'Relieve Congestion': Alhambra unveils 'close the gap' banners in support of 710 tunnel

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.

Officials participate in a ribbon cutting ceremony. | Photo by Matt Siriouthay

“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 PlacidoThe 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by spewing toxins inside and outside of the tunnel, will cause years worth of traffic during construction, and is an outdated solution, according to the the committee's website.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.

27 thoughts on “'Relieve Congestion': Alhambra unveils 'close the gap' banners in support of 710 tunnel”

  1. I am totally in favor of these new projects on Main St. What was there before were old, ugly and dilapidated buildings.

    These projects are going to revitalize Alhambra and bring in money to the local businesses, which means JOBS, which means walking to work for many people.

    This in turn will cause our property values to increase for those of us who did not buy during the last bloated real estate bubble.

    At least at this point, I fully support what our city council is doing.

  2. Overdevelopment is the main issue here in Alhambra and it does add to our bad traffic situation. I hope we have many new people running for council this election so we can have an alternative to a pro development council that supports this crazy building frenzy going on. I have talked to many neighbors and none of them like the high rise look of Alhambra.

    1. The “high rise look” from a low brow City Concil.

  3. What a waste of money, time and effort; this is just another PR stuff that will go nowhere, except to make us think Alhambra City Council is really doing something about traffic. The signs over Fremont instead should read “NO MORE HIGH DENSITY DEVELOPMENT” (No more condos). The Alhambra City Council create the traffic mess in the city with their continuous support of developers. I was once a strong 710 supporter, but now opposes its construction (which will not happen in my lifetime if at all) until the city council STOPS OVER-DEVELOPMENT and truly resolves city traffic, but I guess as long as those aspiring to be in the city council continue using the completion of the 710 as their platform, they will continue winning elections.Reading other comments, it seems more Alhambra residents share my same beliefs.

  4. I got one of those “Close the Gap” t-shirts at Alhambra City Hall for $5. Various sizes (M to 2XL) available.

  5. The City should take a more neutral approach, otherwise this aggressive support of the tunnel may come back to bite us in the long-run.

    I’ve commented in the past that Metro and its contractors made a variety of assumptions in its traffic studies and the environmental studies currently underway are supposed to give more clear guidance as to the impacts on our city streets from the various options. Until then, we don’t know the tunnel will relieve congestion. Saying otherwise is wishful thinking.

    Also, if the tunnel is a tollway, and those tolls are set too high we should expect to see higher traffic volumes and worse congestion than today, since a lot of people will avoid the toll road to save a few dollars. In their 2006 technical feasibility report, Caltrans and Metro estimated that $3 tolls will cause 20% of drivers to avoid the tunnel (called the diversion rate), while $5 tolls will cause a %30 diversion rate. See Route 710 Tunnel Technical Feasibilty Assessment Report, Table 10-3, Page 10-128.

    I spoke at length with a traffic modeler and another Metro staff member at one of the 710 open houses. They acknowledged a few things that seem to be lost on the city council:
    1) Metro and Caltrans are only attempting to relieve congestion on freeways, not surface streets through Alhambra. That’s why the maps they distribute focus on a ring of freeways that go from Pasadena to Glendale to Alhambra. The missing arc is the 710 gap. The tunnel can be built even if the traffic models show an increase in traffic volume on Alhambra streets if it decreases freeway traffic. They’ll be satisfied if the models show that traffic will stay the same but, like us, prefer to see a decrease. The only real difference for them is that a decrease in the models would make the tunnel an easier sell and avoid a political landmine.
    2) Traffic models thus far have been limited to estimates. We won’t have a more comprehensive understanding of the traffic impacts until the environmental impact report/study are completed next February. The feasibility study I linked also makes the same point: “The traffic analysis performed at this conceptual stage is not intended to be a detailed travel demand forecasting effort, or a traffic/transportation impact analysis typically performed during the environmental phase of projects.”
    3) A significant portion of the traffic is headed to Huntington so they can then travel toward Arcadia. However, Metro won’t build a tunnel exit for Huntington because it would create too much traffic and congestion on that street. Apparently, the most heavily trafficked streets are on a diagonal – like Huntington – because there aren’t usually any other alternative routes traveling in the same direction. So, those people are still expected to drive through Alhambra.
    4) Models have been wrong in the past and could be wrong again. We won’t know until the future arrives.

    1. @Dan

      Thanks for a levelheaded analysis. The fact that the tunnel merely connects the gap without entrances or exits along the way should have clued people in that “closing the gap” is only that. In this case, closing the gap and city traffic alleviation are two different matters that Metro needs to make more clear (and the city to finally recognize). Without a more comprehensive plan to alleviate traffic on surface streets, the tunnel won’t do much good other than making flow of goods from LA Port easier to other places.

      1. True. The tunnel only helps people getting to Pasadena and points beyond. Over the last 40 years, the Alhambra city council should have been dealing with the issue of LOCAL traffic. Instead, they ignore the problem and just repeat hot button sound bits.

        Your (and mine) City Council in [in]action!

      2. Correct! You’re comments are soooo true!

  6. Felix Gutierrez

    If Alhambra’s city “leaders” really want to relieve congestion on Fremont they need only reinstall the railway crossovers on Westminster and other streets east to Garfield to spread out the traffic and call a halt to building high-density housing units that bring more traffic and congestion to Alhambra. If Placido’s numbers are correct, the tunnel would still leave Alhambra with 75% of the traffic on Fremont and that would certainly increase if Alhambra’s overbuilding continues. Time to do away with tunnel vision and look at the big picture.

    1. They have had over 40 years to “look at the big picture”, and look at where it has gotten us. Expecting a different outcome now is the definition of stupidity.

  7. Seriously??? By taking the 12,000 cars off fremont daily, that means a mininum of ‘12,000 people will not stop to shop, eat, buy fuel, and contribute to the economy of the area. Were no lessons learned with the plight of the once bustling mother road, and the devastating effect the bypass freeways played to their demise ? If you want to say goodbye to some of our favorite stores and restaurants. Then go ahead and cut off your nose to spite your face.

    1. The traffic pattern of the vast majority of people exiting the 710 is north on Fremont, where the only business activities is at “The Alhambra” at Mission and the Albertsons area on Commonwealth. Alhambra has little tax dollars to lose. It’s South Pasadena that really scared of losing tax dollars to the 710. That’s why they’re against it these days.

  8. “Tunnel or freeway, just start the construction.”

    Bingo!

  9. Tunnel or freeway, just start the construction.

  10. Generally, tunnels are safer than above ground structures like bridges or buildings.

    Source: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/bridge/tunnel/pubs/nhi09010/13.cfm

  11. I can only hope Main street gets so crowded that they shut it down to auto traffic. Maybe more people will walk for a change or use public transportation and we get less cancer causing pollution.

    I actually think we are getting closer to have the 710 issue resolved. The tunnel idea might be the way to go, but it better be earthquake safe.

  12. I have to commend Alhambra Source for giving a balanced report on this issue. The links provided allow the public a view of opposing opinions that may or may not change minds regarding the construction of a tunnel, but this is a good start.

  13. To protest congestion, they are going to create congestion with their street festival. Brilliant idea city council! I’m glad we have elected such a great brain trust.

  14. What hypocrites. That ridiculous sign should read:

    “Relieve Congestion—NO MORE TO OVER-DEVELOPMENT!”

    1. The Lurker, disagree… Thanks to decades of low-rise sprawl, people are forced to drive everywhere, hence so much traffic on the freeways. This has nothing to do with overdevelopment and more to do with an increase of traffic and population (and not all of this growth is in Alhambra).

      1. John,
        Adding over a 1000 condo and apartment units every year to our city is a major factor with our traffic congestion. Our problems can not be discounted simply to urban sprawl as each new unit brings additional cars and traffic to our city.The issue here is that the 276 units at Main and Garfield will certainly add congestion to intersections that are already feeling the impact. It does not seem like good urban planning to me to keep piling on to a traffic situation that is critical already. Add City Ventures library site, Pacific Plaza, Casita de Zen and other large projects that will be going in on Freemont and it makes no sense to me to blame urban sprawl for our problems. There should be a slow down on development while the public and the city officials reexamine the impact of all of the development on our community. Have we reached a saturation point already? I don’t know the answer but going slow and hearing input from the residents seems like a more reasonable way to proceed.

      2. Elunder,
        1000 condo/apt units PER YEAR? I’ll take that as sarcasm. The projects you are seeing now on Main St. didn’t take place all in one year. Projects can take years and even this Shea project was an amendment to the original 2006 Specific Plan. That’s right, a specific plan more than seven years old. What DID happen in one year however, was that our population grew by approximately 407 people from January 1, 2013 to January 1, 2014 …

        (http://www.dof.ca.gov/research/demographic/reports/estimates/e-1/view.php)

        The city council is on the right track to provide growth in the downtown district and to place mixed-use developments there. This is good urban planning in the sense that it provides walkability, sustainability (such as lowering VMT – Vehicle Miles Traveled, due to the propinquity of amenities), and the least encroachment of Alhambra’s R-1 tracts (just look at City Ventures and their project in the Midwick Tract). This development pattern is also in alignment to smart growth practices and to what the Alhambra Residents have suggested during the Alhambra Envision 2035 program back in 2011. Did you participate in this?

        Are you also aware of the city’s responsibilities in terms of growth? A Housing Element and RHNA compliance basically applies to almost all cities here in California, NOT JUST Alhambra (exception would be unincorporated cities within a county, where the county implements the Housing Element). This is state law, please read up on it. We must also ensure that our city addresses the quality of life and the need to house our residents. While our city council must address specific issues, they also must plan and makes decisions that are best for the entire city. If we don’t plan for growth, we plan to fail. You state residents need to provide more input. Well, where you at the Alhambra Library last year in September 2013 when Shea Properties proposed their development to the city council? Where you at the Design Review Board last March or the Planning Commission meeting last month? These are all public meetings. In the September meeting I saw very few residents and they didn’t complain. Almost all the complaints I’ve seen for this project are here on the Alhambra Source.

        Let me ask you, just where do you think all this traffic is coming from? Is it all internally within our city? I say it is far more comprehensive and traffic in general, is increasing everywhere. Congestion on Main St. isn’t just caused by the developments there, but thru-put traffic from commuters going to other places. I would also make the posit that the attraction (and thus traffic) of our downtown is also influenced by other external factors, such as the availability of similar amenities in other cities. Thus, if a city like San Marino chooses to limit their growth or areas of East Los Angeles have a lack of economic development, guess who ends up driving into our city?! I’ve seen this too many times. So yes, I’ll blame sprawl for ensuring that where we work, live, shop, entertain, and eat are split-apart by segregated land-use policies and plays a huge role in our congested traffic patterns. Placing mixed-use projects within a highly walkable area will do wonders for our community. It helps promote walking for the residents there, reduces short-trip commutes by car, and is far more sustainable than running long-distance utility and sewer lines as seen in low-density sprawled-out developments that we have already created in our environment.

        I respect what you are saying Elunder, but no, I don’t think we have reached a saturation point if we continue to build smarter.

      3. Mr. Gacis —
        After reading MANY of your posts, I’m convinced you’re either a shill for the City, somehow related to a developer, or stand to financially benefit from it. Or in denial/misinformed.

        1. As someone who works both in government as well as on a community level, everyone knows U.S. Census demographic data is WAY off. Add to that an immigrant populace that avoids (and distrusts) any government “intrusion” in their business activities. The Board of Equlization, the IRS, County Health, and local tax collecting agencies would have a FIELD DAY in Alhambra. But that’s another subject.

        No one buys the excuse that Alhambra has “State mandates” to abide by. Anyone who has lived in Alhambra for the last 30 years (and while comparing it to other neighboring, more progressive communities) knows we lead the county in density and development. Some politicos have made it a very lucrative career path.

        Your pro-development talking points fool no one.

      4. Mr. Da’ Lurker, it’s more like you who is the shill for the anti-development crowd – especially for someone who won’t register on this website and just hides behind the anonymity of a pseudonym. Of course the U.S. Census isn’t perfect, and that’s why we refine it with tools such as the American Community Survey. Speaking of mandates, did you know the ACS is mandatory too?

        https://www.census.gov/acs/www/about_the_survey/survey_is_mandatory/

        I understand your point about the immigrant populace that distrusts the government, but in my opinion, that will be up to the voters to decide. Those agencies you mention about having a “field day” is hardly anything specific to Alhambra; every city is subject to the applicable provisions. It’s more like you having a field day to directly criticize everything wrong you see in this city.

        Many of the larger developments in Alhambra belong where they should be, IN the downtown CBD area. I’m not advocating for large projects everywhere and a four or five-story is hardly a “high-rise” – if you want to know what a high-rise is, take the I-10 fwy eight miles west into downtown L.A. We do have an aging housing stock and we are growing – there is no reason to deny this. As supplemental data to back-up evidence of our growth pressures, look at the Design Review Board agendas on a monthly basis and see all the applications from homeowners (including SFR’s – Single Family Residences) who want to expand their living units by adding a second floor, room addition, etc. Doesn’t that tell you something? You can deny every one of them but that won’t solve the problem because illegal conversions/ construction will continue. A better way, in my opinion, is to develop smarter by placing density in highly walkable areas. This helps reduce short-trip commutes by car. Our neighboring cities such as Pasadena, San Gabriel, and Monterey Park are already learning from this with their mixed-use projects. The growing traffic congestion isn’t just Alhambra’s fault – it’s also a regional issue and reflects how other cities generate walkable communities and local jobs. In addition, the newer types of development help spur and diversify the current demographic base we have now. Do you live in the downtown area? Doesn’t seem like it. I know many of my neighbors in this area who support such newer projects. Just because they don’t go online and post on this website doesn’t mean the support is nonexistent; it’s out there, even if the majority of the comments here don’t reflect that.

    2. I second this motion!

  15. They put banners on Fremont 20 years ago regarding the freeway extension. Keep trying I guess.

    As usual, South Pasadena wont take kindly to this.

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