Should Metro build a 710 freeway tunnel?
Metro and CalTrans have already spent two years researching how to relieve traffic in Los Angeles County. Their study, SR-710, began in 2011 with 40 different traffic alternatives. By 2012, it became 12 options and is now narrowed down to five.
The study focuses on the gap between the 710 and the 210 freeways, forcing commuters to take local streets to travel north and south in the San Gabriel Valley. According to Metro spokeswoman Helen Ortiz-Gilstrap, there are 60,000 cars on Fair Oaks Avenue and 50,000 cars on Fremont Avenue per day and the gridlock in that area is very severe.
Metro’s five alternatives are:
- No-build: The only changes will be those already planned by local jurisdictions.
- Transportation System Management/Transportation Demand Management: Metro would improve the existing system by introducing strategies such as coordinating traffic signal timing and promoting carpooling and public transit.
- Bus Rapid Transit: By creating bus lanes, high speed and high frequency buses would run between 18 proposed locations.
- Light Rail Transit: Metro would build a 7.5 mile light rail with trains connecting East Los Angeles to Pasadena.
- Freeway Tunnel: A 6.3 mile four-lane tunnel would connect the end of the 710 freeway in Alhambra with the 210 freeway in Pasadena.
This study and the controversial freeway tunnel have spurred cities to go head-to-head. The south portal of the freeway tunnel would be south of Valley Boulevard by Hellman Avenue, and the north portal would be at Del Mar Avenue and Green Street. Alhambra, Monterey Park, Pasadena, Rosemead, San Marino and Duarte are in favor of this project.
“We feel in town that the tunnel would be the best option. It will reduce congestion throughout the entire freeway system by 20 percent when all the other options may only have a two to four percent impact on traffic, congestion, air pollution and air quality,” said Alhambra Mayor Steven Placido on AirTalk.
However, South Pasadena, La Cañada, Glendale and Los Angeles oppose the freeway tunnel. South Pasadena Mayor Pro Tem Dr. Marina Khubesrian, also joined AirTalk to raise her concerns. She believes that this freeway tunnel is contrary to Metro’s efforts of reducing drivers through public transportation.
“It does not address our congestion issues and our need for transit and public transportation. I agree that there is a need to relieve congestion; however, building freeways is not the way to do it," said Khubesrian about the tunnel. "We’ve also looked at the tunnel option and see that it would actually increase pollution in the area and it would not relieve congestion.”
Khusbesrian also voiced her concerns about truck fires on an underground freeway and a ten-year construction process. She said the freeway and the building process would cause greenhouse gases, increased pollution, respiratory illnesses and Valley Fever.
Placido responded to air quality concerns by saying that the traffic congestion currently goes by five elementary schools, two college campuses, and a high school.
“That can’t be good for our kids. This traffic belongs on a freeway, and we need to address that demand now,” said Placido.
Metro has also been under fire for being biased in this study, and Doug Failing, executive officer of Metro Highway Program, is accused of already meeting with private investors to build the freeway tunnel.
“We’ve been approached by a number of firms. Some of them are looking at the highway as a possible project. Others are looking at the light rail line as a possible project," said Failing on AirTalk. "They’ve come in to let us know they’re available, that at some point if we put a project out we can anticipate bidders on it. But none of that goes into the environmental process. None of that affects the decision at the end of the day."
Opponents pointed out that since the money isn’t there for a freeway tunnel, Metro would have to go to investors. And with investors involved, that means this freeway tunnel would be a toll road. Critics say working class citizens would not be able to pay daily tolls and would still take local streets.
Pai En Yu contributed to this online article.
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Doug Failing, Executive Officer for Metro Highway Program; oversees the environmental study on the 710
Steven Placido, D.D.S., Mayor of Alhambra
Marina Khubesrian, M.D., Mayor Pro Tem of South Pasadena
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