710 Project gains momentum

With the passage of Measure R by the voters last November, the $780 million allocated for the 710 extension has accelerated a geotechnical study that began in June of 2008.  The study by Caltrans and Metro is examining the feasibility of constructing a substantial road tunnel, to expand the 710 freeway where it ends on the north and attaching it to the 210, 2, or 605 freeways. The exact route of the proposed four-to-five mile tunnel would depend on the results of soil analysis and seismic testing. If built, the tunnel would be the longest in the U.S. and could have an estimated cost of over $11 billion. The road would most likely be funded through public–private partnerships and have a $5-$10 toll. Supporters, like those who live in Alhambra, claim that completing the section would solve their current traffic issues. Others are not so sure.

The battle that began in 1949 with South Pasadena’s first resolution against the extension continues to be fought today. Communities such as Mt. Washington, Eagle Rock, and La Crescenta are becoming increasingly concerned about the effects of such an expansion on their neighborhoods. The cities of Glendale and La Cañada-Flintridge have both recently filed formal resolutions against the plan. If completed, the tunnel would link the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to nearby freeways, allowing more goods movement by truck. Conservatively, it is estimated that by the year 2030, more than 30,000 additional vehicles would be shifted to the 210 freeway per day. The traffic noise and pollution could reach hazardous levels for those who live and attend school along the proposed route. Also too would be the inherent fire danger in the tunnel due to accidents. Local groups suggest that it is just not worth it.

Caltrans scheduled a number of outreach sessions last spring, designed to explain the geotechnical study and to gain support but public resistance is growing stronger than ever. The grass roots movement that started 60 years ago is evolving as more communities join the fight. Leaders such as Assemblymember Anthony Portantino and Glendale City Councilmember Ara Najarian have publicly rejected the freeway project as impractical, not just in their own districts, but anywhere in the north east. Supervisor Michael Antonovich is looking at rail options for better movement of cargo from the Ports.

Glassell Park Improvement Association’s Vice President Scott Piotrowski says, “The idea of extending the 710 freeway to connect to the 210 is outdated. Its history dates back to the car culture society of the mid-20th century that caused Los Angeles to grow outward. It is time to look for a contemporary solution to this old problem. And that solution must include green technologies, mass transit, and better movement of freight along rail lines from the Ports.” Multi-Mode, Low Build alternatives are more sensible.

In September, the California Legislature passed SB545 written by Senator Gilbert Cedillo. The bill is expected to be signed or vetoed by the governor by Oct. 11. The main component of the bill eliminates the option of a surface route, thereby ensuring a tunnel. Some South Pasadena residents are hopeful that the passage of the bill into law will force Caltrans to sell the 500 houses that they have owned through imminent domain since the 1960s. Opponents of the bill feel that Caltrans will hold onto the properties because tunnel portals (entrance/exit) need to be at surface level, along with several 100 foot ventilation structures. Many houses will be demolished in spite of the law.

Crescenta Valley residents will be watching this debate closely, to be sure.

Susan Bolan

La Crescenta

Source information available upon request