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Alhambra votes to press for “local control” over I-710 stub

Photo by Ken Lund via Flickr and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Location

Alhambra , CA United States

The Alhambra City Council voted to press for the city to gain jurisdiction over the I-710 freeway stub, if the legislature votes to take it out of the state highway system, and to conduct traffic studies before determining the city’s position on the future use of that stub.

In a 4-0 vote, the City Council decided that taking “local control” of the stub, which runs for a mile from the I-10 Freeway to Valley Boulevard, would allow the city to have autonomy over the land and determine the best way to alleviate traffic issues caused in Alhambra should the roadway be taken out of the state highway system.

The Council also decided to conduct traffic studies before making a decision on its position over what happens to the stub, should the city gain control over it. Those studies could begin later this month.

“What I’ve been hearing also tonight is there’s a desire for us to do some additional work before we can even take a position on what’s going to happen to the physical land,” Councilmember Jeff Maloney said, adding that alleviating traffic in the area was the Council’s top priority.

In 2017, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority pulled funding for a proposed tunnel that would have finished the freeway, which had ended in Alhambra since the 1960s. Late last year, the California Department of Transportation formally decided to support transportation system management/transportation demand management solutions to alleviate traffic issues created by an incomplete I-710 freeway, instead of completing a proposed extension tunnel. Metro approved $100 million for Alhambra TSM/TDM projects at the I-710/I-10 interchange, as well as $20 million each for improvements to the on and off-ramps from the I-10 at Fremont Avenue, Atlantic Boulevard and Garfield Avenue.

Early this year, California state Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada) introduced a bill that would prohibit any tunnel or extension from being built between the I-10 Freeway and the I-210 Freeway. State Assemblyman Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) also introduced a bill that would take the I-710 stub out of the state highway system, so that the extension tunnel would not be built.

As a result, city staff asked the Alhambra City Council to give them direction on what they wanted to happen to the I-710 stub, so that staff could communicate that to Portantino, Holden and other state legislators dealing with the I-710 issue. Staff specifically asked the Council to decide whether the stub, should remain as is; who would gain the right-of-way over the stub if it is removed from the state highway system; and what other uses the stub could serve if the right-of-way goes back to Alhambra.

Around 60 Alhambra residents attended Monday night’s meeting, many of whom also attended an I-710 community forum last month. Fourteen residents spoke passionately about what should happen with the I-710 stub. Many were opposed to closing the stub as a freeway exit, saying that traffic from the I-10 would worsen and spread to their neighborhoods.

City Councilmember Katherine Lee responded by saying that she also wanted the stub to remain a highway, but that this decision wasn’t up to Alhambra. “We’d strongly like to advocate for Alhambra that the 710 Valley Boulevard exit continue to exist,” she said. “However, the final decision is resting with [Sacramento].”

Other residents expressed skepticism about other uses for the land including building a 50-acre regional park where the stub is, voicing concerns that this would make traffic in the area worse. They urged Alhambra to work with Caltrans to temporarily close the I-710 stub, and study how the closure affects traffic in surrounding neighborhoods, especially at the I-10 on-and-off ramps where cars trying to get to the I-710 south of the I-10 interchange would be routed.

“Once we get the data, then we come back to the community and say, ‘This is the data and these are the possible solutions,’ ” said Alhambra resident and Alhambra High School teacher Josh Moreno.

City Manager Jessica Binnquist said that traffic studies could start as soon as the end of this month or in early April, when Alhambra is expected to receive traffic data from Metro, which can be then used as basis for a broader study.

City staff also asked the Council to form a two-person subcommittee from its ranks to represent the city’s interests in Sacramento on this issue. The Council voted to designate Mayor Adele Andrade-Stadler and Councilmember David Mejia to form a subcommittee to negotiate with state leaders so that bill language pertaining to the I-710 extension protects Alhambra’s interests. Councilmember Ross Maza was not in attendance Monday night.

“We have the opportunity to do something great in our city,” Mejia said. “If we’re going to do that, we’ve got to fight back. If not, they’re going to take advantage of us.”

Mejia said that he and Andrade-Stadler were most qualified to represent Alhambra in Sacramento because they represent the fourth and fifth district respectively, areas in Alhambra that are most affected by I-710 traffic.

Maloney was designated as an alternate, in case Andrade-Stadler or Mejia could not attend a meeting.

The Pasadena City Council was also expected to consider hiring a consultant for $184,000 to advance that city’s interests in what happens to the I-710 extension area, should either or both of the state bills pass.

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