By Steve Scauzillo, July 24, 2017
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.