By Jason KUROSU
The long-awaited latest draft of the SR-710 study Environmental Impact Report was released on Friday beginning a four-month countdown for interested groups seeking to weigh-in on the controversial project.
Five alternatives remain: the freeway tunnel with dual-bore and single-bore variations, bus rapid transit, light rail transit, Transportation System Management/Transportation Demand Management and a No Build alternative.
Assemblymember Mike Gatto asked for an extension on the 90-day public comment period, a request which was granted by Caltrans. Caltrans also will be holding an additional public hearing, per Gatto’s request, adding to the two meetings already confirmed for April.
“The processes have rightfully gotten the community very upset,” said Gatto. “It’s very critical that the State Department hears all of the proceedings regarding this project.”
Advocacy groups both in favor and opposed to the tunnel are poring over the report in the early days of the release, hoping that the now 120-day comment period will be sufficient to review the document.
Susan Bolan of the No 710 Action Committee, who is opposed to the freeway tunnel alternative, said that one early topic of emphasis is the proposed 50-foot tall ventilation structures, which would be located at Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena.
Bolan called the proposed structures “truly an insult to the city.”
Other early reactions include those of Alhambra City Councilmember Barbara Messina and La Cañada Mayor Pro Tem Donald Voss, both of whom appeared on Airtalk KPCC on Monday to discuss the EIR.
Messina, whose city is part of the 710 Coalition in support of the tunnel, said that traffic has become a problem in Alhambra, where trucks and other vehicles are forced to travel on Alhambra’s surface streets because of the lack of a freeway connection between the 710 and 210 freeways.
Messina said that schools in Alhambra have also been affected by close proximity to freeways resulting in poor air quality, but said “to get those trucks and cars off of our arterial streets will make a quality of life difference in the city of Alhambra.”
Voss, whose city is part of the Five Cities Alliance opposed to the tunnel alternative, identified similar concerns with air quality, but in reference to the freeway tunnel alternative.
Voss said, “Our primary issue with the tunnel would be [increased health risks due to the increase in traffic],” noting the close proximity of 10 schools near the 210 freeway. “Study after study shows proximity like that creates permanent health damage to children under the age of 10,” Voss said. “This is something that, as a city councilmember, we have to protect against.”
Messina said that air quality concerns would be addressed by the air scrubbers and other components of the ventilation system, which she said would “scrub any particulates coming out, so that it would be cleaner than the virgin air.”
Voss called the claims of air scrubbers producing cleaner air than would exist outside the tunnel “hard to believe.”
Voss and other opponents to the tunnel support alternate means of transportation, whether that be light rail or some combination of the other alternatives.
“For so long, Los Angeles has relied upon automobiles as the only mode of transportation and we’re choking on it now. We need alternative means to get around Los Angeles Basin. Light rail is a component of that,” said Voss. “We have an opportunity here to build something that will make our grandchildren proud, not sick, and I think we should be pursuing 21st century solutions.”
Messina called light rail “a monster of a solution” to the 710 extension debate.
“When it comes to Alhambra and Monterey Park and East L.A., it is a rail in the sky, an aerial. That’s totally going to be unacceptable and it’s undoable. There’s no money in that.”
Messina said she was optimistic that money could be raised to fund the $5.5 billion through a public/private partnership, along with $780 million in Measure R funds which will be provided for the project.
Currently there are two confirmed public hearings: Saturday, April 11 at East Los Angeles College, Rosco Ingalls Auditorium from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Tuesday, April 14, at the Pasadena Convention Center from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The date and location of the third public hearing has yet to be confirmed.
To view the draft EIR, visit http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist07/resources/envdocs/docs/710study/draft_eir-eis/.