Local residents and lawmakers protested Saturday in Pasadena closing the 710 Freeway gap between the 10 and 210 freeways with a tunnel. While council members from Alhambra, San Gabriel, Monterey Park, Rosemead, and San Marino support the tunnel alternative, the No 710 Action Committee organized the morning rally to discuss the potentially negative impacts a tunnel could have on the environment and public safety.
Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard emphasized that a tunnel would impact more than just cities along the proposed tunnel routes. “This is not an acute local issue. This is a regional issue,” Bogaard said. “Eric Garcetti voted ‘No’ on the tunnel when he was on the L.A. City Council.”
A tunnel is one of five alternatives on Metro's list of ways to close the freeway gap. Others include transit services and ride sharing, a light-rail line, rapid bus route, and "no-build" alternatives. South Pasadena Mayor Dr. Richard Schneider — who rode to the rally on a bike — advocated for a transit alternative, arguing that better transit management would improve signal and intersection programs and promote the use of carpool and transit services.
The protest was spurred by a July 13 accident during which an oil tanker overturned and caught fire inside a tunnel interchange on the 5 and 2 freeways. The accident caused major structural damage to the tunnel and lanes on the 5 Freeway had to be closed for cleanup. Members of the No 710 Action Committee used the accident as an example of the possible dangers of a tunnel, and according to La Crescenta resident and No 710 Action Committee spokesperson Susan Bolan, the accident “completely influenced” her thinking.
Metro has not officially ruled out banning trucks in the tunnel but according to their SR-710 FAQ series, trucks comprise only three percent of the vehicles north of the 10 Freeway.
Alhambra council members hosted "710 Day" on July 10 to declare their support for the 710 tunnel alternative. Although an environmental study of the extension alternatives is not due until Spring 2014, Alhambra council members believe that the tunnel is the safest and most environmentally friendly option for completing the 710.
“For me, it’s very important because it’s an environmental issue. If you read the news, Southern California, Los Angeles specifically, is the number one city in the country, in the entire nation, if you rank it in terms of contamination,” Councilman Luis Ayala said during a June 10 City Council meeting. "This is something that is going to impact most likely our generation, if we see this through. Our kids now living near this freeway are the ones being impacted the most.”
But La Canada Flintridge Mayor Laura Olhasso argued Saturday that a larger regional solution is needed. "I have a lot of sympathy for the residents of Alhambra," Olhasso said. "They need a solution, they really do. But their solution can't be one that means more congestion, more noise, more air pollution to all the other communities in the area."