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California lawmaker seeks to shut down 710 tunnel proposal for good

Early morning traffic jams the entrance to the 710 Freeway Wednesday April 21, 2010 in Alhambra, Calif. For more than half a century, residents of South Pasadena led a successful fight against a 4½-mile, 710 freeway extension project that would cut across their quiet, tree-lined neighborhoods.
Nick Ut/AP
FILE: Early morning traffic jams the entrance to the 710 Freeway on Wednesday, April 21, 2010, in Alhambra, California. For more than half a century, residents of South Pasadena led a successful fight against a 4½-mile, 710 freeway extension project that would cut across their quiet, tree-lined neighborhoods.

Like cats versus dogs, or Beatles versus Stones, the question of what to do about the 710 freeway seems like a debate that could drag on for eternity. But a proposal from a local official this week could put an end to decades of debate over the contested project — or not.

For more than 50 years, officials and the community have argued over the best way to build a north-south connection between the busy 10 and 210 freeways through the heart of the San Gabriel Valley.

California Assemblyman Chris Holden from Pasadena is attempting to settle one point in the dispute by introducing a state bill to completely scrap the option of a tunnel.

"Our time should really be spent giving evaluations to alternatives that are more environmentally correct, that are not quite as expensive," said Holden, who announced his bill on Thursday.

The tunnel is one of five options being considered by Caltrans and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. It's been estimated to cost upwards of $5 billion and has been fiercely opposed by residents in Pasadena, South Pasadena and Glendale.

On the other hand, the cities of Alhambra and Duarte have favored the tunnel as a way to decrease cut-through traffic and trucks on their streets.

Holden said the state's ambitious environmental goals should preclude the tunnel as it would only encourage more car travel and congestion.

In 2015, Metro and Caltrans took public comment on the latest environmental report assessing five options to close the 710 gap:

  • Bus Rapid Transit: Express Buses for longer trips at higher speeds that serve the communities between East Los Angeles and Pasadena, with connecting bus service to adjacent communities; greater frequency of bus service; minimal stops; and potential dedicated bus lanes during peak hours.
  • Freeway Tunnel: Extends 710 North as an underground roadway; variations include single or twin tunnels, with or without tolls, with or without trucks, and a possible express bus service lane.
  • Light Rail Transit: Serves communities from East Los Angeles to Pasadena with connecting bus service for passengers traveling to adjacent communities.
  • No Build: Assumes zero transportation improvements beyond those already established in the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), and scheduled to be constructed by 2035. The No Build Alternative is required and serves as the baseline against which all other alternatives are compared.
  • Transportation System Management/Transportation Demand Management: Includes traffic signal upgrades and synchronization, local street and intersection improvements, connections to existing bus service, and promotes ride-share.

Metro and Caltrans are expected to answer questions that came up in public comment and determine the locally preferred alternative later this year.
Holden's bill would create a local advisory committee to consider non-tunnel options and make a recommendation to the two agencies.