Tunnel Vision Wins Approval, for Study Only

Times Staff Writer

The South Pasadena City Council, long opposed to extending the Long Beach Freeway through the city, is now willing to explore the possibility of completing the project. Or, more precisely, the council is willing to let others study whether the long-stalled freeway could be built in a tunnel beneath the city.

Though it wasn't an endorsement of a tunnel, the council action Wednesday night was exactly what some transportation officials had hoped for.

Roger Snoble of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Mark Pisano of the Southern California Assn. of Governments and Assemblywoman Carol Liu (D-La Canada Flintridge) asked the council not to oppose preliminary studies into closing a 6.2-mile gap in the Long Beach Freeway with a tunnel.

The project -- actually twin 4.5-mile tunnels running side by side between Alhambra and Pasadena -- is being shopped around to South Pasadena, Pasadena, Alhambra and Los Angeles as a possible solution to those cities' decades-old battle over the fate of the 710.

"As conceptualized, the tunnel would avoid the impacts of construction delays, residential displacement, housing reduction and other environmental impacts that have concerned us for so long," said Liu, who has been an opponent of the 710 completion.

Some members of the public worried that completing the freeway -- either above or below ground -- would not solve the region's traffic woes. They advocated more spending on public transportation.

"I call this tunnel vision," said Mary Ann Parada. "We cannot build our way out of congestion."

Resident Frank Cardenas supported the council's decision not to oppose preliminary feasibility studies for a tunnel. "Maybe our common ground is underground," he said.

Also at its meeting, the council reconsidered its decision last month to widen a portion of Fair Oaks Avenue -- by eliminating sidewalks on the west side of the street -- in order to improve traffic flow in the area.

Merchants complained that the decision had been made without properly notifying the public and that eliminating sidewalks would destroy the city's small-town image. Some wore T-shirts saying, "No 710 Fair Oaks Freeway/Save Our City."

"We feel the project itself is negative and unwanted," said Fair Oaks Pharmacy co-owner Michael Miller.

The council voted unanimously to rescind its first decision and to wait for a better resolution to the city's traffic congestion problem.

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