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Opposition to closing 710 freeway stub at special Alhambra City Council Meeting

  • Alhambra Mayor Jeff Maloney addresses the crowd who showed up to discuss what should happen to the city's 710 stub on a rainy Wednesday evening. Photo by Bastian Mendez.

  • More than 75 people attended the roundtable discussion, hosted by Maloney and City Councilmembers Katherine Lee, Ross Maza and Adele Andrade-Stadler. Photo by Bastian Mendez.

Location

Alhambra , CA United States

Mayor Jeff Maloney’s public forum on the I-710 Freeway stub and possibly turning the land into a regional park brought strong comments from the nearly 75 people in attendance, most of them firmly opposed to closing that unfinished artery over concerns that such a move would increase traffic on Alhambra streets and pose public safety issues.

Four of the five Alhambra City Council members — Maloney, Katherine Lee, Ross Maza and Adele Andrade-Stadler — listened to the often lively discussion held at the Alhambra Civic Center Library’s Reese Hall. More than 25 people expressed their view on what should happen to the stretch of the 710 that runs from the I-10 and ends at Valley Boulevard.

Those opposed to closing that stretch of the 710 were often longtime residents of the city and said that closing the stub would increase traffic in the surrounding neighborhoods, especially on Fremont Avenue and on Atlantic and Garfield. Some pointed out that the north/south on and off-ramps on the 10 are insufficient to handle the increase in traffic from the closing of the stub.

“I can’t see any value to [a park at this location],” said Linda Trevilian. “The traffic would just be bleeding through all these areas and just make more congestion.”

Other residents, who generally skewed younger, expressed their enthusiasm for a park, saying that the entire area didn’t necessarily have to be turned into park space and that increasing green space while alleviating traffic was not a zero-sum proposition.

“It’s not all park or no park — there is some kind of middle-ground that can work,” said Planning Commissioner Scott Chan, adding that L.A. County identified Alhambra as having a high-need for parks. “It looks green here but it’s not green enough.”

Some people advocated for parks to get built on other vacant land in the city.

Beginning in Long Beach, the 710 was supposed to meet at the I-210 Freeway in Pasadena, but has terminated at Valley Boulevard in Alhambra since the 1960s, due to opposition from South Pasadena and other cities who would have been affected by the extension. In 2017, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority pulled funding for a 4.5-mile tunnel that would have finished the freeway. Late last year, the California Department of Transportation formally decided not to support the extension.

Last December, Metro reallocated more than $500 million of Measure R funds intended for the tunnel to invest in traffic management measures for communities affected by traffic coming from the 710 terminus, according to the Pasadena Star-News. Alhambra will receive $100 million to implement transportation system management and transportation demand management projects at the 710/10 interchange, as well as $20 million each for similar projects to the 10 on and off-ramps at Fremont Avenue, Atlantic Boulevard and Garfield Avenue, said Assistant City Manager Brad McKinney.

Maloney clarified to the Alhambra Source that the city would spend their portion of the funds on projects that would go towards improving transportation in the area. “We’re not going to be spending transportation money on something else,” he said, adding that no parks assessment had been conducted in the area around the 710 terminus.

Maloney made the point throughout the evening that this session was a starting point to discuss favored options in Alhambra and clarified that the decision to close the 710 stub was ultimately up to Caltrans. “It’s not our idea to close that freeway down, it’s an idea to form alternative outside sources and something that we may have to face,” he said.

There are currently two bills in the California state legislature that if passed would delete the 710 extension from the state highway code, allowing Alhambra to control what that stub turns into by Assemblyman Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) and state Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Canada Flintridge). Pasadena would also be allowed to control the stub of the 710 running from the 210 south that is in its city limits.

Several Alhambra residents advocated for more public transportation options in the area of the city affected by the 710 stub. Alhambra High School student Winston Yan said that he would love to see more green space in Alhambra, but that the main issue is traffic, not only for drivers but for pedestrians like him.

“It takes at least two ACT trips on the green line for every Alhambra High School kid to get home,” he said. “When the bus infrastructure right now is that terrible — when the Metro is too expensive for kids and charges $1.75 because you don’t have a student TAP card — that’s an issue here in Alhambra.”

“I echo some of the comments made by my neighbors with regard to increasing public transit, looking at first mile connections to our major transit hub that we have at Cal State LA,” said Lilian De Loza-Gutierrez, an Alhambra resident who works for Metro and sits on the city’s planning commission.

Other residents who spoke about the traffic issue advocated for extending the 710 stub north to Mission Road and even to Huntington Drive, to get the traffic out of the Fremont Avenue and Valley Boulevard area.

A few other residents echoed Planning Commissioner Chan in advocating for a park and that doing so wasn’t mutually exclusive from alleviating traffic and pollution. “I think in the envisioning of the park, we can also envision traffic alleviation,” said Duyen Tran. “We can use that opportunity to be creative about multi-modal transportation.”

One resident, Janet Ervin said some of the land could be turned into a park, but that the people could also build Cal State LA dorms and affordable housing on that strip. “We have a lot of different needs here — one of the needs is low to middle-income housing,” she said, an idea that another resident brought up as a reason not to get rid of the stub. “I keep hearing that at the Council meetings.”

A couple of people who attended the special city council meeting, which was scheduled to run an hour but pushed to 90 minutes, pointedly asked Mayor Maloney whether he supported turning the 710 stub into a park. Maloney said that while he supports more parks, his first concern is also reducing traffic. “Park or no park, the first thing is to help our quality of life by alleviating our traffic,” he said, adding that a next round of Metro funding could go towards public transit infrastructure like shuttle buses towards nearby Metro stations and adding bike lanes.

Maloney will step down as mayor during the next City Council meeting next Monday at the end of his nine-month term. Vice Mayor Andrade-Stadler will be sworn in as mayor.

Andrade-Stadler told the Alhambra Source that it was great to hear from so many residents on a rainy night about what they wanted to happen to the 710 stub and to hear support for a park from some younger residents. She added, however, that the number one priority was to relieve traffic in the area. “How do we spend money [from Metro] for mobility improvements and to relieve congestion?” She asked. “Those are the critical issues.”

Andrade-Stadler said that future meetings would address the traffic issues foremost. Maloney added that given the knowledge he’s accumulated about the issue, he planned on staying closely involved.

“I’m really happy we got to hear everyone out and I really appreciate first and foremost the civility we had in this room tonight,” he said, later adding in a Facebook comment that he appreciated people’s feedback even at an early stage of reimagining the 710 in Alhambra.

Updated at 4:26 p.m. to clarify the funding that Alhambra has received from Metro and Caltrans to implement TSM/TDM projects in the area affected by 710 traffic.

Updated on Feb. 22 at 6:19 p.m. with comments from Mayor Jeff Maloney about feedback and civility at the forum.

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