Protest a New Freeway Tunnel?
How About Remove a Freeway That’s There Now?
Beyond 710 Coalition Makes Their Case
On Thursday June 18, the office of Councilman Jose Huizar put on a forum to inform El Sereno residents of a proposal regarding the 710 freeway issue.
Most of you are aware of South Pasadena’s 50 year old fight to stop the 710 freeway through their fair city. Many of you know that Northeast L.A. was also involved lately in fighting possible alternatives that would connect the 710 through Eagle Rock, Mt. Washington, Highland Park and Glassell Park.
However, don’t be ashamed if you hadn’t hear about a movement underway not only to stop the completion of the 710 (Long Beach) freeway, but to remove the two ends of the freeway that had already been built some 50 years ago.
Appropriately named, “Beyond the 710 Coalition,” it is an effort started through a consortium of five San Gabriel Valley cities, Pasadena, La Cañada, Glendale, Sierra Madre and South Pasadena.
You can probably include at least a 1/15 portion of the City of L.A. in that column as well, as the ideas displayed in yesterday’s El Sereno work shop (which was organized by the office of Jose Huizar) fit right in with Huizar’s recent embrace of the complete streets movement (bike lanes, pedestrian friendly, etc.).
Paul Moore, of Nelson-Nygaard, made his presentation regarding CalTrans’ recent draft environmental impact report, conceived after literally years of outreach and planning, as they were looking for “710 Alternatives.” (I must add that the presentation was completely one sided, there was no one there in any official capacity to counter the claims of Nelson-Nygaard, or their claimed facts or figures.)
The five alternatives studied and brought before the affected communities were pared down to just two, which are addressed in the report. The first is a 710 tunnel, connecting both stubs of the 710 freeway, Pasadena at the North end and El Sereno at the South. It would tunnel underneath El Sereno and South Pasadena to connect the two “stubs” of the 710 freeway.
The other is to tunnel under with a light rail subway, connecting to the Goldline, probably near the Huntington Hospital, and continuing South all the way to the other end of the Gold Line in East L.A.
None of these options seem satisfactory to the coalition, or “No on 710” advocates, and today, Mr. Moore pulled apart CalTrans’ plans brick by brick.
First, he identified that the extra trips and traffic that would be generated by the tunnel would increase greenhouse gas emissions. Then, he argued that the connecting of that freeway would probably relieve congestion on some streets but make it worse on others. Finally, he argued that “If you build it, they will come!” Saying that building more road capacity only serves to attract more traffic, and after a short period of time, the road will be congested just the same.
He drove his points home by claiming that 6 billion, if spent this way, would not improve traffic, and indeed, would only serve to worsen traffic as well as the quality of life. He said that spending 6 billion in a way that gives people an incentive for getting out of their cars, like buying metro passes for all students, would actually improve traffic in a measurable way (As well as training a new generation to get around town with the use of the automobile).
At this point, I think I should mention that his company, Nelson Nygaard, was founded by two former transportation managers from the city of San Francisco, which, incidentally, is where Seleta Reynolds, the recently appointed head of the Los Angeles City department of transportation, is from. (Not a Portlandia reunion, but close enough!)
His next part of the meeting was showing a vision for Mission Road that includes a road diet and bike lanes, and making Huntington into a “Grand Boulevard.”
However, what came next was a real shock. We’ve heard about the “no build” alternative that Caltrans had to consider along with the other ideas of a tunnel, subway and bus route. But this went one step further in the opposite direction. Brand new was the idea of “un-freewaying” those end stubs at either end of the 710 gap (El Sereno and Pasadena).
Artist rendering of proposed park for North end of El Sereno 710 stub.
He showed artist renderings of narrowing the road and eliminating those multi-lane end stubs altogether. Proposed was taking back all that real estate and turning it into a narrow, meandering, street. Included were bike paths, green space, more campus for Cal State, and possibility of bringing back El Sereno’s Arroyo Rosa, a river that was taken when that part of the freeway was built decades ago.
Artist rendering of South end of El Sereno 710 stub.
As this issue has been brewing as far back as when the freeway construction began, it will be years before any visible changes will start to take effect, but NOW is the time for people to be heard, no matter which way you feel!
More at http://www.beyondthe710.org/
(This story was updated to correct that the tunnel would NOT go under Alhambra, however, Alhambra has been pushing for it because they’d like to get rid of all that traffic that comes off the freeway and clogs Fremont Avenue in their city.)