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Tunnel drives 710 Freeway debate

Some consider MTA's dropped alternatives as little more than window dressing.

August 25, 2012|By Adolfo Flores and Daniel Siegal, Times Community News
  • Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials jettisoned seven of 12 routes to connect the 710 Freeway with other highways.
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority… (Raul Roa / Staff…)

The freeway is dead, the tunnel is not and leaders in South Pasadena and nearby cities hope to convince transportation planners to look to a mixture of rail, transit and street upgrades to solve traffic problems in the region.

Last week saw a flurry of activity in the decades-long controversy over how to improve traffic in the so-called 710 gap between Alhambra, where the Long Beach (710) Freeway ends, and Pasadena.

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials jettisoned seven of 12 alternatives that were under study. They knocked out a long-contested surface highway connecting the 710 in Alhambra to the Foothill (210) Freeway in Pasadena, routes along Avenue 64 and Fair Oaks Avenue in Pasadena, and transit alternatives that planners said were costly and environmentally unsound.

The five remaining alternatives include a 4.5-mile tunnel to connect the 710 to the 210, transit upgrades, improvements to local streets and the “no-build” alternative planners must consider in their environmental study. The study is slated to wrap up in 2014. MTA officials have said repeatedly they don't favor one option over the other.

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But foes believe the tunnel remains the likeliest plan, since it would provide a new route over which trucks could move cargo inland from the Port of Los Angeles.

South Pasadena City Manager Sergio Gonzalez welcomed Thursday's decision to kill the surface highway. He said he hopes MTA's next decision will be to study multi-modal alternatives, including rail for cargo and transit for commuters.

“We firmly believe that's the best way to deal with traffic issues in the region,” Gonzalez said. “Expanding the light rail system to move people, moving goods through heavy rail, and expanding bike facilities throughout the region will all help us become less dependent on the auto and move goods more efficiently.”

Bill Sherman, a South Pasadena resident and an opponent of the freeway extension, said the tunnel should be the next to go because it would do nothing to ease local traffic.

“The tunnel is a lose-lose situation for the public and a win-win solution for the ports, the truckers and the shipping interests,” Sherman said. “The multimode is the only solution that preserves our way of life without killing us or costing us too much money.”

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