By South Pasadena Review Online, January 12, 2017
The story of the small town of South Pasadena successfully stopping
the 710 Freeway from ripping apart its quaint neighborhoods and
destroying a town dedicated to preserving a slower, quieter, and
scalable way of life is apparently legendary in civil engineering
programs across the country.
Fred Minegar, a civil engineer and traffic consultant for South
Pasadena, who also happens to serve as a Councilmember in the City of
Laguna Niguel, fondly recalled to me studying about this great and rare
feat at his New York University graduate program.
When I hear our long time No 710 activists, preservationists, and
former mayors recount the stories over the past several decades of wins
and losses, fear and hope, fierce loyalty to and love of their city in
the epic saga that is the battle of the 710 freeway in its various
incarnations, I’m always reminded that there is no stronger force than a
group of dedicated people banding together for a just cause, in this
case to protect their 125 year old cherished city. I also hear the
frustration that this battle has gone on for far too long, and continues
to cost the city resources that could be spent on public amenities and
So, here we are studying alternatives to the 710 freeway and waiting
for Caltrans and Metro transportation authorities to process the
thousands of letters of questions, comments largely pointing out the
flaws, risks, and deficiencies of the tunnel alternative.
The study costs have far exceeded the allocated funds, are being
spent from Measure R funds which are dedicated for use in the travel
corridor between Alhambra, Los Angeles/El Sereno and Pasadena. Since
the inception of an underground freeway tunnel extending under three
cities (LA, South Pasadena, Pasadena,) there has been a transformation
in awareness and crystallizing of vision among urban planners, public
health and civic leaders throughout the State and LA County of the need
to reduce VMT (vehicle miles travelled), and offer safe and convenient
transit options to get people to their destinations.
The Complete Streets or Great Streets movement is transforming the
way people live and move about. South Pasadena experienced this
transformation with the Gold Line as thousands of people who drove to
and from, and through the city every day would take the train reducing
car traffic, increasing active transportation, and stimulating economic
growth nearby. Pasadena has four Gold Line stations and is the fastest
growing city in the San Gabriel Valley if not LA County.
It is a highly desirable place to live, work, shop, dine and study,
especially for young professionals and entrepreneurs. The prospect of a
tunnel portal spewing and gathering 40,000 more cars and trucks daily,
and ventilation portals creating hot spots of concentrated pollutants
near sensitive receptors like schools, hospitals, and medical offices is
highly objectionable to the City as evidenced by their adoption of a
resolution opposing a tunnel and supporting multimode Complete Streets
alternatives such as the Beyond the 710, and Connecting Pasadena
The Cities of La Canada, Glendale, Sierra Madre work closely with
South Pasadena and Pasadena in public outreach efforts to regional and
state leadership to embrace the progressive vision of locally supported
transportation projects that also benefit the region as outlined in the
recently passed Measure M. It’s high time to get beyond building new
freeways and stop the bleeding of resources studying alternatives that
lack local support.
The support for and passage by a large margin of Measure M, which
included language explicitly denying funds for the 710, made it clear to
the Metro board of directors that voters in LA County do not care to
see funds spent on a 710 freeway. Millennials especially came out
strong and voted to invest in a transit oriented future. We owe it to
them to move forward in connecting cities and communities in healthy,
viable, and sustainable ways.
We owe it to them to be wise with our collective resources, to act
with resolve today by not repeating the convenient mistakes of the past,
and to get on with the business of investing in a better future for
all of LA County.