Traffic on Fremont Avenue was impacted late Tuesday morning when city officials unveiled newly installed banners in support of closing the 710 Freeway gap. The banners — which say "Relieve Congestion," "Put Traffic in its Place," and other pro-710 slogans — waved above long lines of cars making their way around the closed street between Mission Road and Valley Boulevard.
City officials unveiled the banners with a ribbon cutting ceremony, during which they chanted "Close the gap! Close the gap!" The banners run along Fremont and are meant to raise awareness about the proposed tunnel that will connect the 710 Freeway in Alhambra with the 210 Freeway in Pasadena, according to a statement from the city.
“We are taking the most impacted street in the San Gabriel Valley and making a statement. It’s time to put traffic in its place," said Councilman Steven Placido. “One in four cars that gets off the 710 on Valley goes down Fremont to the 210 in Pasadena. That’s 12,000 cars a day that can be taken off the street.”
The underground tunnel, estimated to cost $5.5 billion, is one of five alternatives currently undergoing an environmental study, but the only proposal with funding, according to Placido. The results of the environmental impact report will be released in February 2015, according to Metro, and a 90-day public review will follow. A final decision is expected to be made in late 2015 or early 2016, Placido said.
Alhambra officials said Tuesday that a tunnel alternative would ease traffic congestion, thereby creating a safer space for pedestrians and improving air quality around Fremont. Officials also claimed a tunnel would create an estimated 43,000 jobs.
“I think Alhambra residents especially have no reason to oppose the construction of the tunnel," Councilwoman Barbara Messina said. "It is time for us to return a high quality of life to our residents.”
But some residents do oppose the tunnel extension. Members of the No 710 Action Committee attended the ceremony, protesting the banners and the proposed tunnel. The coalition argues the tunnel will be an environmental hazard by spewing toxins inside and outside of the tunnel, will cause years worth of traffic during construction, and is an outdated solution, according to the the committee's website.
The cities of Los Angeles, Pasadena, South Pasadena, Glendale, and Sierra Madre have also expressed concern about the tunnel alternative, citing increased air pollution and congestion.
Tuesday's banner dedication was a precursor to "710 Day," the second annual street festival that promotes the completion of the 710 with a tunnel. The festival, "Alhambra 710 Day 'Close the Gap' Urban Street Jam," will take place July 10 from 4-7 p.m. on Fremont and Valley.