Second annual '710 Day' in Alhambra aims to 'Close the gap!'

710 Day speakers | Photo by Kyle Garcia1710 Day speakers | Photo by Kyle Garcia

Alhambra’s second annual “710 Day” — a city-sponsored “urban street jam” to promote extending the 710 Freeway — drew hundreds Thursday to Fremont Avenue between Mission Road and Valley Boulevard. Traffic was backed up along Valley and Fremont due to the street closures for the event, which featured carnival games, food trucks, a live band, and pro-710 speeches from representatives from Alhambra, Monterey Park, and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

City leadership backs a proposed 4.5-mile tunnel extending the 710 Freeway in Alhambra to the 210 Freeway in Pasadena. Alhambra officials argue the tunnel would ease traffic by taking thousands of cars off of Fremont.

Audience at 710 Day | Photo by Kyle Garcia"This is a neighborhood street, it shouldn't be treated like a freeway," said Alhambra Councilman Steven Placido, addressing the number of cars that exit the 710 and take Fremont to the 210. 

Councilman Steve Placido speaking at 710 Day | Photo by Kyle Garcia

Placido went on to say residents are spending an unnecessary amount of time on the streets due to this traffic. "Their family time should not be spent in the family car," he said.

Alhambra Unified School Board Member Adele Andrade-Stadler held up her inhaler on stage, saying that she, her husband, and daughter all use the breathing devices. Andrade-Stadler argued that her house’s proximity to the traffic on Valley and Fremont contributes to her family's health conditions. "We want to stay in the community and want it to be safe,” Andrade-Stadler said. “Completing the 710 Freeway will eliminate and alleviate a lot of the pollution that our students and families breathe everyday."

Former Monterey Park Mayor Teresa Real Sebastian spoke in support of the underground tunnel. "We support bridging the gap because it is the right thing to do. Costs are escalating and the air quality isn't getting any better,” Sebastian said. "Congestion and gridlock extends for miles and it affects Alhambra and it affects my city and several other cities.”

Food trucks and residents at 710 Day | Photo by Kyle Garcia

Monterey Park is one of five cities that form the 710 Coalition, a group of pro-tunnel cities and organizations. In addition to Alhambra and Monterey Park, the 710 Coalition includes Rosemead, San Gabriel, and San Marino.

Residents expressed differing views on the 710 extension. Matthew Santiago joined because he wanted to show his support for the tunnel. "I came here to partake in it because I agree with closing the gap. It would ease congestion and heading to Pasadena would be quicker,” Santiago said.

Johnny Dominguez and Priscilla Suarez visited the festivities to become more informed on the issue. "I came here to learn more about it. I don't know yet. I have to find out first," Dominguez said.

Traffic on Valley Blvd west of Fremont Ave | Photo by Kyle Garcia

Suarez was also unsure but leaned towards being in favor of the tunnel. "I came just to find out more about it,” she said. “But I think it could ease congestion in Alhambra."

The underground tunnel is one of five proposed alternatives to close the 710 freeway gap: bus rapid transit, light rail transit, transportation system management/transportation demand management, a freeway tunnel, and a no build option. Metro is conducting an environmental impact study on the options and is expected to conclude in February 2015.

The 710 Freeway gap has been a highly debated issue for decades in the San Gabriel Valley. While tunnel supporters such as the 710 Coalition claim that the underground solution will ease traffic congestion, create jobs, and improve air quality, tunnel opponents believe the project will cause health and environmental damage.

No 710 Action Committee protesting 710 Day | Photo by Kyle Garcia

The No 710 Action Committee protested the event on Thursday, arguing that the project is expensive, unsafe, and does not prepare Alhambra and the San Gabriel Valley for the future.

"It's not a solution. It's a $12 billion dollar truck tunnel that's suicidal,” said Joe Potts, a No 710 Action Committee member, South Pasadena resident, and Alhambra business owner. Potts wore a t-shirt Thursday displaying a crossed-out 710 sign.

Alhambra resident and 710 protestor Elizabeth Sesztak, who is not a member of the No 710 Action Committee but opposes the tunnel, said she attended 710 Day as a "concerned citizen."

"It's a 50-year-old solution to a current problem,” Sesztak said, referring to the tunnel. “There might be some safety concerns because there are only two exits. What if there's a fire or someone gets trapped? They're goners.”

Sesztak favors alternatives such as expanding the light rails or resurrecting older means of transportation. "Look into the potential of the red car lines,” she said, referring to the Los Angeles County rail system that last ran in Long Beach in 1961. “They were highly effective in transporting people.”

While opponents brought up other alternatives, Placido said that the future of transportation in the San Gabriel Valley should utilize both freeways and public transit. "Building a tunnel does not exclude the other options. The tunnel is the best option but I support expanding the light rails, expanding bus routes region wide, and synchronizing traffic lights,” Placido said.

About the author: Kyle Garcia

Kyle Garcia is a staff reporter for the Alhambra Source and a resident of Alhambra. Kyle graduated from the University of California Santa Barbara with degrees in Communication and Linguistics. Alhambra has been a part of Kyle's life since he was a child and Kyle continues to enjoy the city as both he and Alhambra age.

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Your city council in action!

I don't even care at this point what the rally was about. Closing that intersection at Freemont & Mission was the stupidest thing I have seen, what if there had been an emergency and the immense traffic congestion caused a delay in emergency response? How about next time, do it in a Park. This was just irresponsible and poorly planned.

Perhaps we should learn from history. We have survived the last 50 years without the 710 freeway between Alhambra and Pasadena without a significant increase in commute time. We will survive the next 50 years also. All we need is some forward thinking from our city leaders rather than backwards thinking.

Is that too much to ask?

Sooner or later, we are going to HAVE to get rid of this notion that self-motoring is freedom. The costs to drive ourselves around will eventually give us no choice.

I oppose the tunnel because I would rather see money spent on public transportation. I'm not talking about those miserable buses and trains. I'm talking about something like a monorail system where people will actually look forward to using it.

I have been through it all when it comes to commuting. I don't ever want to do it again.

Dan Bednarski

@Charles, All of the above includes a 'no-build' option.

Dan Bednarski

Richard,
At this point, neither are exclusively right. Does that make them wrong? The environmental impact study will provide better information to fill the gaps in knowledge both sides are relying on.

Nobody knows the cost. Nobody really knows whether congestion will be relieved on Alhambra streets. Nobody knows the toll charges. And nobody knows whether trucks will be allowed in the tunnels. A lot of what we do know is based on preliminary studies and conjecture.

I'll repost my comment from a few weeks ago since it is still timely and addresses your comment in part.

***
The City should take a more neutral approach, otherwise this aggressive support of the tunnel may come back to bite us in the long-run.

I've commented in the past that Metro and its contractors made a variety of assumptions in its traffic studies and the environmental studies currently underway are supposed to give more clear guidance as to the impacts on our city streets from the various options. Until then, we don't know the tunnel will relieve congestion. Saying otherwise is wishful thinking.

Also, if the tunnel is a tollway, and those tolls are set too high we should expect to see higher traffic volumes and worse congestion than today, since a lot of people will avoid the toll road to save a few dollars. In their 2006 technical feasibility report, Caltrans and Metro estimated that $3 tolls will cause 20% of drivers to avoid the tunnel (called the diversion rate), while $5 tolls will cause a %30 diversion rate. See Route 710 Tunnel Technical Feasibilty Assessment Report, Table 10-3, Page 10-128.

I spoke at length with a traffic modeler and another Metro staff member at one of the 710 open houses. They acknowledged a few things that seem to be lost on the city council:
1) Metro and Caltrans are only attempting to relieve congestion on freeways, not surface streets through Alhambra. That's why the maps they distribute focus on a ring of freeways that go from Pasadena to Glendale to Alhambra. The missing arc is the 710 gap. The tunnel can be built even if the traffic models show an increase in traffic volume on Alhambra streets if it decreases freeway traffic. They'll be satisfied if the models show that traffic will stay the same but, like us, prefer to see a decrease. The only real difference for them is that a decrease in the models would make the tunnel an easier sell and avoid a political landmine.
2) Traffic models thus far have been limited to estimates. We won't have a more comprehensive understanding of the traffic impacts until the environmental impact report/study are completed next February. The feasibility study I linked also makes the same point: "The traffic analysis performed at this conceptual stage is not intended to be a detailed travel demand forecasting effort, or a traffic/transportation impact analysis typically performed during the environmental phase of projects."
3) A significant portion of the traffic is headed to Huntington so they can then travel toward Arcadia. However, Metro won't build a tunnel exit for Huntington because it would create too much traffic and congestion on that street. Apparently, the most heavily trafficked streets are on a diagonal - like Huntington - because there aren't usually any other alternative routes traveling in the same direction. So, those people are still expected to drive through Alhambra.
4) Models have been wrong in the past and could be wrong again. We won't know until the future arrives.

***

For the record, I'm leaning against the tunnel option because I'd prefer to see the money invested in the rail network and focused on ending our general reliance on cars. SCAG forecasts the regional population to grow by over 20% by the time the tunnel is finished (LA County: 13%; San Bernardino: 25%; Riverside: 34%). I don't expect our highway and road system, which is already over capacity, to absorb enough of the additional vehicles we should expect to see arrive with our new neighbors. That said, I'd like to see more details from the environmental impact reports.

What is the truth regarding this proposed tunnel. Alhambra City Council members keep beating the drums for the tunnel perhaps with some mis-information, while opponents keep claiming they, and they alone have all the answers why it should not be built.This arguments seems to more like a FOX-News "news" segment (FOX-News is known for its one-sided "news reporting" and its ability to LIE in the face of FACTS.)I'm also interested to know which business in Alhambra South Pasadena resident JOE POTTS owes...the usual, business owners make their income in this city while opposing something in Alhambra while living OUTSIDE THE CITY. If he's not happy making money in Alhambra, he should relocate to his home city of South Pasadena.

I think Councilman Placido has it right. We need an "all of the above" option. Light rail is good for the transportation needs of the region, but so is completing the 710! Those against the tunnel what the western San Gabriel Valley (Alhambra mainly) has been put through for a period longer than my lifetime.

I would like to address Matthew Santiago's comment about the tunnel making it quicker to get to Pasadena. How do you figure? To catch the tunnel from Alhambra, you will need to go quite a bit south on city streets until you reach the first northbound access point. Count on the whole area around this northbound ramp being congested from the projected 35% of vehicles (about 30,000 each end) jumping off the freeway due to the toll. Once on, you will need to travel all the way to the 210 before you can get off, somewhere north of Colorado. And again, that area will be congested with drivers trying to avoid the tolls. I am betting that your new commuter route will take you longer to reach your destination. And, for all that headache, you get up pay upward of $5 each way. No thank you.

Although many have their reasons for or against the freeway, here is some information from a fiscal standpoint.

The average yearly CA gross salary is $51,910 ($24.96/hr).

Take into account the 9.3% + $2191.48 CA (and about $2000-$3000 to the Feds) in taxes.

Add in $12/day for the commute.

And finally, add the 260 average work days/year.

So...if the bridge is built, a regular commuter can expect to pay approximately 7% to 8% of his/her yearly income on the toll alone (and inflation will surely bring the tolls up even higher after it is built in 10-15 years).

This equates to approximately THREE WEEKS SALARY each year.

Or...almost $100,000 over the course of a 30-35yr career.

I oppose the "tunnel", I oppose the extension of the 710 as old thinking. Lets get Dr Placido to find solutions to real opprotunities and quit trying to make the "tunnel" his legacy

According to Metro, closing the gap would 'complete the natural goods corridor: meaning, it's designed FOR trucks! Fremont does not have a problem with trucks! The tunnel will not alleviate traffic on Fremont because when people get to the 710 and have to pay a toll, they will take city streets anyway. The only traffic the tunnel would be for would be for trucks, since they will pay the toll. Why do we need to bother with a tunnel under our homes, lowering OUR property values, 10 years of construction and dirt in OUR lungs, to do a favor for trucks, when they're not even a problem for us to begin with????

The tunnel build would be a public-private partnership mentioned here: http://www.metro.net/news/simple_pr/metros-highway-program-shifts-high-g...

Find out how much things are costing here: http://alhambransagainst710.com/costs-to-taxpayers/

See more pictures of the event here: http://alhambransagainst710.com/close-the-gap-day-aka-gridlock-day-july-...

City of Alhambra isn't telling us the whole story! Sort things out here:
http://alhambransagainst710.com/fact-vs-fiction/

Did you know there will be a toll charge of AT LEAST $6 one way, no exits or onramps in the tunnel and it'll take 10+ years to build? All of this is what CalTrans /Metro say - the ones building the tunnel. You can't make that up!

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