By Ted AYALA
Benjamin Franklin famously said that, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” To that many residents of the eastern San Fernando Valley, western San Gabriel Valley, and northeast Los Angeles would probably add the following: debates on the 710 Freeway extension.
For the past 40 years, CalTrans’ proposal to build a five-mile extension of freeway linking the 710 from Alhambra to the 134/210 interchange in Pasadena has been met with both vociferous criticism and support, not to mention various lawsuits filed against the state and CalTrans on behalf of communities affected by the freeway extension.
Last Saturday, Jan. 22, people from different sides of the debate met at the auditorium of Pasadena’s Maranatha High School to discuss the 710 Freeway extension that would run through South Pasadena. Over 300 people packed Maranatha‘s auditorium.
On the discussion panel were Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian, who also serves on the MTA board of directors, fellow MTA board member Douglas R. Failing and Dr. Gene Kim representing the Swedish developer Skanska. Moderating the discussion was Cynthia Kurtz of the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership.
Addressing the possibility of extending the freeway by tunnel instead of a surface freeway, Najarian said, “We want to live in a community where we can get around.
“We don’t want to be stuck in gridlock. But I don’t think the 710 tunnel is a viable project that can settle our traffic problems.”
Pointing out that the projected cost for the tunnel extension has ranged from $1.2 billion as high as $12 billion, Najarian warned that, “We as a region owe it to ourselves to find out how much this project costs […] before we make a decision.”
Dr. Gene Kim was, however, more optimistic about the possibilities of the 710 tunnel and what it could do to alleviate traffic in the region.
“How does [the tunnel] fit with an idea of a sustainable transportation future?” Kim asked. “In my mind,
the 710 ‘freeway’ is a relic. What [the tunnel] means to me is a ‘710 gap closure 2.0.’ It’s about improved technology.”
The discussion was lively but despite the passion the issue has raised
with many it remained polite and friendly.
At the discussion’s close, a future similar event was announced for February.
Afterward Cynthia Kurtz expressed her pride in the event‘s success.
“This is exactly what we were hoping for,” she said. “We need to engage
the community and get them to participate in this very important issue.”