By Jason KUROSU
Metro and Caltrans hosted one of a series of open house sessions in an effort to educate and compile public opinions on the ever-continuing debate over a potential 710 Freeway extension. One such open house was held at La Cañada High Saturday morning, in which the gym was transformed with interactive displays of the various options for reducing traffic and congestion.
Rather than employing a lecture hall format, the process was made more interactive, with stations detailing the history of the SR 710 study, overviews of the environmental review or EIR/EIS process and the different concepts currently being discussed. These included connecting the 710, as well as alternative or “no build” solutions such as increasing available bus and light rail transit or managing the demand for travel at peak hours. Attendees could even post their thoughts directly onto the information station boards and speak with Metro and Caltrans technicians for clarification.
“We’ve had a very good level of participation,” said Metro Communication manager and Media Relations spokeswoman Helen Gilstrap. “We could have gone the route of a sit-down lecture in an auditorium, but with this approach, people can walk around and engage themselves with our information stations and the technicians.”
Many of the posts attendees put on the boards expressed concerns with air quality, noise pollution, lowered property values and increased truck traffic should a 710 connection be made. Three of the four current “build” or “highway/arterial” concepts involve tunnel additions of different kinds, another point of contention with the “build” solutions.
“No build” concepts included various ways to make up the travel needed without any extension of the freeway. One such solution was increased bus and light rail options for travel, with dedicated lanes for the bus routes and light rail lines similar to the Metro Gold Line. There are also alternatives involving managing the amount of traffic on highways called TSM/TDM (Transportation System Management/Travel Demand Management) strategies. These strategies, if utilized, would try to improve the capacity of highway traffic through methods such as coordinating traffic signals, increasing transit service and encouraging traveling in non-peak periods. Other alternatives include increased local street improvements such as widening local streets and adding lanes and even forays into advanced technology such as in-line electric vehicle technology and automated vehicle guided systems.
Metro and Caltrans will host six of these open house sessions in total with the last one tonight, May 24 at the First Baptist Church in Alhambra. It is not anticipated that the EIR/EIS will be completed until fall of 2013.
For more information on the concepts being considered in this project, visit www.metro.net/sr710study.