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/