Renewed Efforts Keep 710 Freeway Debate Hot

Expanded committee, new research initiative on agenda for closing the 710 freeway gap

The light at the end of the tunnel could be in sight for a decades-long battle to close the 710 Freeway “gap” in the San Gabriel Valley.

However, the two cities in the direct path of a 710 Freeway solution—Alhambra and South Pasadena—are deeply divided over what resolution would best serve the area.

The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority (Metro) kicked off a series of meetings Jan. 18 with members of the 710 Freeway project’s Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), whose members include Alhambra, South Pasadena and many other San Gabriel Valley cities.

According to Metro officials, the meetings serve to get more cities involved in the project—Metro has recently invited more than 30 cities to take part in this latest effort—and help them make a more comprehensive decision based on several options.

Another recent development in the project’s progress is the $37 million contract Metro made in December with consulting firm CH2M Hill to perform a three-year environmental study and prepare a report of findings to determine the best option.

Alhambra Councilwoman Barbara Messina, who has been in office and involved with the project for 28 years, sees this environmental report as the final step in a long-awaited solution to the gap, which has stifled the entire Los Angeles freeway system and congested traffic for too many years, she said.

“It’s about time,” Messina said. “The freeway system is like an octopus, and all the parts need to be able to work together to operate at its maximum capacity. This missing link affects the whole system.”

But in neighboring South Pasadena, city officials hope the environmental research will support their desire for a more environmentally sustainable option than the tunnel solution backed by Alhambra.

“We’re asking for a paradigm shift,” said South Pasadena Transportation Manager Dennis Woods. “We want to look into making other modes of transportation more viable, rather than just the automobile.”

Woods supports a multi-modal approach, which would incorporate options like trains, subways, and bike and pedestrian paths to solve the area's traffic predicament without relying on a freeway.

According to Woods, the bulk of the evidence presented by Metro at the Jan. 18 meeting ignored environmental concerns and was skewed toward freeway congestion and accidents. 

That myopic approach, he said, may lead the panel to conclude that a tunnel is necessary. But that would be a mistake, he said.  

“We’re looking at it as a long-term quality of life issue,” Woods said, citing the importance of considering air quality and health factors in the decision.

Messina counters that such alternate proposals won't solve the problem. 

She points to several reports, including one in 1993 by the California Department of Transportation, Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), and Metro, which found that the multi-modal, or low-build approach proposed by South Pasadena was impractical and inefficient.

In their latest Regional Transportation Plan, SCAG, which presides over Metro, included revenues from the 710 tunnel as part of a funding strategy.

The next TAC meeting will take place in the second week of February.

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