710 Extension Debate Continues


The 710 Freeway began as Legislative Route 167 in 1933. In 1947, LR 167 was extended to include Pasadena. By the mid 1960s, there was already construction underway for the enhanced freeway version of the street-based SR 167, dubbed SR 7. It was slated to connect to the 210 and the 134 in Pasadena and continue Ocean Avenue in Long Beach. The spur of unoccupied freeway past the eastbound 210/134 interchange toward California Boulevard, which has for the last 43 years been home to only construction equipment, is a remnant of those plans.

SR 7 opened in 1965 with its northern terminus at Valley Boulevard in Alhambra and, when the freeway was officially named I-710 and the construction of the extension was approved to finish it up through Pasadena in 1984, construction halted due to public outcry and legal disputes.

That is a very brief history of the situation that was still under debate last Wednesday night, June 13, at the Metro Public Information Meeting at Maranatha High School in Pasadena.

“Now is the time to look beyond the freeway and beyond a tunnel. It’s time to look towards a solution that takes into account the state you need for smart growth and multi-modal solutions that do not increase traffic and destroy the character of our city, but fulfill today’s and future generations’ transportation needs while honoring our past,” said Catherine del Rosario, reading a statement from CA State Assembly member Chris Holden, serving District 41 (Pasadena to Upland).

The tunnel Holden referred to is one of the proposed options to complete the connection. A 6.3-mile underground tunnel would be constructed from the 10 Freeway and continuing, underground, just west of Fremont Avenue/Fair Oaks Avenue to meet up with the already constructed spur at the 210. The project, when originally priced out in 2014, was estimated to cost between $3.1 billion and $5.6 billion, with $50 million included for roadway enhancements around the freeway. This, according to many in attendance at the meeting who spoke out against the connection, is the least-favored alternative.

Several speakers mentioned the TSM/TDM (Transportation System Management/Transportation Demand Management) as their preferred mitigation effort. This is a four-part plan that includes ITS improvements (traffic signal synchronization and optimization to enable commuters to flow along streets more smoothly during rush hour), local street and intersection improvements, expanded bus route hours and pedestrian/bike facility enhancements. This whole project was estimated to cost only $105 million and doesn’t require anything new to be built, essentially quashing the connection. This would have the minimum adverse effect on the area, only impacting those homes directly along the route, not making anything worse but also not improving the current situation.

Other alternatives include Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) plan, which would enhance the bus system, and the Light Rail Transit (LRT) plan, which would enhance the light rail system. The BRT would require the building of dedicated bus lanes and the LRT would require the building of some tunnel sections and some aerial lifted sections of an extended Gold Line-type light rail train. These would both come with enhancements to the existing systems to entice drivers to use public transportation instead of their own vehicles.

The debate and the planned alternatives result from the newly released Focused Recirculated Draft Environmental Impact Report/Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The RDEIR/SDEIS is available to read at metro.net/projects/SR-710-Conversations and provides details on all these plans and more. For those interested, the record is open to lodge comments, and this can be done at the website through July 5.