Caltrans on the 710 Tunnel Project: Trust Us, We Know What We’re Doing

Last week, community forums were held in Glendale and La Cañada Flintridge on the proposed project that would construct a tunnel connecting the I-710 and I-210 freeways in Pasadena.  The Glendale News Press reported, in two separate stories, that opposition to the project is as strong as ever and that Caltrans isn’t happy that the opposition is speaking up now.

Joining residents in voicing his displeasure was Glendale Councilman Ara Najarian, who claims that the project would cause "tremendous damage" to his constituent’s quality of life.  Najarian also sits on the Metro Board and is scheduled to Chair the Metro Board for the 2010 Fiscal year, beginning in 29 days.  Nearly 250 people attended the two hearings, and most of those in who spoke raised questions about the project’s impacts on their lives or opposed it altogether.

The main concern voiced was that completing a connection between the two highways will not only increase traffic on the roads, but also push some of that traffic onto local streets.  In other words, while it may temporarily provide some relief on the highway, it would do so by permanently congesting their local streets.

Caltrans wasn’t impressed.  The next day a second article appeared in the News Press with District Director Doug Failing urging those in opposition to what Environmental Defense has called one of the worst highway projects in America, to hold their opposition until Caltrans can complete it’s study that will tell it whether or not to proceed with an environmental study.  Basically, Caltrans wants those in opposition should trust Caltrans to do what’s best for everyone.

Failings call for opponents to cease fire would carry a little more weight if he were calling it for both sides.  Oddly, while Najarian is urged to hold his fire while Caltrans does its studies, the same calls weren’t made when speeding traffic advocate Asm. Mike Eng taunted Smart Growth advocates that the 710 would be extended "whether they liked it or not."  When government agencies are asking opponents to calm down and not doing the same for proponents, it creates the image that the decision has already been made.

Of course, once the decision’s announced, then I’m sure opponents can voice whatever opinions they like.

  • Erik

    Just wondering…Does anyone know if CalTrans could evict the tenants living in the CalTrans owned houses along the proposed i-710 corridor and then maybe clear out the land without any CEQA study or further construction planned?

  • nobody

    “The main concern voiced was that completing a connection between the two highways will not only increase traffic on the roads, but also push some of that traffic onto local streets.”

    Those people with that concern haven’t been down Fremont St., Atlantic, Garfield, or Valley Bl. in Alhambra (where the 710 currently ends). They’d realize that’s happening either way.

    by the way, I’m opposed to completing it all the way to the 210…I think it’d be better off ending at Huntington, which is a major street that actually has capactiy for that type of traffic.

  • nobody,

    Show me the freeway on-ramp/off-ramp in LA that doesn’t induce massive amounts of car traffic.



  • IvanG

    This is a different kind of opposition: not to the route, but to the freeway itself. It should have been voiced 40 years ago when the freeway was planned. Perhaps it was; if so, it was rejected. The off-ramps are already there, and I do not see any reason to believe that people will be attracted to them because the connection is completed. The real fear is that higher traffic levels will result in more noise.

  • limit

    I was at the Glendale public meeting, I spoke with Melanie Hicken, and many of the professional freeway fighters that traveled to Glendale.

    Ara Najarian was not as opposed as the coverage makes out – not at all.

    Melanie Hicken, while nice enough to heed my request to not be quoted, saw things at the public meeting somewhat differently than I. She wrote three articles.

    The professional freeway fighters were there in relative mass. Sadly they commented annoyingly long – up to a 10 minute monologue. The long monologue was an odd bent about freight trains. (I would love to see a fright train run right through South Pasadena and all. Though I believe that he was impling that no addition rail line would be needed – non sequitur.)

    Caltrans might know what they are doing but as they mentioned ad nauseum it is too early in the project to comment. I asked one of the Caltrans employees, privately, why every option was not currently focused down to what seeming makes some logical sense ie rejecting the possible route that navigates through a superfund site (hazardous waste) as it would surely reduce the cost and effort of the project. The reply was enlightening in that it rejected the big brother mentality that I thought Caltrans subscribed to; “Fiduciary responsibility.” Neat.

  • Wow, I’m only 30 years old so I should have been there 40 years ago to voice my dissent? I think this project sucks, I vote, pay taxes and am raising a family near the area (which already has the 5, 60, 110, the Alameda Corridor, and a huge cancer circle around the rail switching yards. How’s about we put a freeway through your community?

  • Madam_S

    My community already has a freeway (actually 2) through it, and so do most. This is not a “new” freeway project. This is trying to close a gap in the planned regional network. The problem is that we are now putting local concerns over regional ones. In the Bad Old Days, the regional concerns always came first (and often last, too), which isn’t right. But what we have now is not balanced either. People in La Canada and Glendale are enjoying the big wide freeways to do their errands, and trying to keep others off them. Problem is, those freeways were designed big and wide to accommodate 710 traffic, which got stopped by South Pasadena and other local interests. I think that’s selfish. The result is terrible traffic on surface streets in Alhambra and horrible congestion downtown, as through traffic is forced onto the narrow old I-5.
    Personally, I commute on the Gold Line, and don’t drive unless I have to, but this gap is like a flat tire for the system, and people opposing it are typical NIMBYs.

  • Robert

    Dear People of South Pasadena, Your quality of life will be immensely improved when you don’t have all the rush hour traffic from the end of the 710 N. in Alhambra funneling up though Fair Oaks. And with a tunnel, there will be no noise. How is it possible that by enabling all that traffic to bypass Fremont and Fair Oaks, traffic on those streets will increase? Of course it will not increase! I think your fear is that your town will become a ghost town, and you’re businesses will suffer. Maybe so, but your property values will go up because you’re city will be much more pleasant to live in. And you’ll have quick access to the 710 and other freeways; not just the 110.

    I live in Alhambra, and I’m tired of driving in the freeway traffic that has dumped out onto Valley and Fremont. It’s getting as bad as Bundy in West LA.

    I say, dig the tunnel! Just be sure to build and on/off ramp at Huntington!

  • Red Thunder

    CALTRANS…Control Aholics Lousing up Traffic Routes And Neighborhood Synergy.That pretty much sums it up. Where should I start. How about the metered on ramps on the 210 thru the Crescenta Valley. What a waste of millions of tax dollars just so they can add more time to a commute. The placement of the lights are at the worst possible location. If you have ever driven them you will notice they are placed at the top of the uphill on ramps. Now we get to jack rabbit start after idling for a few minutes on a ramp we used to enter on in 15 seconds. Thank you CALTRANS. Gas going to $4 a gallon makes that even sweeter. They say that a computer controls the flow a cars using a “logarithm program” more like a “log jam program”. What tools.I’ve really been enjoying the “CALTRANS CONGA LINE” that it has created for the area. This waste of time has forced me and many other commuters to find other ways to enter the freeway. More time on surface streets to get to the only ramp not metered. Foothill Blvd!! Lets see, 6 minutes in a conga line with a godless light telling me when I can go or 3 minutes on Foothill and no controlling light on the on ramp? They will tell you now that they have fixed the backups but CALTRANS pull your head out of that vacuum you designed this project in. Private schools have ended last week and public schools are winding down this week. Pat yourselves on your back the first and second weeks in. September when traffic really ramps up. You may have snuck the ramp lights in on us with your “We had to use the money or lose it” BS with absolutely no local input,but you have your hands full with everybody knowing about your little tunnel project. You can’t keep up with the deteriorating road surfaces on the 210! And you want to bring more truck traffic on them. WTF! I will tell you now that the tunnel is DOA. Quit wasting money the state does not have for your pet projects that justify your existence. Hey I’ve got a project for you. How about you put mositure sensors on the sprinkler system you have and quit wasting this precious resource watering the freeway landscaping. Nothing shows your waste of resources like when I’m driving to work in the morning after an all night rainstorm and seeing your sprinklers going full blast like it had not rained in a month. We’ve had to ration water, how about you? FYI, LA is a desert. try landscaping like Phoenix. Native plants are a start. RT

  • The road currently ends along the city of Los Angeles-Alhambra boundary but was intended to run north to a junction with the 210 and 134 in Pasadena.

  • Phyllis Robbins

    I just recently attended a 710 freeway information seminar hosted by Glassell Park Neighborhood Council. For those of you who would like to know the truth about the original design and purpose of the 710/210 freeways; here is my input. The County of Los Angeles Engineers Road Dept. was the group responsible for the design. It did not get built because of South Pasadena and Pasadena “connections to important people”.

    You will notice that the 210 eastbound is way below surface level of surrounding communities as well as the 210 northbound through La Canada, Glendale, Flintridge and Tujunga. They are also extra wide, in order to allow for heavy truck traffic and wide loads.

    My personal option is not to build a tunnel at all but to complete the freeway as originally designed and be finished with it. It is the shortest most direct route and would not leave the southern portion of the 210 in Pasadena in limbo forever.

    One only has to look at the vegitation in the Northeast LA & Glendale area to realize there are a lot of undergound water sources, not to mention the five earthquake faults that crisscross this area these are the best reasons not to build a tunnel. If a tunnel is built we the residents would be the first responders available if anyone survived. The same is true for a freeways but not 300ft below ground level with potential water accessing the tunnels. On my property alone water comes to 3″ below the surface and is 12ft deep.

    I am the daughter of the County Road Dept. Supervisor in charge of this project and many others. He spent every weekend (with his family in tow)traveling the areas and surveying the land before deciding which would leave the least impact on a community and still move vehicles. County Engineers do this planning well in advance of final maps.

    Back then well before the 1960’s the 710 was designed for Port of Los Angeles domestic trucks both inbound and outbound. We used to export products back then.

    Why are we considering spending stimulus money to build tunnels made by a foreign country?

  • Generally government agencies are given wide latitude to acquire and landbank properties for projects they are assigned for caring out. Acquisition of open space and developed land by park departments for parks, homes, businesses and land for roadway and traffic inprovements by Caltrans, MTA or other transpotation agencies.

    If a public agency does not use the property for the intended purposes, unless they are allowed by their state or local charter or geenral law provisions, they generally have to auction off the land tothe highest bidder. This is to recoup as much of the public funds as possible used to acquire the property. They can sometimes with an action by the state sell the property to a local government for a public purpose.

    In the case of Caltrans, their main charge is to produce and improve the state and regional transpotation grid. I would think the renters would be given an opportunity to bid on the land along with any other public interest.

    Hopes that helps

  • To Limit & Phyliss,

    Just for the record Mayor Ara Najarian is the temporary Chair of the MTA, the positon rotates on a iterim basis. He is also one of the 5 members of the 15 member MTA Board elected from the smaller cities in LA County. Remember 5 seats go to LA County government on a permanent basis and 5 to LA City government on a permanent basis with the other 5 elected at large from throughout the County. Do the math! If he take s a position the County Board or LA City Council / Mayor oppose, he and 4 other mebers are out voted.

    As for water Phylis, all underground projects have dewatering systems built into them. How do you think all the tunnels get built. Look at the BART Trans BAy Tunnel, the English- French Chunnel, both are built underwater and remain water proof. The Bay t unnel even went on operating during the Loma Preita Earthquake in SF Bay area. There are several tunnels that go into NYC from Jersey and other parts of NY City. There are two tunnels under the Harbor in Baltimore, one old, one new. There is a very long tunnel from the southern tip of Maryland to Virgina and countless amazing tunnels throught the Alps and in Scandanavia.

    The Europeans have extensive safety systems in place in case of fire or other natural disasters. The Japanese and Chinese have built long rail and auto tunnels to new airports in the water to provide for expansion. They do it all the time. Question is why don’t we compete any longer in these areas.

    The reason that foreign companies will probably do the work, is that they are the world leaders in this technology. Think about any big inovative public projects in the country in the last 10-15 years, not many. Either we can not do it, are told we can’t by citizens or are NIMBY’ed into stopping neeeded public improvements.

    The 710 will get built, great stimulus job and if CA was still the US leader in creativity, they’d tunnel the 2 Freeway under the mountains to Palmdale.

    Just imagine a rail auto tunnel straight from the Palmdale Airport to downtown LA. Think of the pressure it would take off the westside and LAX. These types of projects are possible and done throughout the world. Progress continues

  • Mr. G

    Mr. Collins is right, the tunnel can be completed. The feasibility study has already been done.

    I live in the path of the Freeway, so obviously I’m biased. I would prefer no freeway, but I realize at some point something is going to happen. What I do know, is that if you want this 710 corridor completed, it will have to be with a tunnel. Politically, that is the only way it’s going to happen. Arnold should have signed SB 545, and if he had, you would have your tunnel that much sooner. As long as the surface route option is on the table, the lawsuits will continue into infinity, and you will never have anything. It isn’t just South Pasadena fighting the 710 anymore, it’s El Sereno, Glendale, and La Canada. All I here is South Pas this, and South Pas that, but lawsuits have been filed from the other communities I have mentioned. The combined power is formidable. Taking the surface route off the table would have been a major advance in bringing the corridor completion to a close. It was a mistake for the Governor not to sign that bill. Gill Cedillo was the author (or at least claimed credit) for SB 545, and he is a major proponent of closing this freeway gap. He saw the handwriting on the wall, that the only way to get the gap closed was through a tunnel, and thus he drafted this bill. I really believe Arnold vetoed it for political reasons, he wasn’t getting the support he wanted on his water projects, and this was his punishment. It was a stupid political move, in my opinion.

  • Nimby Hater

    This freeway should have been put in 40 years ago.

    Don’t like it, then don’t by next to a dashed line (future freeway) on the map.

    Since when did the United States become a country where the opinion of the few become more important than the masses?

    Quit whining and lets help relieve congestion on the East LA interchange. It’s going to be the last freeway built in LA anyway.

  • Wertzbob

    I would certainly trust Caltrans over councilman Ara Najarian. He is a part time Councilman from a surburban jusrisdiction with no  techinical exerience, vision and little intelectual horsepower. 

    He is only on the MTA Board Because the smaller cities in the County get sevral Memeberhip’s on the MTA and Metrolink Board., His job is to represent all the smaller cities in the County, not just his jurisiction. 

    Plus his position is revolving, some other local representative will get his seat soon. Having worked with him for many years, the word “Dolt” comes to mind. 

    Glendale  could not even complete the Central Avenue off ramp from the 134 East, when it was an environmental impact from an adjacent office project 10 years early,  which they were required to do. The developer gave the land to the City and Caltrans gave the City $1.million to build it, is it done ?  

    The traffic in Pasadena and the areas the Gold passes through have only become worse with the opening of the line. The inability of the MTA and the local cities along the route to build the line below grade at all crossings has only made the operation and traffic  worse.

    I assume the line makes MTA feel great about their operation, but they clearly did not study the bottle necks and gridlock on adjacet cross streets this design was going to cause, it is horendus, the entire line should have been grade seperated at ALL crossings or not built. 

    The light rail lines that MTA designed and built are little more than “Disneyesque”  adventures rides,  in transit equipment that is insufficient to handle the loads. I was on the Gold Line at at a  normal crush period recently and the train was so overloaded that while making the turns as well as moving in a straight line, the cars were actualy rocking back and forth (top heavy with the stading load). 

    This is never supposed to occur on any rail line, I go off that train at the next stop and walked 5 miles home, I wlll never get on a MTA light rail line again. .The Blue Line is just as bad in sections

    I worked for a major Metro Transit Agency back east, trust me . top heavy rocking is never supposed to happen to any train during operation. 

    MTA should have used heavy rail equipment that could handle the loads, not these glorified street cars.There are 10 million people in this county and they are operating street cars when the whole system should have been cordinated like other major urban transit systems using standarized equipment that is up tothe requirements.

    To the 710 opponents, (at grade or now tunnel) it always sees like there is an excuse to stop public improvements for the public good, for the all the people of metropolitian  LA area.; no wonder we are becoming a ” has been ” country. We are affraid to try to even try imporove the environment; let’s live with outdate infrastructure, oh no, not sure if we are up to the task ! 

    The English and French, were able to dig a 40 plus mile tunnel under the English Chanel and operate high speed trains on them, and we can not even up to digging a five a five mile tunnel. Our r predecssors built  the Hovver Dam and the Panama Cannal, wow, what a collaspe of will !

    Oh the residents might be inconvenienced, there might be accidents in the tunnels, there might be an impact to them,; what do your think the impact is to everyone in the area now, the traffic is worse now than when they put in the Gold Line. 

    I was on the Bart System under the bay when the Loma-Prietta quake occured, we barely felt it, there was a safety annoucement and we kept going.  

    When I worked for the transit agency back east, I do not reacall the doom and gloom tales from my previous employer  or residents when we tunneled under the Potomac, went under Arlington Cemetary, tunneled and installed two stations adjacent to tthe Pentagon, built an interstate by pass iunnel adjacent to the US Capitol,  tunnelled under countless nationla historic sites and and buildings. 

    When the people of adjacent MD needed a new tiunnel  under the Chesapeake, they dd not say, oh we are not able to do this, the state hired a firm that designed and built four tunnnel sections on land floated them into location and sunk them into place preciscely where they needd to be in the bay.The met within cm’s There was no doom and gloom, they trusted the people who were experts and got the job done. Now there is a new modern new I-95 tunnel segment in place.

    The system and residents demanded quality and competence and they got it, not some third world excuse that no we can not do that, or oh, we might be inconvenienced, my God !  What a lame ass excuse for residents and taxpayers in the LA area.

    This is CA, we are supposed to be the best of the best, where the brightest most innovative people in the US. And you have idiots talking about we can not do something,  that it is a lame and lazy ass answer, that looser’s give for not trying !   




Want to Add 30,000 Cars to the I-210? Then Dig the 710 Tunnel

Photo: Non Paratus/Flickr A traffic analysis published by the City of Glendale projects that the "completion" of the I-710  by building a tunnel under South Pasadena would cause an increase of 30,000 vehicles daily on the I-210 north of SR-134.  The report was included as part of a packet to Glendale City Council Members with […]

Najarian Metro Board Seat in Danger Over Opposition to 710 Big Dig

(The original version of the story stated that the League of Cities selects the Metro Board Members. Dana Gabbard points out it is actually The City Selection Committee. The CSC is not a subsidiary of the League of California Cities, Los Angeles Division. Its authority is Sections 50270 through 50281 of the Government Code, and it is administered […]

Shakeup at Metrolink Board: Najarian Out. Ridley-Thomas In?

One of the powers of the Chair of the Metro Board of Directors, is the right to appoint three members to the Board of the Southern California Regional Rail Authority, commonly known as Metrolink.  Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who took over as Metro Board Chair on July 1, wasted no time in exercising that power, replacing […]

Streetsblog Asks Metro Board to Waive Attorney Client-Privilege on Najarian’s 710 Big Dig Motion

SBLA Metro 710 Priviledge At last week’s Metro Board meeting, County Attorney Charles Safer responded to an April motion by Board Member Ara Najarian containing questions on the I-710 Gap Closure Project. The Najarian motion sought the answers to three basic questions concerning the relationship between Caltrans and Metro on this project. Specifically, Najarian sought […]