Residents of cities from around the San Gabriel Valley congregated at the Alhambra Civic Library on Wednesday evening for a Metro-run conversation intended to get the public involved in solutions for the 710 gap. In 2008 voters voted overwhelmingly for a measure that would commit a projected $40 billion to traffic relief and transportation upgrades throughout the county over the next 30 years.
The meeting was the first in a series that aim, “to get the community into the conversation and to find solutions by looking at the historic and futuristic role of transportation,” Metro Communications Manager Helen Ortiz Gilstrap said.
Initially, as part of focus groups, residents shared what they appreciate about their cities: walking areas, diversity, family neighborhoods, schools, restaurants, and the proximity to downtown.
But when it came to concerns about transportation, the discussion started to sound more like a debate. Residents argued about a proposed tunnel to connect the 710 and 210 freeways. Some had come armed with reports and studies that validated their own arguments for or against closing the 710 gap.
Several Alhambra residents complained that the congestion around Valley Boulevard and Fremont Avenue is clogging up surface streets and that an extension of the 710 would alleviate some of that traffic. Presenting a different alternative, James Rojas, a long-time Alhambra resident and former Metro employee, proposed expanding light-rail corridors and regional bike paths as a way to get cars off the road. Another Alhambra resident argued he’d much rather ride in his car than use public transportation. And in response to the proposed tunnel, Jan Soohoo of La Canada said that “our transportation officials aren’t listening and they’re not looking forward. They have tunnel vision.” Other concerns ranged from the health impacts of creating a 710 extension, the expense involved and the need for more public transportation in a city where freeways are the prominent mode of transportation.
The meeting was the first in a series of Metro SR-710 Conversations, “Where have we been? Where are we going?” that over the next six weeks aim to get resident input in to how to alleviate transit problems around the 710. More information on meeting discussions and future events will be available at www.metro.net/sr710conversations.