Alhambra’s second annual “710 Day” — a city-sponsored “urban street jam” to promote extending the 710 Freeway — drew hundreds Thursday to Fremont Avenue between Mission Road and Valley Boulevard. Traffic was backed up along Valley and Fremont due to the street closures for the event, which featured carnival games, food trucks, a live band, and pro-710 speeches from representatives from Alhambra, Monterey Park, and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.
City leadership backs a proposed 4.5-mile tunnel extending the 710 Freeway in Alhambra to the 210 Freeway in Pasadena. Alhambra officials argue the tunnel would ease traffic by taking thousands of cars off of Fremont.
"This is a neighborhood street, it shouldn't be treated like a freeway," said Alhambra Councilman Steven Placido, addressing the number of cars that exit the 710 and take Fremont to the 210.
Placido went on to say residents are spending an unnecessary amount of time on the streets due to this traffic. "Their family time should not be spent in the family car," he said.
Alhambra Unified School Board Member Adele Andrade-Stadler held up her inhaler on stage, saying that she, her husband, and daughter all use the breathing devices. Andrade-Stadler argued that her house’s proximity to the traffic on Valley and Fremont contributes to her family's health conditions. "We want to stay in the community and want it to be safe,” Andrade-Stadler said. “Completing the 710 Freeway will eliminate and alleviate a lot of the pollution that our students and families breathe everyday."
Former Monterey Park Mayor Teresa Real Sebastian spoke in support of the underground tunnel. "We support bridging the gap because it is the right thing to do. Costs are escalating and the air quality isn't getting any better,” Sebastian said. "Congestion and gridlock extends for miles and it affects Alhambra and it affects my city and several other cities.”
Monterey Park is one of five cities that form the 710 Coalition, a group of pro-tunnel cities and organizations. In addition to Alhambra and Monterey Park, the 710 Coalition includes Rosemead, San Gabriel, and San Marino.
Residents expressed differing views on the 710 extension. Matthew Santiago joined because he wanted to show his support for the tunnel. "I came here to partake in it because I agree with closing the gap. It would ease congestion and heading to Pasadena would be quicker,” Santiago said.
Johnny Dominguez and Priscilla Suarez visited the festivities to become more informed on the issue. "I came here to learn more about it. I don't know yet. I have to find out first," Dominguez said.
Suarez was also unsure but leaned towards being in favor of the tunnel. "I came just to find out more about it,” she said. “But I think it could ease congestion in Alhambra."
The underground tunnel is one of five proposed alternatives to close the 710 freeway gap: bus rapid transit, light rail transit, transportation system management/transportation demand management, a freeway tunnel, and a no build option. Metro is conducting an environmental impact study on the options and is expected to conclude in February 2015.
The 710 Freeway gap has been a highly debated issue for decades in the San Gabriel Valley. While tunnel supporters such as the 710 Coalition claim that the underground solution will ease traffic congestion, create jobs, and improve air quality, tunnel opponents believe the project will cause health and environmental damage.
The No 710 Action Committee protested the event on Thursday, arguing that the project is expensive, unsafe, and does not prepare Alhambra and the San Gabriel Valley for the future.
"It's not a solution. It's a $12 billion dollar truck tunnel that's suicidal,” said Joe Potts, a No 710 Action Committee member, South Pasadena resident, and Alhambra business owner. Potts wore a t-shirt Thursday displaying a crossed-out 710 sign.
Alhambra resident and 710 protestor Elizabeth Sesztak, who is not a member of the No 710 Action Committee but opposes the tunnel, said she attended 710 Day as a "concerned citizen."
"It's a 50-year-old solution to a current problem,” Sesztak said, referring to the tunnel. “There might be some safety concerns because there are only two exits. What if there's a fire or someone gets trapped? They're goners.”
Sesztak favors alternatives such as expanding the light rails or resurrecting older means of transportation. "Look into the potential of the red car lines,” she said, referring to the Los Angeles County rail system that last ran in Long Beach in 1961. “They were highly effective in transporting people.”
While opponents brought up other alternatives, Placido said that the future of transportation in the San Gabriel Valley should utilize both freeways and public transit. "Building a tunnel does not exclude the other options. The tunnel is the best option but I support expanding the light rails, expanding bus routes region wide, and synchronizing traffic lights,” Placido said.