“New America Foundation” Columnist Calls for 710 Expansion

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Via LA Observed

Journalist and New America Foundation Senior Fellow Joe Matthews has a unique idea for how President Obama can rebuild the country’s infrastructure and stimulate the economy: build the I-710 Freeway Extension:

The 710 is the main transportation artery out of America’s largest
port, the Port of Long Beach. It’d be a big boost for commerce if the
freeway didn’t abruptly end before its destination. Truckers are
instead forced onto other freeways, clogging traffic – and slowing the
business and personal lives of others. And with the country requiring
an economic boost, there’s no better time than right now to get
construction started. This isn’t a bridge to nowhere-it’s a vital
transportation link in the middle of a metropolitan area. And you want
to talk shovel-ready? The 710 has been waiting for shovels to finish it
for 50 years.

If you’re wondering how a representative of a group that claims to "invest in new thinkers and new ideas to address the next generation of challenges facing the United States," can push a massive road expansion project when progressive thinkers understand that highway expansion has failed as a long-term answer to congestion, you’re not alone.  And let’s also be clear, if Matthews is serious about this project being a part of the president’s stimulus plan, then he’s talking about the widening plan that would devestate downtown South Pasadena to say nothing of the environmental damage and welcome mat for truckers.

To make this whole opinion piece even more bizarre, the New America Foundation is pushing rail as an alternative to highway expansion in the country’s freight plans. 

Matthews calls for Change We Can Believe In, when it comes to this highway project.  To paraphrase Joe Biden; pushing a project dubbed by environmentalists as "One of the Worst Highway Projects in the Country" against the will of the locals ain’t change.

It’s more of the same.

Photo: Big Mike Lakers/Flickr

  • Hey, glad to see my column get mentioned. Two things to add: 1. there’s no party line at the New America Foundation. They don’t tell me what to write and don’t see what I write beforehand. 2. I’m not for paving over South Pas. I grew up on the Pas/South Pas line, and love the area as it is. As my piece mentions, you can tunnel under to your heart’s content. But this isn’t Beijing’s 7th ring road, or a new highway through a state park in Orange County. It’s a vital link in the middle of dense, urban Southern California, and it’s been part of national, state and local planning for a half century. And yes, new highways don’t solve all traffic problems, but you can’t solve traffic problems without highway construction. I’d also argue there’s more than a little class bias in the idea that South Pas must be protected, come high or hell water, from the scourge of traffic and trucks, even though the status quo pushes traffics and trucks into less wealthy, more diverse communities (East LA, Alhambra, etc.). Bottom line: finishing this in some form isn’t a close call.
    Keep up the good work with the blog.

    Joe

  • Wad

    How vital would the 710 extension be to freight traffic? The ports are at the south end, but at the north end is Pasadena … not exactly a nexus of freight logistics. The freight corridor veers east along the 10 and 60 freeways.

  • David

    Wad,

    As the 710, if completed, would feed into the 210, that feeds into the I5 & 14 it would give truckers an alternative to having to funnel through I5 past Downtown. But you knew that right? It sounds like you are saying freight only travels East and West by natural design, not re-routed because of NIMBYism.

    As a proud resident of Alhambra I say push it through! Push it NOW! ;-)

  • Would any of the highway proponents please show me how adding more lane-miles of highway is going to make driver delay on the highway go away?

    Everything I’ve seen, read, and have heard has shown that more lane miles of highway leads to more driver delay.

    The only real solution to “congestion” (an automobile-only catchphrase here in the U.S.), is to remove vehicle from the road. This can be effectively achieved by reducing lane-miles, and by removing automobile highway spending and entitlements.

    “New America” same as the “Old America”. The 20th Century is calling, they want their oil-based transportation plans back.

  • Spokker

    Joe Mathews, are you for or against the purple line extension?

  • Great minds thinking alike. Posted an article about this very topic yesterday morning.

    http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com/2009/01/should-obama-break-south-pasadena.html

  • To answer the question, I’m for the purple line extension. I’m for the subway to the sea. I’m for more bus lanes. And I’m for more roads and highways where it makes sense — in dense, already developed areas (I’m anti-sprawl), like, say, the interior San Gabriel Valley where we’ve got a highway extension that’s been on the board for 50 years… California is woefully under-invested in every sort of transportation. (And the problem is obviously not just a function of transportation) This state does not have infrastructure that comes close to accommodating its population. In fact, its outdated infrastructure is causing us to lose people (traffic is one reason why people are leaving) and business (look at the port and airport. And check out the recent LA Times story on the troubles that LAX has in accomodating the Airbus 380).

    I can’t put my hands on the study, but I believe USC looked at this question of infrastructure about 5 years ago and found that when it comes to infrastructure, we’re more than $200 billion short. Of course, it’s hard to build new infrastructure when 1. you have a broken tax and legislative system, and 2. people freak out when someone suggests completing a badly needed freeway link that we’ve needed for a half century!

  • Stephen

    Are there any plans to possibly toll this extension once it opens? Seems like that would be a good idea to mitigate induced demand. I bet there would be plenty of users (especially freight) willing to pay the direct user fee in order to avoid driving through the ELA interchange.

  • The pro-710ers are nuts. You are insane. Is there no cost too high for a new freeway?

    This is a waste of money project, and you should be ashamed of yourselves for pretending that our oil-dependent economy will last long enough to see this project completed.

    I read that global crude oil production peaked in 2005 – how wise does the 710 expansion look in that light?

  • I don’t understand the anti-car/anti-freeway rhetoric.

    I’m for an expanded rail transit network and more specifically for grade separated rail because I believe that when done right it helps gets the job done better than other alternatives.

    Dismissing this potential link by failing to look at the specifics of this particular project and instead combating it with traditional generic anti-highway rhetoric is ridiculous.

    I don’t know if the 710 tunnel is a good idea. Being uneducated on the issue I’m inclined to think it is at this juncture, but willing to listen to all sides.

    I do know that it’s much better in a tunnel than elevated or street-level, and this issue once again shows how people/groups/communities who are OPPOSED to certain types of public infrastructure, become for it if it’s done underground.

    One can be pro-transit and still be for:

    1) Appropriately mitigated highway extensions to connect missing links
    2) Improvements at highway interchanges to relieve (or at the very least improve) some bottlenecks.
    3) Traffic synchronization improvements to improve the flow of vehicular traffic.

  • First, let me publicly thank Joe for his classy and well constructed arguments following my snarky post. I appreciate it and it has led to some good conversation.

    Second, to my evil twin, I use traditional “anti-highway rhetoric” because this is a traditional highway expansion project. I’ve long felt, and long argued, the way to beat the high amount of truck traffic is to revitalize our long-neglected freight rail network. There’s never going to be an elimination of trucks, trucks and truckers provide a valuable service and even if we reactivated every freight rail line in the country, truck traffic would still increase nationwide in the next 30 years.

    However, until we’re investing in that kind of rail network, I don’t want to spend a lot of money on a highway expansion project that would dramatically increase the truck traffic along a specific corridor. To say nothing of the induced demand impacts we would see on the private automobile side of things.

  • Having grown up in South Pasadena, I can recall the various directions that the whole 710 controversy has taken. My beloved hometown has been called every single derogatory slur and name imaginable–elitist, selfish, unwilling to work for the common good, stubborn wealthy lawyers and Stepford wives. I remember walking down Fair Oaks Ave as young kid, and a guy stuck his head out of his car yelling, “South Pas sucks. F*** you South Pas.” In the late 1990’s, the city of Alhambra purposely set up roadblocks and unsynchronized traffic signals on Fremont Ave to slow down traffic. How times have not changed.

    It always intrigued me that the media(Joe Matthews included) portrays South Pasadena as a self-absorbed well-to-do community that’s solely responsible for all the LA traffic congestion as we know it. Do people even remember the original freeway route that called for a bisection of San Marino (an even larger, more affluent suburb with some of the highest median home prices in the state)? San Marino residents balked at the idea, and MTA/Caltrans rerouted the freeway to run through El Sereno and South Pasadena.

    It was supposed to be an easy sell. El Sereno was a small working class Hispanic community with virtually no political bargaining power. Diminutive South Pasadena, which already has the 110 Freeway passing through it, would be bisected again, losing 10% of its property values and demolishing its only high school (which lies smack in the middle of the route). The city would most DEFINITELY not have been able to survive with the freeway, and Caltrans/MTA knew it. They had a plan in place to chop up South Pasadena amongst the city of LA, Pasadena, and Alhambra, the same cities that consistently frame South Pas as the rich little town unwilling to compromise.

    It sickens me that everyone points the finger at South Pasadena whenever the name 710 debacle comes up. The project was set up so that a small middle class city would be the only vocal opponent to the project and become the target for all of LA County.

    I personally am a proponent of mass transit and freight service. I’m glad the Gold Line services South Pasadena. It has been an asset to the city, which has even cooperated w/ the MTA to build Mission Meridian, a transit oriented infill development with subterranean parking for train riders. Instead of the 710 freeway extension, MTA should focus on building the EXPO line, revamp the Blue Line and extend it to Union Station, and extend the Purple Line to the sea. For freight, lay down more heavy rail to accommodate freight service.

  • I don’t want the 710 built, but to call South Pasadena “middle class” is a stretch. It is definitely upper class, white, and college educated – not that that justifies bulldozing the place.

  • I admittedly misspoke (or mistyped) when I wrote that South Pasadena is middle class. It is certainly a more affluent upper middle class neighborhood of LA County. With that said, South Pasadena does have degrees of socioeconomic diversity. The city has many apartment and condo developments, and about 55% of residents are renters. The median household income of $72K, though very high, is more modest than San Marino, La Canada, and several neighborhoods of Pasadena (San Rafael and Linda Vista to name a few). Moreover, 30% of the city is now Asian American, with another 16% Hispanic residents. As well-to-do communities go, South Pasadena runs the gamut from gated Craftsman mansions in the Marengo district (that us “regular” residents don’t have access to) to much more modest 2 bedroom bungalows in the Arroyo Vista.

    One point of contention early on in the freeway debate was why the original plan of running the freeway through San Marino was deemed unacceptable, but the revised route through South Pas somehow became “okay” with all the powers at be. In any case, with the surface route being dead, this debate isn’t relevant any more.

    Sure, an underground 710 connector would effectively “save” South Pasadena (and cost more money than CA could ever afford), but it does not solve LA’s traffic problems. There needs to be a change in Socal’s car culture to free and the necessary public transit infrastructure to support that kind of change.

  • “I don’t want the 710 built, but to call South Pasadena “middle class” is a stretch. It is definitely upper class, white, and college educated – not that that justifies bulldozing the place.” Ubrayj

    Exactly. I like to use South Pasadena as an example that you can fight back. I like to also use it as an example that some people’s voices count more than others, but I also don’t think South Pasadena should be killed, which the 710 would do.

    I think some people feel that the answer is taking away from people, but to me the answer is give everybody a little, respect people’s neighborhoods, the white upper class ones, the brown working class ones, the artsy ones, the artless ones, everyone experience is valuable. How about building better public transit service in the SGV so fewer people have to drive.

    Browne

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