Metro Board supports local road improvements to help remedy 710 gap traffic

 

The Metro Board of Directors approved a motion today by a 12 to 0 vote that calls for Metro to fund local road improvements to address traffic congestion caused by the 4.5-mile gap in the 710 freeway between Alhambra and Pasadena. Many Board Members said they hoped to do something immediate rather than wait years for a freeway tunnel that may never have enough funding and/or political support to be built.

Among those improvements that can now be funded: traffic signal upgrades and synchronization, local street and intersection improvements, improved connections to existing bus service and the promotion of rideshare in the area.

The motion approved by the Board today is the latest development in the decades-long saga involving the freeway gap. The 710 opened to Valley Boulevard in Alhambra in 1965 but a planned extension north to a junction with the 134 and 210 freeways in Pasadena has since met near constant funding and legal challenges. Over the years, there has been widespread agreement the gap increases traffic on local roads but considerable disagreement over what should be done about it.

“I’ve thought the tunnel was the best approach, but I’ve also come to the realization that it’s un-fundable and if it happened it was many, many years away,” said Board Chair and Duarte Mayor Pro Tem John Fasana, adding that the tunnel would not confer immediate benefits to residents and businesses impacted by the gap.

In 2011, and with $780 million in new funding from the Measure R sales tax (approved by L.A. County voters in 2008), Caltrans and Metro essentially started from scratch with a new environmental study to identify a project to tackle and help relieve traffic caused by the gap. The project’s environmental study looked at five alternatives: the legally-required no build option, a freeway tunnel, light rail, bus rapid transit and the “Transportation System Management/Transportation Demand Management (TSM/TDM)” alternative — which is now the Metro Board’s official ‘locally preferred alternative’ for the project.

The new study found a freeway tunnel would meet the project purpose and need, and offer the most mobility improvements (see this project status update and the project’s performance evaluation matrix below). But the Metro Board was faced with this dilemma: there was only $780 million in funding available for a tunnel expected to cost much more. And with more legal challenges to a tunnel likely on the horizon, prospects were very dim for finding other funding sources.

Under the motion approved by the Board, $105 million from Measure R would be used for local road projects described above. The remaining funds from Measure R could be used for new mobility improvement projects.   

Under the motion approved by the Board, $105 million from Measure R would be used for local road projects described above. The remaining funds from Measure R could be used for projects including — but not limited to — sound walls, transit and rail capital improvements, bikeways, pedestrian improvements, signal synchronization, left turn signals, major street resurfacing and reconstruction. Those projects would be located in Alhambra, La Canada-Flintridge, Pasadena, South Pasadena and the 90032 zip code, which includes parts of the city of L.A.

Other funds would also be available to Metro’s Central Subregion — i.e. unincorporated East Los Angeles, El Sereno and the city of L.A. — would be prioritized for ‘multi-modal and safety enhancements’ that are within the project’s study area.

Public testimony continued for well over an hour. There was considerable support for the Board’s action with many speakers heaping scorn on a prospective tunnel while saying it was time to move on to other options.

The project’s final environmental study is scheduled to be completed later this year. Even if Caltrans selects the freeway tunnel as the preferred alternative, the motion approved by the Metro Board would prevent funding a tunnel with Measure R funds — the only money currently available for a tunnel.

(pdf here)

9 replies

  1. I came late to the NO on 710 Tunnel fight. In fact I didn’t even make the victorious Metro Board meeting today because I had a previous appointment to begin construction of the new website of the Los Angeles Union Station Historical Society–www.launionstationpreservation.org. However, it makes sense in a way because LA grew into a paradise via the rails of our own Pacific Electric Ry. and Los Angeles Rys., not via the congested and polluted freeways first developed in NAZI Germany.
    So to all those who would still see our city strangled by more concrete freeways, I recall the fateful words of Omar Khayyam:

    “The Moving Finger writes; and having writ,
    Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
    Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line…of it.”

  2. Since the local residents seem to oppose all of the alternatives, how do they propose, or what do they suggest, to close that gap?

    • They probably wish that the freeway stumps didn’t exist; that the stumps were demolished and the interchanges rebuilt as T-Junctions. But that would be too much of a step backwards.

  3. Now, we must all work with Alhambra to use some of the hundreds of millions of dollars saved from the 710 Tunnel fiasco to help sort out its honest traffic needs, which I recall, in part goes back decades when a then petulant and pro-710 Pasadena City Council blocked streets, ambush-style, funneling more traffic into Alhambra. We need solutions that work for our communities, not just for CalTrans’ freeway-huggers, construction contractor dynasties (you know who you are) and here today; gone tomorrow construction unions.

    • Pray tell which streets did Pasadena block? I know South Pasadena blocked some off of Columbia (because drivers were skirting down some side streets at excessive speed to avoid Fremont [Fremont is the only street that connects through, across the 110 and down across Huntington Dr, and across the train tracks in Alhambra to Valley.) BTW Alhambra did close off streets between the 710 and Fremont back in the 70’s and or 80’s).

      I have lived in the middle of the 710 issue most of my life.