Residents voice 710 plan concerns

Traffic congestion, safety hazards and air and noise pollution topped a list of concerns put forth by community members Saturday at a public outreach meeting on the proposed Long Beach (710) Freeway gap closure project.

The meeting, which drew about two dozen people to Glendale Community College, was the last of six hosted by Metro during the past 10 days. The goal was to bring residents of Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, Pasadena, South Pasadena and northeast Los Angeles – communities that would be impacted by the 710 project – up to speed on the history of growth and mass transportation in the region, as well as to develop discussion “themes” for future meetings, said Metro spokesperson Helen Ortiz Gilstrap.

Attendees were led through a brain-storming session wherein they identified daily transportation concerns, and possible solutions.

The project would connect the Long Beach (710) and Foothill (210) freeways, possibly by a 4.5-mile long underground tunnel, between Alhambra and Pasadena.

Metro is planning a second series of meetings – which kick off Tuesday at Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena – to detail the environmental studies, known as CEQA/NEPA. And a third series of meetings will be used to gather public input for “scoping” purposes, required as part of the environmental review process approved last spring by the MTA.

Metro announced the meetings earlier this month to much criticism with opponents characterizing them as a waste of time and money. Los Angeles County transportation officials plan to push for the project despite resistance from the cities of La Cañada Flintridge, Pasadena, Glendale and others, critics said.

“We have learned from the geotechnical meetings that it is just their attempt at outreach with falls extremely short,” said Susan Bolan, a La Crescenta resident and a member of the No 710 Action Committee. “We haven't even officially entered scoping and we see this as a touchy feely we-are-going-to-tell-you-how-it-is sort of thing. We are not taking them seriously, but we want to be here representing our point of view.”

All options remain on the table, including not completing the 710 gap at all, Gilstrap and other Metro officials emphasized. Community input will play a critical role in determining if and how the project will proceed. Those who can not attend the meetings in person are being asked to contribute via webcasts and virtual meetings, available through the Metro website.

The estimated cost of the proposed gap-closure tunnel has varied widely – between $1 billion and $12 billion. The money would come from Measure R, a county taxed approved by voters in 2008 that is expected to generate $44 billion.

Glendale Mayor and Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors member Ara Najarian in December requested a cost estimate on the entire project before proceeding with the costly environmental studies, which will cost about $90 million.

Last week Metro responded, placing the cost at $3 billion. Najarian described it as a low-ball figure that did not take into account the mechanical, electrical and plumbing costs, among others.

“A better per-mile comparison should be the Big Dig in Boston, which was a completed project,” Najarian said. “That is one that was sold to the public at about $3 or $4 billion, and it ended up being with all the finance costs about $22 billion. If we are going to compare tunnels let's compare one that has been built already, rather than one that is a pie in the sky.”

The estimate did even include that actual length of the proposed tunnel, said El Sereno resident Tom Williams.

“[The $3 billion estimate] is fallacious, number one,” Williams said. “They give the total project length as 3.98 miles whereas before it has always been 4.5.”

Opponents said they would continue to voice their opposition, and encourage Metro to look at alternative traffic solutions.

Second series of meetings

Tuesday, March 1, 6 to 8 p.m., Lake Avenue Church, 393 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena

Wednesday, March 2, 6 to 8 p.m., Jefferson Middle School, 1372 E. Las Tunas Drive, San Gabriel

Thursday, March 3, 6 to 8 p.m., Alhambra Civic Center, 101 S. First St., Alhambra

Tuesday, March 8, 6 to 8 p.m., Glendale Community College, 1500 N. Verdugo Road, Glendale

Wednesday, March 9, 6 to 8 p.m., South Pasadena High School, 1401 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena

Thursday, March 17, 6 to 8 p.m., Los Angeles Christian Presbyterian Church, 2241 N. Eastern Ave., Los Angeles

FOR THE RECORD: This amends an earlier version to correct the March 17 date.

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