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Alhambra supports controversial freeway tunnel

May 19, 2013|By Daniel Siegal
  • Signs opposing the 710 Freeway being built on Ave. 64 were placed at the corner of Church St. and Ave. 64 last summer in Pasadena.
Signs opposing the 710 Freeway being built on Ave. 64 were placed at the corner… (Raul Roa / Glendale News-Press )

The city of Alhambra last week reaffirmed its support for a controversial tunnel that would connect the 710 and 210 freeways, proclaiming July 10 as “710 Day” in the city.

“We as a city want to raise awareness that now is the time [the 710 freeway] can be completed,” Alhambra Mayor Steve Placido said at a news conference at City Hall Tuesday.

Extending the 710 Freeway from its terminus in Alhambra via a tunnel to the 210 Freeway in Pasadena has for years faced strong opposition from politically powerful neighborhoods and elected officials.

Officials in Glendale, Pasadena, South Pasadena, Sierra Madre, La Cañada Flintridge and Los Angeles have all issued public statements opposing the 710 Freeway extension, as well as state and federal representatives. Opponents argue the connection would bring a deluge of big-rig traffic, noise and air pollution.

Combined with an active coalition of residents opposed to the proposal — the No 710 Action Committee — the public argument in favor of a tunnel has hardly registered.

The Los Angeles Country Metropolitan Transportation Authority is currently conducting an environmental study of five options for reducing congestion in the 710 gap, which in addition to the tunnel, include light rail and bus transit. A first draft of the study is expected to be completed in 2014.

Alhambra has long supported extending the 710 Freeway from its terminus, where vehicles currently spill out onto city streets in an effort to follow myriad urban paths to other freeways.

Placido said the city was stepping forward now because the financial commitment was there for a full environmental study of the options through Measure R — the half-cent sales tax for transportation projects approved by county voters in 2008. The review also has the backing of the MTA and the California Department of Transportation.

Placido said plans for “710 Day” were “up in the air” at this point but that officials were considering a street fair and other public-outreach efforts.

MTA spokeswoman Helen Ortiz-Gilstrap said the agency welcomed input from Alhambra and other communities that will potentially be affected by the project “because it is a regional problem.”

Also attending the announcement on Tuesday were about a dozen tunnel opponents and members of the No 710 Action Committee.

Among them was Alhambra resident Melissa Michelson, who said she was disappointed to see her city focusing on the freeway option and not public transit.

“I still don’t understand why they want to have this freeway … just to close the gap,” she said. “For me, that’s not a good enough reason."

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daniel.siegel@latimes.com

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