bisect an entire community. That’s an idea, yeah, let me write it down.’”

Route 29
 Trenton, New Jersey
For Trenton, New Jersey, only one thing stands in the way of connecting the downtown core to the scenic Delaware River waterfront: Route 29, an underutilized four-lane highway carrying through-traffic at high speeds. Calls for the removal of Route 29, which has severed connectivity and destroyed residential communities, date back to the 1988 Capitol City Renaissance plan.
By the mid-2000s, the City and the New Jersey Department of Transportation had studied a boulevard replacement idea extensively, and momentum was growing.

That period was key to creating a workable plan, says Ian Lockwood, an engineer with Toole Design Group who consulted on the project. “Working with Gary Toth and the NJDOT was a joy. They funded the development of an updated plan and saw the benefits of replacing the highway with a boulevard, connected network of streets, and a parkway.”

Then the 2008 recession hit, developer interest dried up, and the campaign languished. Now, the concept is taking hold again—and it deserves implementation. A surface boulevard replacement for Route 29 could lay the groundwork for a vibrant, connected new waterfront neighborhood, all while allowing for environmental restoration and innovative stormwater management.

In the 1950s, the northern section of Route 29 was converted to a limited-access, four-lane highway along the Delaware River, speeding traffic from the expanding suburban fringe through downtown Trenton directly to state facilities near the waterfront. The highway’s construction eclipsed a small riverfront street in the downtown, replaced a working canal adjacent to downtown, and destroyed the city-owned Stacy Park. The roadway sits almost exclusively on a 100-year flood plain.
Trenton 29
Photo / Illustration depicting Route 29 replaced with an urban boulevard and new mixed-use district. Credit / City of Trenton
Photo, top / Route 29 today. Credit / Famartin
In 2005, the “Boulevard Study” showed that a surface street, intersected with the city grid, would improve access to the river and reclaim 18 acres of prime developable real estate. Pulling the boulevard alignment away from the river’s edge and partially rerouting it through adjacent surface parking lots was explored, and this eventually became the preferred alternative due to ease and lower costs of construction, better views of the capital buildings, and more developable land closer to the river. That plan includes a connected park system, a route to extend the River Line Light Rail, and a trail network.

In July 2016, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) issued a $100,000 grant to Trenton’s Downtown Trenton Waterfront Reclamation Redevelopment Project. According to NJ.com, “Route 29 could be rebuilt as an urban boulevard and surface parking lots will be replaced by pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use development. Funding will be used to identify studies, review FEMA regulations, and develop a market analysis and promotional materials for the project.”
The Waterfront Reclamation project is the cornerstone of a revitalization effort that, according to one estimate, could contribute $2.25 billion to the city’s economy while improving access to the river, bicycle and pedestrian connections, vehicular circulation, and traffic safety. Environmental benefits include the daylighting and restoration of the Assunpink Creek and better stormwater management to reduce the serious flooding problems in the area.

Graduated Campaigns
These campaigns represent the second generation of urban highway removal: projects where authorities have committed to removal. For some, funding sources and start dates may be still-undetermined.
Sheridan Expressway
 Bronx, New York
In March of 2016, the Sheridan Expressway Removal project was granted a $97 million boost in New York State’s budget, a major win for the more than two decades of advocacy led by the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance. For the first time, the state has agreed to fund the project, with plans to convert the expressway to a surface boulevard. The actual plan for the project remains in production by NYSDOT, and the timeline for the implementation of that plan is still unclear.
Route 59 / Innerbelt
 Akron, Ohio
The City of Akron, OH is in the middle of a multi-year process to decommission the Innerbelt highway that looms over the city’s downtown. The traffic counts are severely low. Under the decommissioning plan, the side roads that line the highway will become neighborhood connectors. Over 30 acres will open up for possible redevelopment uses like new housing, business districts, green space, trails, and civic buildings. However, the City of Akron in uncertain of what comes next with the decommissioned road.

Bonaventure Expressway
 Montreal, Quebec
Montreal began ripping down the Bonaventure Expressway in July 2016, 50 years after the 11 lane roadway was built. The promise to replace the highway received wide support, including the blessing of Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre. The highway will be replaced with two urban boulevards, at an expected cost of $142 million. The project is expected to be finished September 2017.
Robert Moses Parkway
 Niagara Falls, New York
For decades, the Robert Moses Parkway has cut off Niagara Falls from its scenic gorge. Thankfully, the State of New York has promised $42 million to remove two miles of the highway, opening up 140 feet of park space. This is “the largest expansion of green space since the Niagara Reservation was designed in 1885,” The Buffalo News reports. The removal plan will re-establish waterfront access for the city and increase parks, trails, and ecotourism. The project will result in the removal of the elevated embankment to at-grade, opening views and access to the Upper Niagara River.
McGrath Highway
 Somerville, Massachusettes
The City of Somerville has asserted itself as a desirable destination for tech companies, green businesses, and maker spaces. LivableStreets Alliance, a local advocacy group, has worked with a coalition of neighborhood groups, advocacy organizations, and elected officials to reknit East and West Somerville back together by “grounding” the McGrath Highway that cuts through town. After years of public engagement and study, MassDOT agreed. The DOT has committed to replacing the highway with a surface boulevard, slated for construction in 2026-2029.