The 710: A Post Modern Freeway

I’m sad to report that a generic timeline has replaced the board game of transportation history I admired during the first series of 710 conversations outreach meetings. With the stakes raised by CalTran’s release of a notice of scoping/initiation of studies for the SR-710 Gap Closure Project (which we’ll be calling the SR-710 California’s Big Dig from now on,) perhaps it is appropriate that the game is over.

I attended a March 3rd meeting in Alhambra to hear about the environmental impact review process. The mood there seemed more serious as well. After the briefing, which provided basic information about scoping for the CEQA/NEPA process for ‘the project,’ a series of attendees asked a variation on the same question: What is the project?

CalTrans and Metro presumably want to and (plan to) drill tunnels between the northern end of the 710 freeway and the 210 freeway. But they haven’t told participants in their 710 conversation process that they want to and (plan to) do this, and would we please provide input on what environmental impacts to study and what alternatives to consider?

Click on the image to read the full scoping announcement.

What they have now officially announced, halfway through the Conversation meeting series, is that:

“The proposed project, depending on the results of a thorough environmental analysis of all possible transportation improvements, may include, but not be limited to: surface and subsurface highway/freeway construction, heavy rail and bus/ light rail systems, local street upgrades, traffic management systems and a no build alternative. There currently is a gap in the I-710 corridor, for a distance of approximately 4.5 miles (7.2 km) which extends between Valley Boulevard to the south and Del Mar to the north. As originally identified in the April 13, 1998 Record of Decision for the Meridian Variation alignment, this gap contributes to congestion on local streets and regional freeway system. The objective of this project is to relieve congestion and improve mobility within the project area.”

It still doesn’t define the project. The recent notice of intent for environmental review of another Measure R project, the Gold Line Foothill Extension, wasn’t coy in stating that “[t]he proposed project is an extension of the existing Metro Gold Line light rail transit line, from Azusa to Montclair.”

There’s an almost postmodern feel to the SR-710 process. The name “710 Gap Closure Project” features the lacuna rather than a mega-project to fill it. (Streestblog has even countered with alternative names http://la.streetsblog.org/2011/02/25/name-the-sr-710-extension-moves-to-the-final-page-but-how-much-will-it-cost) Over decades, the proposed freeway has retreated into trenches and now into deeply bored tunnels.  Public outreach around these tunnels doesn’t mention tunnels. It seems more like something from Deleuze and Guattari than CalTrans. What happened to the confident modernism of the freeway-paving 20th century?

The undefined nature of the project left skeptics and supporters at last Thursday’s meeting unsatisfied. A Northeast LA resident wondered why no outreach meetings were being held in Mt. Washington or Glassell Park, site of two of the five possible tunnel orientations. An elderly Alhambra resident described her frustration over writing letters for 35 years in support of a freeway extension: “Why can’t we start digging yet.”

You can’t dig a project that doesn’t exist yet.

You can,  however, comment on possible transportation improvements and mobility in the area. http://www.metro.net/projects/sr-710-conversations/

  • Liz

    South Pasadena residents were not too happy when the Metro Gold Line went through the “cute” town-like area of Mission Street. And now this light rail just enhances this place aesthetically!

    Extending the 710 will only improve the greatly affected areas of Alhambra and South Pasadena. Glendale and La Cañada stop whining!
    Yes, I’m a South Pas resident!

  • Carlton Glüb

    Forget the SR 710 gap closure! The gap that’s really killing me — an itch I can’t quite scratch — is the gap in the SR 170 freeway.

    On the north end you have this pathetic little stub of SR 170, aka Highland Ave, that just STOPS at SR 2 in the middle of Hollywood and the traffic is horrible.

    And then on the south end there’s a six-land grade separated highway through Baldwin Hills that just dumps traffic onto Rodeo Rd.

    The result is you have this frayed tendons on either end flailing into the wind, sending shocks of pain throughout the system. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you all how bad traffic is on north-south arterials in the middle of this horrible gap. If we close the gap we’ll obviously reduce congestion and therefore pollution. Because the reason we have to close the SR 170 gap really is about reducing pollution.

    Obviously it doesn’t make sense to close this gap as a surface route, because of the eminent domain issues. So we’re going to have to build a 5-mile long tunnel underneath Los Angeles and potentially parts of Culver City and West Hollywood.

    Based on projections for the 4.5-mile tunnel in the SR 710 gap closure, the SR 170 tunnel should only cost a little over $3 billion — basically a bargain, considering you’ll be able to drive from LAX to the heart of Hollywood in 10 minutes.

    We’ll probably be so far under budget that we’ll have enough money left over to close the gap in SR 2 through Silver Lake to the 101. Now wouldn’t THAT would be something?

    God willing, comrades.

    Here’s a link to the Google Map of this project.

    http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&ll=34.077972,-118.323097&spn=0.07422,0.154324&t=h&z=13&msid=204081450410957661659.00049de900a5d3df1a875

  • @ Clayton, Don’t forget the 710 to Highway 22 gap! Right now drivers are forced to crawl along 7th street thru Long Beach. A nice 7 mile tunnel could connect the freeways, allowing drivers to speed from San Pedro to Garden Grove in minutes. To shorten the tunnel, we could just route it thru Belmont Shore, and along the beach next to Ocean Blvd. I’m sure people of Long Beach will love this gap being closed!

  • relentlesscactus

    How about a tunnel from WHERE I LIVE to WHERE I WORK. That would certainly shorten my commute and make every day of my life better. Where do I sign up?

  • Didnt Drink the KoolAid

    The 710 tunnel was never planned or intended to pass under or through Northeast LA. Zones 1,2, 4 and 5 where thrown into the study footprint to appease the No 710 zealots in So Pasadena. Their old guard operatives traveled to all the LA neighborhood council meetings spreading all sorts of misinformation to whip the NoYo’s and Mt Wash eco nuts into a frenzy with “toxic smoke stacks” and false base data ridden AQMD / USC studies stating increase in deaths of those living next to freeways….. now they even sold the Alhambra and El Sereno residents just north of Valley Blvd that the portal opening will remove 500 homes stretching from Valley to Poplar… a complete fabrication. Engineers close to Price Brinkerhoff or something like that, say the south portal could start somewhere near the Hellman overpass and be beneath Valley blvd and not disturb any home that exists today. on the north end the portal would start way before Del Mar in the existing trench near Marantha High School.
    Dont believe that all So Pasadena residents are against the tunnel. We voted 67% in favor of Measure M which we knew it included the “Subway to the Sea” and the “710 Tunnel”. That 67% was higher than ALHAMBRA….. so dont drink the KoolAid….

  • Clyde Williams

    From a Retired Tunnel Rat,

    I don’t like COOLAIDE either but Caltrans/MTA only serve bottled water and Costco Cookies

    “The 710 tunnel was never planned or intended to pass under or through Northeast LA. Zones 1,2, 4 and 5 were thrown into the study footprint to appease the No 710 zealots in So Pasadena.”

    They did that but when you are looking at it – the shortest, cheapest route is actually from CSULA at Hellman to the SR2, coming out just above Garcetti’s field office at Verdugo and EagleRock, west of Ave 40.

    This alternative is required in the EIR.

    “Their old guard operatives traveled to all the LA neighborhood council meetings spreading all sorts of misinformation to whip the NoYo’s and Mt Wash eco nuts into a frenzy with “toxic smoke stacks” and false base data ridden AQMD / USC studies stating increase in deaths of those living next to freeways…..”

    Actually Sierra Group (not Club) and Doug Failing did a better job of showing real contempt for the neighbors and it was so obvious when they threw in everything including a kitchen sink at the end that even some in SoPas went on the opposition…But we got Caltrans to accept an extension of the tunnel entrance fully south of the Valley Blvd stub end…we won’t talk about the north end.

    “now they even sold the Alhambra and El Sereno residents just north of Valley Blvd that the portal opening will remove 500 homes stretching from Valley to Poplar… a complete fabrication.”
    Actually in the original and the one presented to the MTA board in Feb including the portal north of Alhambra Blvd….OBTW…a tunnel portal in this location would shift the old Meridian alignment by 200-300ft east and would require CT/MTA to sell houses in ElSereno and Buy/cut/n/cover more than 500 in Alhambra to north of Poplar and south of Huntington —OBTW then you could get a slip road to Main St. and never have to come into ElSereno.

    “Engineers close to Price Brinkerhoff or something like that, say the south portal could start somewhere near the Hellman overpass and be beneath Valley blvd”
    That is right and the El Sereno The Voice told them that over a year ago and someone finally found – Yeah it works…guess WHO did the article in the Voice – long before CT/MTA figured it out??
    NOW thank you for the reference—BUT Alhambrans your Neighbors are sorry to have you expose to 10 years of construction next to Westmont and Charnwood…and will help you contain/eliminate this location…OBTW- we are trying to get CaHSRail underground at CSULA — and should be extended to ElMonte – YES I love tunnels..

    “That 67% was higher than ALHAMBRA….. so dont drink the KoolAid….”
    Yeah but they drink Traders Joe Charles Shae, not Messina’s Koolaid

    OBTW the biggest and most important GAP in SoCal is from SR2/Alvarado to I-405/SantaMonica…which is the largest cause of the west side mess…and they are now filling it with TRANSIT….

    Watch out for the Corridors? MutliMode Alternative – it is no longer LOW BUILD, but still half the true costs of the 710 Tunnel – $2-5B rather than more..

    Tom

  • Anonymous

    I ran across this info – I thought it was interesting…

    Why the Assault on City of South Pasadena?

    Letter to the Editor:
    Why the assault on the city of South Pasadena? There seems to be the opinion that South Pasadena has stopped the completion of the 710 Freeway in opposition to the common good. I disagree on several points. First the City of South Pasadena as an incorporated city has the right to negotiate the alignment of any freeway through the city. Neither Alhambra nor San Marino would accept the 710 Freeway along Garfield, and Pasadena did not want it going along the Arroyo near San Rafael. The city of South Pasadena does not accept the freeway gutting the center of our city.

    …. The completion of the 710 Freeway was not important enough for other cities to compromise. South Pasadena has stopped the Meridian Route of the 710 Freeway, others have stopped its completion.

    Look around. This is not a mountain pass bordered by 14,000 foot peaks that dictate the route of the freeway. Something else is going on here. If this freeway was so important to the region, there would have been serious discussions about alternative routes. The only alignment that has ever been acceptable to the State of California is the Meridian Route gutting the city of South Pasadena. Why was this route, which the City of South Pasadena can never accept, more important than the completion of the freeway? That is the question that should be answered.

    Now the opportunity has been lost. Times have changed. There are many projects that were good ideas in 1950 that no longer make any sense. The completion of the 710 Freeway through, around, or under the city of South Pasadena is one of them.
    Ernest B. Arnold

  • Gilda

    To Tom/Clyde:

    Where is your evidence that the cheapest route is to tunnel to Eagle Rock? Seems cheaper to tunnel through South Pasadena. Flats are easier to build a tunnel through than the bedrock buried way beneath hills.

    If you are really concerned about expense, the cheapest route is to go above ground right through S. Pasadena.

    It is not surprising to me that South Pasadena residents want to send their highway connector through more racially and ethnically diverse parts of the area.

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