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Guest Column: The case against building the 710 Freeway tunnel

May 25, 2011|By Donald R. Voss

At the May 11 meeting of the California Transportation Commission in Los Angeles, the Commissioners heard a Caltrans update on the so-called “SR-710 Gap Closure Project.” This proposed project would extend the 710 (Long Beach) Freeway from its northern terminus in Alhambra to intersect with 210 Freeway in Pasadena by way of a 5-mile tunnel. If built, this freeway extension would bring much greater vehicular traffic to La Cañada Flintridge and would create significant health risks stemming from increased air pollution. I made comments to the Commissioners regarding the update and I wanted to share them with La Cañada Flintridge readers.

First, let me say that we are fully aware of the congestion problem that exists at the northern terminus of the 710 Freeway in the Alhambra area. As stakeholders in the region, we want to help find good ways to solve that problem. And, more broadly, let me say that we support good ways to improve mobility in our region and in Los Angeles County.

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But we reject and oppose the knee-jerk 50-year-old “let's-build-another-freeway” solution as the only way to proceed.

It's the 21st century and we should be able to use 21st-century knowledge, sensitivities and technology to create a modern, efficient and cost-effective solution that all stakeholders can embrace.

A 1946 planning map shows a number of proposed freeways in the Los Angeles area, and a freeway running between Long Beach and Pasadena is one of them. While many of these proposed freeways were built, some of them were not built and never will be built, such as the Beverly Hills Freeway. A line drawn on a map 65 years ago is neither an authorization nor an obligation to build a freeway today. We reject the notion that a northward extension of the 710 freeway constitutes a gap closure.

The idea of a 5-mile tunnel to connect the 710 with the 210 in Pasadena arose after the Federal Highway Administration in 2003 withdrew its support of a surface extension through South Pasadena. Since then, a series of Metro/Caltrans studies and outreach meetings have taken place which have all seemed designed to support a predetermined bias for the tunnel option.

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