LocationAlhambra , CA United States
The I-710 Freeway extension tunnel may have been killed, but Alhambra and other affected cities will need the northern and southern stubs to implement their traffic improvement projects.
Alhambra is paying traffic consultants Jacobs Engineering $40,000 to use traffic modeling data to predict the impacts of the traffic projects they have submitted to Los Angeles Metro, said City Manager Jessica Binnquist. Metro is awarding funding previously set aside for an I-710 freeway extension tunnel for city projects that will enhance vehicle capacity and thus reduce traffic congestion in the I-710 extension corridor.
CH2MHill, which was later acquired by Jacobs Engineering, worked with Metro to produce the I-710 environmental document. Binnquist said that Alhambra would need Jacobs’ data to redesign or reconfigure the I-10 freeway on and off-ramps at Fremont Avenue, Atlantic Boulevard and Garfield Avenue, and the I-10/I-710 interchange. These projects were awarded $160 million in funding from Metro last year, with $20 million going to each of the I-10 freeway exits, and $100 million for an interchange redesign study.
The I-10/I-710 interchange is located mainly in Alhambra, and could extend into Los Angeles and Monterey Park depending on how it’s redesigned. Metro gave Alhambra the money to study “if any beneficial reconfiguration is possible,” said Abdollah Ansari, Managing Executive Officer of Metro’s Highway Program. “Ultimately, all affected jurisdictions will decide on the scope of this project.”
Earlier discussions about whether to advocate for local control of the southern I-710 stub, which is located mainly in Alhambra, are still in progress while the traffic modeling goes on.
“Until the modeling is complete, we are not focused on the stub, or what it would look like,” Binnquist told the Alhambra Source in an email, adding, “The model will drive the conversation of the City Council on what the best way is to utilize the terminus area.”
Binnquist said that since there are no plans yet to close off the I-710 stub, “terminus area” is a more accurate term.
The California Department of Transportation’s District 7 office, which serves Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, recently held a meeting with around 50 people from Los Angeles Metro, state and regional elected officials and the cities affected by I-710 traffic. The discussion focused on transportation system management and transportation demand management projects, which cities in the I-710 extension corridor would implement on local roads to increase vehicle capacity and alleviate traffic congestion.
“The meeting basically was to get everyone together — all the cities, all the electeds — everyone that’s going to get impacted or where the 710 corridor runs through, so that everyone is educated on what the TSM/TDM selected preferred alternative is,” said Blanca Rodriguez, the Deputy District Director of External Affairs for Caltrans District 7.
Last year, Caltrans selected the TSM/TDM projects — which include local traffic controls like signal synchronization, minor street widening and intersection redesigns — as the solution, rather than completing the I-710 with a surface freeway or a tunnel.
The meeting also clarified that the northern and southern I-710 freeway stubs are both needed to implement the TSM/TDM projects. Anything outside the TSM/TDM projects would have to go through another environmental review, Rodriguez said.
These kinds of environmental reviews can be time consuming, often taking years to complete, though some projects could undergo a simpler review, depending on their predicted environmental impact.
In January, Assemblyman Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), introduced AB 29, which would delete the I-710 extension area from the state freeway and expressway system. State Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada) introduced SB 7, which would prevent a surface road or freeway tunnel from ever being built in the I-710 extension corridor.
Both bills passed their respective chambers in May, and have until Sept. 13 to be passed by the other chamber.
There was no vote recorded on Holden’s bill by Assemblyman Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park), who represents Alhambra.
“I abstained from voting on AB 29, because of the ongoing concerns raised by the City of Alhambra regarding the immediate and long-term traffic and quality of life issues,” Chau said in a statement to the Alhambra Source. “These issues have impacted our region for decades, due to inaction to close the gap in the 710 Freeway North. It is imperative that the cities in my district, and all stakeholders in the region stay engaged on this issue in coming up with solutions.”
In an April interview, Holden told the Alhambra Source that his bill would hold off on addressing that issue, since the stubs are needed for the TSM/TDM projects.
“The projects that are called out in that EIR are going to need land that’s part of the stub, both the north and the south,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to write language around the stubs right now that’s specific when we don’t want to do anything that’s going to invalidate the EIR.”
Before its passage in the Assembly, however, language was added to AB 29, allowing specific parts of the stubs to be handed over to Alhambra, Pasadena and South Pasadena, once transportation projects are complete, and with the oversight of the California Transportation Commission.
Earlier this year, Portantino told the Alhambra Source that he would wait on Caltrans for language on whether the I-710 stubs could be handed over to local control and converted to a different use. As discussions continue, his office is still waiting for that language.
State Senator Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park), whose district includes Alhambra, told the Alhambra Source why she voted for the Portantino measure.
“In order to bring an end to many decades of futile arguments and waste of countless resources, I voted to approve Senate Bill 7 by Senator Anthony Portantino, which codifies in state statute Caltrans’ decision to end the tunnel option to complete the remainder of the 710 freeway,” she said. “The residents have spoken, and it’s time to put to rest that debate.”
Rubio also attended the Caltrans District 7 meeting and expressed opposition to closing both stubs. “The freeway stubs that were built at each end of the project have become a critical component of the transportation infrastructure in the area,” she said. “The lack of a freeway allowing the movement of vehicles is bad enough. To now close both stubs is to exacerbate the traffic congestion in the region.”
Both Chau and Rubio are hosting a meeting within the next month for city representatives and Caltrans and Metro officials to continue to exchange relevant information.
At the end of 2018, Metro allocated around $515 million in Measure R funding to a first round of TSM/TDM and mobility improvement projects submitted by affected cities and neighborhoods, including Alhambra’s freeway on-ramp and interchange redesigns. Cities then submitted more projects for a second round of funding.
Metro hopes to present a final list of projects to the Board of Directors in July.