Language Matters: Mind the Gap

As long time Streetsblog readers are well aware, our editorial team believes that language matters.  It’s why there’s a slew of stories arguing that using the word “accident” as a synonym for “crash” is both incorrect and insidious.  Last week, a reader pointed out to me that Metro, in both press materials and on The Source, continually refer to the I-710 Extension project as the “I-710 Gap Project.”

A “gap” is something that needs to be filled.  It’s a nuisance.  A problem.  By referring to the project as a “gap” project, you’re already pointing the debate towards, “what is the best way to fill it.”

Well, if proponents of the project can have their own language for the program, so can Streetsblog.  On Friday I sent out an email to opponents of extending the 710 freeway so it connects to the 210 through either above ground highway expansion or a tunnel, asking them to name the project.  If you have a better name than any of the people I reached out to, leave it in the comments section.  On Friday, we’ll have a poll asking readers to choose their favorite name for the I 710 project, and Streetsblog will use that name in our coverage for the rest of the debate.

Glendale Mayor, and former Metro Board Chair Ara Najaraian was the first person to respond, simply emailing “The 710 (money)PIT.”  In a similar vein, La Crescenta resident Susan Bolen noted that if the final project is indeed a tunnel project it would be between .9 miles and 1.9 miles longer than Boston’s disastrous Big Dig when she proposed the Even Bigger Dig.  She later noted the dangerous conditions that can be created if there’s ever a fire in a tunnel and went for the much less subtle, Tunnel from Hell.

Following up on the “Big Dig” theme was Joanne Nuckols from NO710, who added SR 710 LA’s Big Dig, 710-The Toll Tunnel to Nowhere, 710 Gap-Don’t fall into it, The SR 710-The Ultimate Boondoggle, and of course, SR 710-Big Dig West

She also added a collaborative naming effort with Janet Ervin, the 710 Gasp Closure.

If “Tunnel from Hell” was too subtle a potential title for the project, then Judy Bergstresser, with the 710 Coalition, may have the best name for you.  Her three proposed names are: 710 Crap Project,  710 Freight Truck Corridor, and 710-Year Old Bad Idea.  Meanwhile, long time Streetsblog reader Carlton Glub apparently is taking Metro at its word that everything is on the table and proposes The Alhambra Corridor Freight Toll Tunnel Project (or maybe a freeway or transit).

But the MVP for the “suggest a name” portion of the program has to go to Occidental College Professor (and Streetsblog Contributor) Mark Vallianatos who found a couple of moments to suggest seventeen quick ideas: Zombie Freeway, Post Freeway Zone, Freeway Free Zone, The 1951 (or whatever year it was first planned), Road to the Past, 7-20th century, the 710 Trap, 710 crap. Tarnish the Gold Line, The Tarnish Line, Blast from the Past,  Shaft from the Past, Soot Alley in the Valley, The Middle Finger (middle option of 5 is preferred), Billions per Mile, Platinum Gap, Ivory Plated Freeway, and The Cole Hole.

Remember, you have until Thursday to suggest your own name.  Then, be sure to come back on Friday and vote for your favorite.

  • Indeed, language does matter. Thanks for reflecting on the words we choose.

  • Anonymous

    I like “I-710 Gap Closure Project” myself; it’s not a project to create a gap, but to close one.

    I agree with the arguments against the tunnel: for these and many other reasons, this section should be built as surface freeway.

  • 710 Asthma Project

  • Joanne Nuckols

    Great idea on the renaming, Damien. It gives people a creative outlet for their frustration over this ill-advised project that’s been controversial for about 70 yrs now (first proposed when the Arroyo Seco/Pasadena Fwy first opened).

    I’d like this opportunity, while we are on the subject, to clear up something. The proposed 710 project north of the 10 is NOT an Interstate (I) and should not be designated as such…it is a State Route (SR). I’m sure someone will dispute this FACT so to clear things up all they have to do it check out the cover of the federal court determined deficient EIR/EIS for the surface route or check with Caltrans.

    BTW, there is still an federal injunction in place (since 1973) preventing the surface fwy project.

  • I like “The even bigger dig”, or “Big dig west”. Boston may be a long way off, but everyone has heard about the cost overruns and problems with that freeway project. And this one would be even more complicated.

    The whole “gap” idea is nonsense. A 710 extension would only save 4 minuets compared to taking 5 and 110. The real problem is that the 5 amd 10 freeways are crowded, because they are “free”, so truck companies want to be able to detour via a 710 extension and take 210 north or west, instead of I-5 or I-10.

    Would Metro consider tolls on 5 and 10 thru LA county as an alternate traffic solution, instead of building a multi-billion dollar toll-tunnel for the trucks? It would have the same benefit, and would MAKE billions that could be used to improve transit and maintain the existing roads.

    That would be more sensible than dumping billions into a hole in the ground.

  • Anonymous

    All Interstate highways in California are also state routes with the same number, so observing that some documents refer to “State Route 710” isn’t particularly relevant; there is also a “State Route 5,” established by section 305 of the Streets & Highways Code, but that doesn’t make it any less “Interstate 5,” duly accepted into the Interstate system.

    Is there any serious reason to believe that additional freeway sections of Route 710 wouldn’t be accepted by FHWA when completed if not before?

  • Joanne Nuckols

    Anonymous, it was precisely FHWA as their first comment on the Draft EIR/EIS that made the distinction to Caltrans that this extension was not an Interstate and to change the symbol on the cover. Somewhere along the line, the proposed, as opposed to the existing, 710 was “demoted” from an I to a SR. Don’t know why, but nonetheless it happened.

    Yes, there is a very good reason to believe that FHWA wouldn’t accept any more 710. First they have to have an approved EIR/EIS which they were never able to do in 25 yrs (’73-’98). Additionally, read the Record of Decision (ROD) or the Recision document withdrawing the ROD to see the information that Caltrans never supplied to FHWA as requested. The most important of these being a “real” financial plan, not just a piece of paper saying we can fund it.

    Do you think that in this dire economic climate Metro or Caltrans can supply a credible plan to fund an over $11 BILLION (SCAG estimate) pair of toll tunnels without looking totally ridiculous and, let’s not forget, “cooking the books” to make it work? Note recent withdrawal of billion dollar toll tunnels in NJ and Orange County because of high costs and overruns.

    Last question, why not use your name so we know who we are communicating with?

  • Anonymous

    I completely agree with the arguments against the tunnels; the incremental cost over surface freeway is difficult to justify.

    I think it’s important to distinguish between FHWA providing Interstate construction funds, for which the NEPA requirements might indeed apply, and their accepting the constructed route into the system as non-chargeable mileage.

    It’s also worth noting that the injunction still in force against the surface freeway dates from 1998, and it’s only a preliminary injunction until the litigation is resolved, which neither side seems particularly eager to have happen soon.

  • Bob Davis

    I’ve visited South Pasadena often enough to be quite aware that many of the residents have spend a lot of “emotional capital” on making sure the 710 “gap closure” is never built as a surface freeway. I think it’s become a tradition that’s been passed down from generation to generation over the years. But I can’t blame them. A surface freeway really would ruin the town. There aren’t any blighted neighborhoods or decrepit junkyard areas through which a freeway could be run without generating massive uproars. If we don’t want to call the “gap” by that name, how about “Freeway-free Zone”?

  • I don’t support the 710 extension/ 710 gap project.

    However, in the interest of clarity, I do feel that calling it a state route is wholly irrelevant, unnecessary and misleading.

    If the extension is built, the 710 would extend from Long Beach to Pasadena as one long, continuous, unbroken freeway. Dividing it into two sections would make as much sense as declaring the Blue Line from Los Angeles to Compton to be one line and the Blue Line from Compton to Long Beach to be another.

    There is nothing to be gained from insisting on “state route”.

  • ds

    Oh, come on, it is a gap.

    They didn’t build a huge 4-way interchange in Pasadena to dump people off on California Blvd. They didn’t tear down houses and dig that huge trench west of Pasadena Ave. which is currently chained off for the fun of it.

    I oppose the project, but there’s no denying that there’s a gap in the freeway.

  • Art Dean

    “Tunnel to the 20th century”

    Variations on “chunnel” (the channel tunnel):

    “Trunnel” (truck tunnel)
    “Frunnel” (freight tunnel)
    “Smunnel” (smog tunnel)

    “SR-710 Claptrap Project”

    “The Golden Freight Freeway”

    “Haiti” (the $14 billion estimated cost of the tunnel [per Mayor Najarian: neatly matches the astonishing destruction caused by the 2010 Haitian earthquake, also reminding us of the various faults the tunnel would traverse):

    “The Jules Verne Highway” (a tip of the cap to the author of Journey to the Center of the Earth.)

  • nobody

    Honestly, I’m opposed to the entire closure, but we push them to end the freeway at a better location than Valley Blvd. (I’d say Huntington Blvd.). Right now, Valley, Fremont, and Atlantic take way more traffic than they can handle, and it absolutely kills that area (try crossing any of those street within earshot of rush hour if you think otherwise). If they ended that freeway on a street that could handle the car traffic, most of those streets in that area would become more people friendly (and improve the liveliness of the area).

  • nobody

    Oh, sorry, forgot to mention my name, which is the “Tube to Bankruptcy”, as that is where we’ll be if this does get completed.


  • 710 Congestion Generator. Covers either surface or tunnel options, both of which will increase traffic horrendously on tributary streets.

  • Don Justin Jones

    Toll Tube
    210 toll hole
    SCAGS hole
    Hole lotta Bacon
    hole in the wallet
    mole hole
    Toll Hole

  • You complain about “gap” being a pejorative term indicating it must be completed or something is wrong, and then go about suggesting equally pejorative terms from the other direction.

    If you are going to complain about language, your alternative must be neutral. I’m familiar with this approach, as I strive to be neutral in my site talking about California’s highways. May I suggest the term “segment”, and thus this would be the 710 Northern Segment project (or 710 South Pasadena/Alhambra Segment project). A neutral name, neither suggesting there is a gap to be filled, nor making fun of any of the approaches for filling it or encouraging it not to be completed.

    [And if you want opinions, mine is equally neutral. I can see how the discontinuity in Route 710 does impact traffic flow in various ways. I can see the problems with the surface options in the impact on existing historical structures, but I can equally see the problems with tunnel construction. This is an issue with no easy answers: if there were easy answers, it would have been solved long ago.]

  • Joanne Nuckols

    Daniel has a point about neutrality. I’m all for it if it would help to have a more even-handed, productive discussion of the issues/problem, perceived and actual, and how to solve them. We, the opponents, have to go to the opposite extreme to counteract the agencies inflammatory titles hence our suggested counteracting titles.

    Clarification again on Daniels suggested title…the extension of 710 does not go through Alhambra…the current stub ends there period. This is one of the common misconceptions of this project. If extended it would go in the LA community of El Sereno (on the Alhambra border to the west), South Pasadena and the southwest portion of Pasadena…suggested name change to 710 North Segment (Pasadena, South Pasadena, El Sereno).

    This renaming exercise has produced a lot of creative names. We need more of these creative exercised to counter our frustrations.

  • I wonder why there is not any support to close other “gaps” in the LA region freeway system. Why isn’t Metro working on closing the much more serious SR91 “gap” to I-405? Or the equally troubling SR2 “gap” to I-10? Or the “gap” between I-105 and I-5, which may actually be kind of useful rather than this imaginary 710 “gap”.

  • 710 Invasion.
    It’s an invasion of automobiles through a neighborhood whether they are above ground or below ground.

    More freeway = more driving = more traffic.

  • My Tolstoyish Name:

    710 show me your gap, I’ll show you my tunnel

  • Numan Parada

    Looking at the comments in this page and on this subject, I’m quite disheartened. That people here consider the freeway superfluous is disappointing, since I am very much impacted by its non-existence. When taking a bus or Metrolink is no option, I must drive from the SFV to Cal State LA on the I-5, a freeway that was not designed to take the traffic it does now. I do take I-210 through the Pasadena stub end and wind my way down to school via city streets, and I continually experience for myself the traffic that is siphoned on to Fremont, which is just two lanes through South Pasadena.

    As an advocate of TRANSPORTATION, I am not lost on the importance of this freeway, but I also want to see the Wilshire subway built, which undoubtedly will employ the same boring technology and hire the same union workers, at a considerable taxpayers’ expense. Both projects are funded under Measure R, which surely wouldn’t have passed if there was not a highway element in it. If there is a way to get the 710 project out of Measure R funding, you can be assured that the same tactic will be employed against the Wilshire subway with easier success. Indeed, as the public transportation advocates we ostensibly are, opposing this project would come off as both tactless and ingrateful.

    That said, I think I will side with Mr. Faigin’s suggestion in calling this the 710 Northern Segment Project.

  • Just a note to bzcat, who wrote: “Why isn’t Metro working on closing the much more serious SR91 “gap” to I-405? Or the equally troubling SR2 “gap” to I-10? Or the “gap” between I-105 and I-5, which may actually be kind of useful rather than this imaginary 710 “gap”.”

    Well, for Route 710 the legislative definition does cover the gap. However, legislatively Route 91 ends at Vermont Avenue — the remainder to Route 405 and through Torrance having been relinquished a while ago. For Route 2, the gap is not between the current end and I-10, but between the current end and Route 1 (at least before the various relinquishments) — Route 2 was intended to be the Beverly Hills Freeway. Route 105 has no gap — it legislatively defined as ending at Route 605. You did miss two other gaps, however: Route 170 legislatively continues to LAX (was originally to be the Laurel Canyon freeway, and you can still see remnants on Cahuenga and La Cienega), and Route 90 (which was originally planned to go from the Marina to Yorba Linda).

  • Yuri

    I agree with JosephE, add dynamically priced toll lanes to the I-5, I-10, etc to allow freight to move easier. That’s the best scalable solution, no matter how congested these ‘freeways’ get in the future.

  • Clyde Williams

    Keep it simple and short

    Try — MTAs Gap

    MTA does need to be filled