The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday joined several othercities in voting unanimously to oppose a tunnel extension of the Long Beach (710) Freeway through Pasadena.
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials last week narrowed the scope of possible routes for closing the so-called 710 gap between Alhambra and Pasadena from 12 to just five — one of them an extension of the 710 Freeway to the Foothill (210) Freeway.
MTA officials have maintained that they have not settled on any one option, but critics say the agency favors the tunnel because it could better accommodate truck traffic carrying cargo up from local Southland ports.
Unlike the MTA and California Department of Transportation, “we as a city and any other public agency should not take for granted the communities that would be impacted the most,” said Councilman Jose Huizar, whose district includes Highland Park and other Los Angeles areas that the project would affect.
South Pasadena, Glendale, Pasadena and La Cañada Flintridge have also opposed some of the alternative routes on the grounds that they would add to air pollution and traffic. Alhambra and San Marino have come out in favor of extending the freeway as a way to ease spillover traffic from the 710 Freeway terminus.
The 4.5-mile tunnel is one of five alternatives environmental surveyors are looking at. An environmental impact report is expected to be released in the winter of 2014.
In addition to the tunnel transportation, officials will continue to study a light-rail line from the East Los Angeles Civic Center to the Gold Line's Fillmore Station; a rapid bus route from Alhambra to Pasadena; improvements such as ride-sharing, traffic signal coordination and increasing transit services; and a “no-build” alternative.
Moments after the vote, residents clad in red shirts who opposed the tunnel shouted “hip hip hooray” as they clamored out of City Council Chambers.
One of them, Marie Salas, of El Sereno, said she lives in one of the homes purchased by the state and owned by Caltrans in anticipation of the freeway's extension. In the past she has been outspoken about the state's management of the rental properties.
A recent state audit revealed Caltrans failed to collect $22 million in potential rental income in the last 4 1/2years, overspent millions in repairs, and improperly allowed state workers to live in 15 homes at reduced rental rates.
“I'm happy the [tunnel] was included in the resolution,” Salas said. “But the fight is not over.”
In a statement, Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) said the Los Angeles City Council vote underscored the growing fight against extending the 710 Freeway.
“There have been more than enough legitimate public policy concerns raised about the viability of the 710 tunnel and the Los Angeles City Council stepped up and unanimously said ‘No tunnel,'” he said.
Nat Read of the 710 Freeway Coalition said councils should wait until the environmental impact report is complete before deciding how they feel about the tunnel.
“This was a decision at the L.A. City Council among the heat of a lot of the nutty alternatives … and not as much focus on the underlying reason for the freeway,” Read said. “I think by the time we come to the next decision-making junction, this motion will be behind [us] and there will be a focus on what the environmental study finds.”
Glendale Councilman Ara Najarian, who is a member of the MTA board of directors, called the vote in Los Angeles “fantastic news.”
Najarian has publicly opposed the tunnel in the past, on Tuesday saying it was “merely designed to be a freight conduit” from the Port of Los Angeles to transport goods.
“For a long time, I felt like the lone voice on the MTA board,” he said. “It's a testament to the organization and commitment of the neighborhood councils, the residents, in general, and the affected cities to stand up and make their position clear.”
Staff writer Daniel Siegal contributed to this report.