LocationAlhambra , CA
Two state bills that would prevent the construction of a SR-710 extension tunnel will not include language addressing the possibility that Caltrans would relinquish control of the northern and southern stubs to a local city, according to state officials who were present at a meeting discussing freeway traffic in the San Gabriel Valley.
State Sen. Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park), who represents the 22nd District where many of the western San Gabriel Valley cities affected by I-710 traffic are located, said that she spoke with Assemblyman Chris Holden when his I-710 bill was being considered by the Senate Transportation Committee. The Holden bill, AB 29, would take the I-710 extension area out of the state freeway and expressway system, and passed the Assembly on May 29 with an amendment allowing specific parts of the stubs to be handed over to Alhambra, Pasadena and South Pasadena, once transportation projects are complete.
Rubio, who sits on the Senate Transportation Committee, told those assembled at the meeting that she told Holden she could not support the bill if language relinquishing the stubs was still included, believing that they’re a critical component of the transportation infrastructure in the area. She said that all cities affected by traffic at the southern stub, which ends at Valley Boulevard in Alhambra, should have input into what happens it.
“There’s anxiety around the stubs and closing the stubs,” Rubio said, adding that she had heard concerns from multiple cities and stakeholders, including the city of Los Angeles and Cal State LA that closing the southern stub would impede access to the university campus and to the L.A. neighborhood of El Sereno.
Rubio previously stated her opposition to turning the southern stub into a regional park, an idea which had been discussed in Alhambra. Alhambra City Councilmember Jeff Maloney, a proponent of the park plan, represented the city along with City Manager Jessica Binnquist. He said that the city would not have done anything that would push traffic to other cities, and was aware that closing the southern stub would be “extreme.” Discussions related to reconfiguration and other alternatives had been on the table. He added that Alhambra is committed to making an informed data-driven decision on how to alleviate traffic around the stub using traffic modeling.
Rubio also met with state Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada). She said that Portantino assured her that he would not include language about the relinquishment of the southern stub in his bill, SB 7, without consensus from cities affected by traffic at the stub. SB 7 would mainly prevent a surface road or tunnel from being built in the SR-710 extension area. It passed the Senate in May and was approved by the Assembly Transportation Committee on July 1.
“As the Senator has said from the beginning, he hoped to deal with the stubs this legislative session but purposely did not put any language in SB 7 relative to the stubs because there is not consensus between the affected cities,” said a spokesperson for Portantino’s office. “It is his hope that Metro, Caltrans, and the cities can come up with a unifying plan at which time he will address any legislative needs appropriately.”
The meeting, which included city managers and council members from the cities of Alhambra, Los Angeles, Monterey Park, Rosemead and San Gabriel, was hosted by both Rubio and Assemblyman Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park), whose 49th Assembly District also represents many of the communities affected by the I-710 stub traffic. The purpose of the meeting, which was held last Friday at the Monterey Park City Hall, was to explain the traffic alleviation projects that are planned for the I-710 extension area now that the tunnel is not moving forward, and to hear cities’ questions and concerns about the process.
Around 90,000 drivers enter and exit the I-710 at Valley Boulevard on a daily basis, according to Caltrans’ 2017 traffic census.
Bulinski said that any modifications made to the EIR would have to conform to the purpose of alleviating local traffic impacts. Major changes would likely invalidate the EIR and start a new environmental process, an outcome that Bulinski doesn’t think is necessary.
Abdollah Ansari, Managing Executive Officer of LA Metro’s Highway Program, was also on hand to explain that Metro was prioritizing vehicle capacity enhancing projects that would move traffic coming from cars through the I-710 extension corridor as quickly as possible. He said that Metro planned on allocating around $1 billion in local, state and federal funding originally earmarked for the I-710 extension tunnel towards these projects, and that a final projects listed would be presented to the Metro Board of Directors in September.
These projects include local street and freeway interchange improvements; local street intersection improvements; and intelligent transportation system projects like traffic signal synchronization.
So far, Metro has approved Alhambra-specific projects involving reconfiguration of the I-10 freeway on and off-ramps at Fremont Ave, Atlantic Blvd and Garfield Ave; a redesign of the I-10 and I-710 interchange; and traffic signal synchronizations on Garfield Ave and Fremont Ave.
The cities present at this meeting also had the opportunity to give feedback about the I-710 discussions. Rocio Hernandez, district director for Los Angeles’ 14th District Councilmember Jose Huizar, expressed her hope that communication would improve on the I-710 process, so that Cal State LA and other parts of LA close to the southern stub are included in more meetings and have a say in what happens.
Rosemead City Councilmember Steven Ly expressed his opinion that the TSM/TDM projects would only alleviate traffic temporarily, and that all parties have to discuss a long-term solution.
Rubio and Chau supported Maloney’s mention of making data-driven decisions to determine the long-term future of the I-710 area. “We need to use data driven information not only for our region but for the entire state of California,” Chau said.
Alhambra City Manager Binnquist said that the city intended on sharing the traffic modeling results with the Alhambra City Council; Metro and Caltrans; state elected officials, surrounding cities and other stakeholders; and then Alhambra residents.
“We plan to bring forward data driven projects that assist in reducing congestion, thus improving air quality [that] our city has suffered for so long,” she told the Alhambra Source.