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Guest Editorial: Alhambra $100M Road Widening Project Fails to Address Deadly Streets Next to School

Oppose the Freemont freeway ramp extension graphic – via @safestreetsforsgv Instagram

Today at 6 p.m. the Alhambra City Council will vote on Measure R funds meant to improve transportation around the 710 freeway. To accomplish this, the city plans to build capacity to ease congestion at the Interstate 10 (I-10) freeway ramp on Fremont Avenue. So far the city's Advancing Alhambra plan has proposed changes which include:

    • Remove stop signs around the I-10 freeway ramps next to Fremont Elementary and surrounding businesses
    • Create a long expanded ramp next to Fremont Elementary
    • Remove the northbound sidewalk at the Fremont Underpass for a new car lane
    • Wall off Hellman Road to be off ramps for the 10 freeway

While these proposed changes are not final, all the ideas introduced so far lean towards some way to "ease congestion" by increasing capacity for vehicles.

Traffic consultants hired by the city of Alhambra claim that these changes will eliminate cut through traffic by keeping cars on freeways and reduce congestion on surface streets–to the benefit of commuters who could be able to get to their destination faster. Investing $100 million on a project that expedites roads for commuters will hurt Alhambra residents near the proposed project, including students at Fremont Elementary.

In the short term, we may see some alleviated congestion. People in vehicles will drive faster and residential roads surrounding Fremont Avenue will have to bear the impact. Furthermore residents using sidewalks will contend with deadlier traffic. According to the US Department of Transportation, if a vehicle hit a pedestrian at 30 miles per hour (mph), there would be a 40 percent likelihood of fatality or severe injury. At 40 mph, there would be a 80 percent likelihood of fatality or severe injury. This is especially concerning for parents who walk their kids to school while next to the Fremont ramp. Traffic violence in Alhambra is already amongst some of the worst in the state for pedestrians. (Alhambra 2017, CA Office of Traffic Safety)

In the long term, we will have to face congestion again. It is well documented that widening roads, including freeway ramps, will only temporarily relieve congestion, a concept known as induced travel. Congestion on our streets will return as drivers are encouraged to take more frequent travel after experiencing reduced traffic volume. Within a couple years, the same roads we widen in Alhambra will see greater volumes of congestion than we have today. Furthermore, parents who walk their kids to school will have to face an additional lane of vehicles getting on and off the new freeway ramps.

The true solution is to optimize other modes of transit, making vehicle travel less enticing for commuters. This could come in the form of safe streets investments. We could choose to put pedestrians first and widen sidewalks, raise the height of crosswalks, and shorten the distance for crossing the road. We could create a shuttle service and transit hubs, so gridlocked commuters can escape their cars. In 2018, the city of Alhambra asked Metro to create this service but it was rejected. Due to the rescope of how the funds could be used, we can now propose projects like this again to Metro. $100 million can help us build safer streets all over the city. Improvements like these have shown to improve the safety and viability for small businesses to flourish.

We are in the year 2023, on the cusp of breaking the limit of 1.5 °C, a major climate crisis milestone. Transportation is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, and we now have the unique power to make a change in the course of our city and climate. Our streets should serve the people that live, walk, and play on them.

Please send public comment (template below) to: sperez@cityofalhambra.org, jmaloney@cityofalhambra.org, klee@cityofalhambra.org, aandrade-stadler@cityofalhambra.org, rjmaza@cityofalhambra.org, lmyles@cityofalhambra.org, mray@cityofalhambra.org, luwan@cityofalhambra.org

Dear Alhambra City Council Members,

My name is _______. I am a resident of Alhambra [or detail your connection to Alhambra]. I urge you to vote NO on Agenda Item 21 tonight, the proposal to make changes to the Fremont Ramp and Interchange.

Expanding the 10 freeway off ramps and widening Fremont Avenue will not solve our traffic problems in the long run. Vehicles will exit the freeway and drive faster on Fremont Avenue and our residential roads. Pedestrians, especially our seniors and the students at Fremont Elementary School, will be endangered by fast moving traffic.

[Insert how you would like $100 million to be used for transportation improvements, such as pedestrian infrastructure, bike lanes, public transit, improved bus shelters, neighborhood greenways, etc.]

Sincerely,

[Name]

Grace Lee is the alias name for an Alhambra resident who prefers to remain anonymous.

For additional background, see recent SBLA coverage of Alhambra residents opposing the Fremont ramps expansion, and of the city's overall Advancing Alhambra plans.

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