During a Metro-sponsored meeting at the Alhambra library on Wednesday, Alhambra resident Frank Pulciano expressed his frustration over the 710 Freeway gap, which has been a source of contention for over 60 years. "Let's get this done before I die," he said, giving the crowd a wink. The audience, which had been quiet and attentive throughout the meeting, responded with laughter and applause.
Pulciano was among the 50 or so residents from the San Gabriel Valley who came to discuss the fate of the 4.5-mile gap in the 710. The meeting was held to scope a potential project that would close the gap, to discuss what it would entail, and to take statements from residents and have them documented for Metro's environmental review process. A court reporter was on hand to put all the statements on record.
The topics discussed ranged from traffic congestion to transparency among the authorities involved, as well as the gap's impact on children’s health.
Adele Andrade-Stadler, president of the Alhambra Unified School District, said that the 710 gap has redirected traffic onto Alhambra's surface streets, which has become a health hazard to students heading to school. She noted that traffic patterns have coincided with school schedules: gridlock would start in the morning, when parents are walking their children to school, and pick up again at 2 p.m., when students are let out of class.
"Students are breathing in this polluted air," Andrade-Stadler said. "Many residents know of the black soot on our window sills."
As the meeting progressed, the forum took on the tone of a debate—point was met with counter-point.
Leland Dolley, former City Attorney of Alhambra, and a supporter of the gap closure, argued that the projected cost of a tunnel option has been exaggerated. He referred to a report done by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), which projected that the total costs would be around $4.6 billion, in contrast to the $11 billion that has been brought up in discussions. Sam Burgess, a resident of South Pasadena, rebutted by saying that the $4.6 billion is only meant to cover the cost of digging. The full scope of the project, according to Burgess, would be more than double that amount.
Janet Urban, a former Alhambra resident who currently resides in South Pasadena, said that the traffic congestion in Alhambra is largely due to the city's rapid development, not because of the 710 gap.
"When I come down here, I'll look across the street and see six-story condominiums," Urban said, arguing that traffic will likely increase as more buildings and businesses are being put up.
Gary Frueholz, a member of Alhambra's planning commission, countered by saying that the population in Alhambra has actually decreased by 3 percent in the past 10 years, referring to the figures in the 2010 Census report.
While the rift between the two sides of the 710 debate was apparent, attendees shared a common weariness over the lack of a decision. "Look at all the freeways being constructed around us, and you're saying that we can't solve 4.5 miles?" said Al Diaz, an Alhambra resident.
Garrett Damrath, senior environmental planner at Caltrans, was quoted in an earlier article saying that the environmental review process could take three to four years to complete. If the review determines that the gap needs to be closed, Metro could use the $780 million provided by Measure R to work on the gap closure. Measure R was approved by voters in 2008 to use a half-cent sales tax increase to produce funds for transportation projects.
Metro will be accepting statements about the 710 up until April 14. People who want to contribute to the environment review process will have several options to do so:
1. Attend any of the four remaining meetings that will be held in Glendale, Pasadena, South Pasadena, and Los Angeles. A listing of times and locations can be found at the Metro site.
2. Join the "virtual meeting" that will be held online on March 21 starting at 6 p.m. There will be a section in which attendees can type in their statements. The meeting can be accessed through www.metro.net/sr710conversations. Visitors must do a free registration before they can access the meeting.
3. Send a statement in the form of a letter. The letter must include the person's name and address, along with the date it was written. These should be sent to:
- Ron Kosinski
- Deputy District Director
- Caltrans District 7
- 100 Main St
- Los Angeles, CA 90012