In often contentious public outreach meetings evaluating how to fix the 710 gap, Metro is encountering a public that appears weary of the 60-year-old debate. At a Thursday meeting at the Alhambra library the same questions were often repeated: "What is the project exactly? What areas will be studied? Has the scope been defined yet? And how much it will cost?”
“I’m fed up with this, you don’t do anything but study," Peg Moody, who has lived in Alhambra since 1942 told Metro. "Valley Boulevard is one big mess. Alhambra has put up with this for too long.”
The criticism Moody voiced in Alhambra of the process and the public outreach series was not the first. At a meeting earlier this week in Pasadena, residents had demanded a more open discourse and refused to break into groups for a “touchy feely” consultant-led discussion, according to South Pasadena resident, Sam Burgess. Metro arrived at Thursday’s meeting with a new format and a study guide for the public on how the environmental review process works. “We listened to what the public had to say and changed the format,” Metro Communications Manager Helen Ortiz-Gilstrap said.
The meetings are part of a public outreach effort into how to best use $780 million from 2008 Measure R funding that was allocated to address the 710-gap. Caltrans Senior Environmental Planner Garrett Damrath said the environmental review process for this project could take up to three to four years. Specifically, the area to be studied will include the northern area between the 10 and 210 and between the 605 and 2 freeways bordering east and west.
Residents from South Pasadena and other communities, who have long battled with Metro to kill any surface route or tunnel, questioned Metro’s intentions to look at alternatives. “I voted for Measure R to get transportation moving forward, not for a tunnel,” Helene Schpak from Glassel Park said. Others doubted that a tunnel, even if approved, could ever be a viable solution. South Pasadena resident Burgess said, “In the end Metro will recommend a tunnel, but it will be too expensive, even with a private partnership.”
Alhambra Councilwoman Barbara Messina has been outspoken in favor of a tunnel, and expressed frustration with resistance from South Pasadena. “There is a lot of misinformation that people from South Pasadena are spewing,” she said. “The tunnel, many years ago, was a South Pasadena solution. Now, they don’t want it. Now they want multi-modal, low build or no build. We’ve done that. It doesn’t work. The tunnel is the solution.”
An environmental specialist for Metro, Carl Peter Ripaldi, said “We want to look at what is the best use of [Measure R] funds. Hopefully in scoping the best alternatives will come through.” Asked how much a tunnel might cost, Ripaldi said it was difficult to say. The environmental review does not include cost and that any cost analysis would happen after the Environmental Impact Review.
Comments for scoping will be accepted into the official record beginning February 28th through April 14, 2011. For online participation visit Metro’s SR-710 Conversations Web Site at http://www.metro.net/projects/sr-710-conversations/.