While anti-freeway activists have dominated the dialogue over efforts to extend the Long Beach (710) Freeway, the city of Alhambra launched the first salvo on Wednesday in its campaign to drum up support for an extension by declaring July 10 to be "710 Day."
The city hosted its first-ever 710 celebration along Fremont Avenue, one of the main thoroughfares for traffic heading to or from the 710 Freeway's current terminus. Fremont was closed from Mission Street to Valley Boulevard.
Councilwoman Barbara Messina said the event was the first of many the city has planned during the next 18 months.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is in the midst of a multi-year environmental study in which a tunnel connecting the 710 and Foothill (210) freeways is one of five options being considered. Other possibilities include light rail and bus lanes to address congestion in the area.
The next draft of the study is due next year.
"This is just the beginning of an education of our community," Messina said, adding that vehicles, including semi-trucks, exit the 710 Freeway in Alhambra and travel to the 210 Freeway using the city's surface streets.
"We want to renew the criticalness of what this is doing to our air quality, our schools," Messina said. "Alhambra has been a dumping ground for 40 years, and it's time to do something."
Messina said city officials didn't know how many people would attend the event, given it was in the middle of the week and the middle of the day.
Around 11:30 a.m., the crowd was fairly sparse. By 1 p.m., however, more than 100 people were at the event.
As for the cost to the city, Messina said it was "not as big as this looks," and the funding came out of the city manager's discretionary fund. Other officials stated the full cost had yet to be calculated.
The street fair included city fire trucks and police vehicles joined by food trucks, informational booths, 710-themed games and a Cars cover band performing.
The day wasn't without some controversy, however. Around 10 members of the anti-freeway advocacy group called the No 710 Action Committee were on hand to protest.
Messina said she was disappointed the protesters showed up.
"That is so rude," she said. "We've never imposed ourselves on their events. That's disrespectful."
For Art De Anda, who was observing the street fair from his front yard on Fremont, the event was a chance to enjoy some peace and quiet.
"Every day, every night, it's hard to sleep," he said. "At least we got a break on the traffic."
Dean Yulfo, who lives further south on Fremont, said he supports closing the 710 gap because he has seen traffic in his neighborhood increase, but he wasn't sure how effective the fair would be at changing minds.
"I am wondering if this was a good idea. It seems like an arm-twisting thing to do," he said. "But maybe Alhambra has been put in that position."