710 gap outreach effort reveals frustration and disagreement over tunnel

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/

13 thoughts on “710 gap outreach effort reveals frustration and disagreement over tunnel”

  1. Barbara Messina, and real estate hubby may have an investment agenda.
    Don’t worry Alhambra. We will help you see the light. And it won’t be at the end of a tunnel.
    FACEBOOK: No 710 Freeway Expansion

  2. Some (of the SAME) responses (to every 710 post on AS.org) again border nonsensical & are self contradictory:

    To quote “Fresh Air Lover”: “The streets will be gridlocked”.
    The streets are already gridlocked. There will be no additional people “jumping off” anything. Those who take Valley, are already taking Valley. Those who can afford/are crazy enough to pay $15 toll, are currently also taking Valley.

    I will, from now on, quote President Obama’s – you did all for him, yes? – 2011 SOTU speech, over, and over, and over, until the local citizens, whom all benefit from regional economic growth, stop obstructing national commerce (and everyone’s desire to hit the excellent happy hours in Pasadena):

    =========================================

    The third step in winning the future is rebuilding America. To attract new businesses to our shores, we need the fastest, most reliable ways to move people, goods, and information — from high-speed rail to high-speed Internet. (Applause.)

    Our infrastructure used to be the best, but our lead has slipped.

    ==========================================

    Let us also not forget there are more and more Clean Trucks moving in and out of LA ports (Compliance rate predicted to be 85% by this Spring) and trucks are becoming cleaner as speak. Those cars idling on at stop signs on Paso Robles? Not becoming electric anytime soon.

    Build the 710, may it be a tunnel, overpass, low-mode, whatever. It’s meant for containers? That’s great! Long Beach & San Pedro port volume is already up this year; Maersk is about to unload 18,000 TEU vessels into the seas, and 12-13000 TEU vessels are about to enter the transpacific trade lane. Let great LA County be ready. If some of us can actually drive on this darn thing and actually utilize Huntington Memorial, kudos to METRO.

    1. Build something, I agree.

      At least in my unscientific and anecdotal observations (i.e., my daily commute to and from work), It’s not clear building a tunnel or surface fwy would solve much of the problems I see on northbound Alhambra streets. Take a look at northbound Atlantic, Fremont, and Garfield–they’re jammed packed, but magically by Main, much of the traffic has dissipated. Something tells me the population is pretty dense in southern and mid portions of Alhambra, but not so much on the northern parts.

      So building a tunnel or some surface type of freeway, would that mitigate the traffic Alhambra residents had been complaining about? My answer would be, probably not.

    2. @Sinosoul: More reasons for you to actively take part and attend the meetings, if you have not already done so. 🙂

  3. It is not too late to attend meetings regarding the 710.

    I recommend you attend the meeting next Thursday or watch an archived video if you want to learn a little more about the state and federal environmental review laws and how they relate to the 710.

    Archived video of the Alhambra meeting at: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/13073665

    Thursday, March 17, 6-8pm
    Los Angeles Christian Presbyterian Church
    2241 N Eastern Av
    Los Angeles, CA 90032

    The next series of meetings are actual scoping meetings. They start on Tuesday in San Gabriel and will be held in Alhambra on Wednesday.

    Wednesday, March 16, 6-8pm
    Alhambra Civic Center Library – Reese Hall
    101 S First St
    Alhambra, CA 91801

    Attend the Alhambra meeting or another area meeting listed on the schedule. There are meetings scheduled in South Pas, Pasadena, El Sereno, Glendale, and Alhambra. And you can do what I did for the first meeting, attend online.

  4. I attended the meeting last Thursday. Metro/Caltrans provided a fairly straight forward and honest explanation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). They also answered a variety of questions and admitted when they do not have answers. I do not think they hid anything from anybody during the meeting nor were they clearly misleading the audience as has been suggested in other comments.

    The purpose of last Thursday’s meeting was not to answer questions about costs or what route a tunnel will take. Frankly, we are not at that point in the process and answers are not available. The environmental review process, including scoping, will answer a lot of the questions we all have such as the route, pollution, other impact on communities, and costs. It also provides us an opportunity to provide input and criticize the process, data, and analysis.

    A key problem I do see in the environmental review process is the failure to bring closure to the communities affected. Even if Metro and Caltrans decide against a surface route through the process, there is no guarantees that Caltrans will sell the properties it holds in Alhambra, El Sereno, South Pas, or Pasadena. The legislature must take action to allow Caltrans to sell of those properties. Apparently, this is true even if a tunnel will be built.

    I also agree with other commenters that closing the freeway gap on its own will not solve traffic congestion in Alhambra or other impacted cities, high tolls will lead people to bypass a tunnel by pouring out into city streets, and cargo trucks and should not use a tunnel if that is chosen.

    One last point is that funding for the 710 gap closure was approved by voters in Measure R. Incorporated by reference in Measure R is the expenditure plan (Attachment A) that clearly sets aside $780 million for “Interstate 710 North Gap Closure (tunnel).”
    Measure R: text
    Measure R: Attachment A (expenditure plan)

  5. El Sereno Preservation

    The reality is that SCAG, Caltrans and MTA are pushing planning projects that are 50 years old and are already outdated.
    Our region, cities, communities do not need the 710 Fwy. connection or a multi low mode alternative. The only thing these projects will do is bring more traffic and pollution to our areas. There is already an overwhelming amount of health research and evidence that increase pollution will harm our citizens. So let us stop wasting money and move on. No to the 710 and no to the Low Mode alternatives. We do not need 100,000 trucks a day moving through our communities.

  6. Fresh Air Lover

    Alhambra Councilmember Barbara Messina may be tired of the 710 battle with South Pasadena over this ridiculous project, but South Pasadena no longer stands alone in this fight. The surrounding communities have banded together to permanently halt the freeway extension in ANY form, under or over and to promote regional transportation solutions that WILL work.

    If the Multi-mode plan had been implemented a decade ago; the freeway connectors and ramps were streamlined; the overflow traffic was redirected effectively; the rail crossings were grade separated; and the signals were synchronized, we would not be here today, debating the tunnel. These smaller projects HAVE NOT been completely done. The streets of Alhambra and El Sereno still remain crowded but a tunnel is NOT the solution. A tunnel will only make things worse as vehicles jump off at Valley to avoid paying the $15 toll. The streets will be gridlocked.

    Councilmember Messina may get her wish if Metro is able to push the tunnel through the environmental process. However, I invite everyone to do research on tunnels, how much they cost, failure of PPPs, their history of problems, ventilation structures, and most importantly, how dangerous and deadly tunnel fires are. Look it up. We CANNOT build this monster.

  7. Metro reps at this meeting tried to mislead the audience in Alhambra by saying they are not sure the 710 tunnel is intended for trucks (but the proof is in their Financial Charrette). They also failed to say the route has been shifted into Alhambra (because the Alhambra City council backs it).

    The Metro representatives at the meeting FALSELY claimed the purpose for the freeway is not as a (downtown LA) bypass route for trucks, then they said that trucks and goods move eastward once they hit the 10/60 freeways and the shipping yards (which many do), but the real motive behind the 710 connection to the 210 tunnel is to help shippers move cargo both northward and eastward on the 210 freeway relieving pressure off of surrounding freeways – spreading congestion and pollution to the Alhambra, El Sereno, and Pasadena areas. Shipping is the reason investors are willing to put the PPP money up to build the tunnel – and charge their $5 – $15 dollar tolls.

    Proof that Metro admits behind closed doors that the tunnel is for cargo trucks:
    In the Financial Planning Charrette – MTA, SCAG AND CALTRANS all state that the 710 tunnel’s purpose is to function as a “major goods-movement corridor” ‘connecting the 710 to the 210 freeway and acting as a bypass for the 5,10,101 freeways eliminating’ “the current bottleneck where I-710 currently ends in South Pasadena.” (and you can find this info in many other SCAG, CALTRANS and METRO documents and meeting notes).

    Since shipping co’s are applying tremendous pressure to create a route for their cargo, why not instead save the whole LA area freeways and surrounding communities from their future plans of 92,000 daily truck trips by removing trucks off the freeways altogether. Why not utilize a grade separated, zero emission inexpensive heavy rail system to move the goods to Supervisor Antonovich’s planned inland ports? You could run CargoWay above the center of the already existing freeway systems or use the SkyStorage systems Grid project to bury this freight system in the levees running along side the San Gabriel River.

    Ports problem solved and San Gabriel Valley free from polluting, congesting trucks.

    1. Well said. The purpose of the tunnel is to move goods. Why are we investing in more freeways to do this? Movement by rail would make a lot more sense.

    2. What an educated, informed, intelligent and concise summary! AND accurate corrections of the misinformation put out about this issue! PLUS a win-win solution to the real purpose behind this push to reactivate the 710 North Extension! From one who’s gone into the excruciating fact-gathering about this issue, to those who haven’t the time to gather in-depth info on it, I add my voice to the above comment: everything this person has said is ACCURATE, TRUE AND INFORMED! Thank you!

  8. I would like to challenge Barbara Messina to identify the “..lot of misinformation that people from South Pasadena are spewing” and then to refute that “misinformation” with credible data/information.

    Barbara Messina has long advocated for an extension of the 710 without presenting any verifiable data that shows that such an extension will, in fact, solve the congestion issues her city faces. She, like many others, is under the mistaken impression that building additional lane capacity will resolve congestion. It just isn’t true and it is quite easy to find dozens and dozens of reports by leading traffic experts and studies based on years and years of data from dozens of municipalities that show that this does not work.

    I would suggest that Ms. Messina put some time and effort into investigating the extensive literature on congestion relief and induced demand.

    Instead of focusing on decades-old solutions that are no-longer relevant, Ms. Messina and Metro need to look to better solutions that have evolved over the past forty or fifty years that are more efficient, more environmentally and fiscally responsible and will actually achieve the goal of improving traffic issues for our entire region — not just Alhambra.

  9. Metro reps at this meeting tried to mislead the audience in Alhambra by saying they are not sure it is intended for trucks (but the proof is in their Financial Charrette). They also failed to say the route has been shifted into Alhambra (because the Alhambra City council backs it).

    The Metro representatives at the meeting falsely claimed the purpose for the freeway is not as a (downtown LA) bypass route for trucks, then they said that trucks and goods move eastward once they hit the 10/60 freeways and the shipping yards (which many do), but the real motive behind the 710 to the 210 tunnel plan is to help them move cargo both northward and eastward on the 210 freeway relieving pressure off of surrounding freeways – spreading congestion and pollution to the Alhambra, El Sereno, and Pasadena areas.

    Proof that Metro admits behind closed doors that the tunnel is for cargo trucks:
    In the Financial Planning Charrette – MTA, SCAG AND CALTRANS all state that the 710 tunnel’s purpose is to function as a “major goods-movement corridor” ‘connecting the 710 to the 210 freeway and acting as a bypass for the 5,10,101 freeways eliminating’ “the current bottleneck where I-710 currently ends in South Pasadena.” (and you can find this info in many other SCAG, CALTRANS and METRO documents and meeting notes)

    Since shipping co’s are applying tremendous pressure to create a route for their cargo, why not instead save the whole LA area freeways and surrounding communities from their future plans of 92,000 daily truck trips by removing trucks off the freeways altogether. Why not utilize a grade separated, zero emission inexpensive heavy rail system to move the goods to Supervisor Antonovich’s planned inland ports? You could run CargoWay above the center of the already existing freeway systems or use the SkyStorage systems Grid project to bury this freight system in the levees running along side the San Gabriel River.

    Ports problem solved and San Gabriel Valley free from polluting, congesting trucks.

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