SR-710: Metro Committee Backs ‘Transportation Management’ Over Tunnel

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Decades of uncertainty and discord over the controversial State Route 710 North project could soon turn a new page if transportation officials vote Thursday to adopt a recommendation to fund a traffic management system as the preferred route to fill the transportation “gap” between the Long Beach (710) and Foothill (210) freeways.

The decision by the Metro Ad-Hoc Congestion, Highway and Roads Committee to support the traffic management system alternative over a proposal to build a 6.3-mile tunnel to close the gap, however, is not without controversy.

Eddie Torres, president of the East Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and a longtime proponent of the tunnel alternative, told EGP he was stunned by committee member and Metro Board Chair John Fasana’s unexpected motion to bypass the tunnel option for the street management system.

Fasana is also mayor pro tem of Duarte — a San Gabriel Valley city where streets are not impacted by the traffic spilling over from the 710 terminus in Alhambra — and had previously expressed support for the tunnel alternative.

Torres went on to say he believes Fasana was pushed to make the motion and become the “bad guy” because the decision would not be controversial among his constituents.

The proposed traffic management system, one of five alternatives under consideration in the SR-710 Study, would upgrade and synchronize signals and make other enhancements to local streets and intersections. Proponents say it’s a more cost-effective and achievable plan to improve the traffic congestion that has made traveling north from the 710’s end on Valley Boulevard to connect to the 210 in South Pasadena a nightmare.

Last week, after two years reviewing some 8,000 public comments and weighing the impacts and benefits of each of the five alternatives under consideration, the SR-710 Study team presented the tunnel option as the preferred alternative to Metro’s Ad-Hoc Committee, but with a caveat.

In a letter to stakeholders, Metro officials explained the single bore freeway tunnel with tolls and truck restrictions was the alternative that “best addresses the purpose and need of the project,” however, with a price tag of $1.5 billion, it is “not fundable in the foreseeable future.”

(METRO)

(METRO)

Only $780 million in Measure R funds were earmarked for the SR-710 North project.

In response, Fasana moved to make the transportation system management alternative the preferred option. His motion calls for using $105 million of the Measure R funds to build the system and for the remainder to be used on new mobility improvement projects to relieve congestion in the San Gabriel Valley.

On Wednesday, the Los Angeles City Council threw its support behind legislation by a Pasadena assemblyman that would prohibit the construction of a tunnel to extend the 710 Freeway between Alhambra and Pasadena. Residents of the more affluent areas of Pasadena and South Pasadena have long opposed the tunnel and most other options as disruptive to their neighborhoods, while residents in less affluent East Los Angeles and Commerce have complained they have disproportionately shouldered the burden of the region’s transportation needs.

The bill by Assemblyman Chris Holden — which failed its first hearing in April but could be reconsidered — would create the I-710 Gap Corridor Transit Zone Advisory Committee, which would review a wide range of mass transit options to fill the 6.2-mile gap between Alhambra and Pasadena, which currently are linked only by surface streets. They would recommend solutions that do not include a tunnel or a surface freeway.

It’s not clear if the options to be considered would be those already considered in the SR-710 Study and Draft EIR, or if the process would start over.

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 Holden’s bill.

“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.

Metro received 1,328 comments supporting the tunnel alternative. Torres calls the traffic management system a “band aid solution.”

“Why ask us for our opinion if you’re only going to use money as an excuse to not give us what we want,” he complained.

If not fundable, Metro officials should have removed the tunnel as an option years ago when the cost estimates were released, Torres said.

“Why spend money on this study and process if they already knew how expensive [the tunnel]would be” and had no way to make it a reality, he added in frustration.

Over the last few years, Metro has held dozens of public hearings and informational workshops in the various communities impacted by the SR-710. They shared the findings from the Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement on each of the five alternatives, which also included a light rail train, a rapid bus line and a “no build” option.

Members of the 710 coalition, a group in favor of the tunnel with members from Alhambra, Monterey Park, Rosemead, San Gabriel and San Marino, were thrilled to learn the study team’s report favored a tunnel, which they argue will reduce congestion, air pollution, emissions and cut-through traffic.

“Lets stop debating and start building,” urged Alhambra Mayor Dave Mejia in a note to supporters last week. But upon learning of the new motion, Monterey Park Mayor Teresa Real Sebastian urged residents to attend the upcoming Metro Board meeting to express their disapproval.

“Instead of listening to Metro staff, the Ad Hoc Committee approved a motion that goes against the wishes of the voters when you approved Measure R and the completion of the 710 gap,” she wrote in an email to residents.

According to Los Angeles Councilman Jose Huizar’s spokesperson, Rick Coca, his boss is concerned there are no specific provisions in Fasana’s motion to relieve traffic congestions in two of the most highly impacted areas, East Los Angeles and El Sereno, a neighborhood the councilman represents.

Those areas have been inundated with commuters trying to get around traffic tie-ups, and the resulting pollution from vehicle emissions.

But Huizar on Wednesday voted to support Holden’s bill, saying he, Sup. Hilda Solis and Mayor Garcetti all oppose building a 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.

According to Coca, Huizar will send a letter to the Metro Board detailing his concerns with the Ad Hoc Committee’s recommendation, and advocate that the plan ultimately approved serve the needs of his eastside constituents.

The Metro Board could vote on Fasana’s motion as early as Thursday. A final environmental document is expected to be completed in 2018 before the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) District 7 makes the final selection on the alternative to move forward.

Information from City News Service used in this report.

 

Posted - Copyright © 2022 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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1 Comment


  1. The tunnel is on my opinion the most effective option to resolve this persistent problem.

    A tunnel will not be invasive to our community as a surface freeway.

    Improving and synchronize what is on place now is just not going to work.

    The tunnel is going to decongest, the most critical area, and by consequence the traffic in other places of our city will be improved. For example I live on Highland Park and on my way to Commerce instead of taking directly the 710 FWY which is the most direct line I have to take 110 South, then 5 South, and then at the end the 710 S. Fwy.

    On top a project of the magnitude of the tunnel, will go accord with the progress of the technology and the prestige of our city.

    The project will bring jobs to our community, the federal government is looking for projects like this to put our country in motion.

    Please fight for make the tunnel possible.

    Thanks.

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