Closing the 710 Freeway gap between Alhambra and Pasadena with a $6-billion underground tunnel may be off the table, after Caltrans officially supported a traffic management alternative last week, but anti-tunnel advocates agree their work is far from over.
News came last Wednesday, following the release by Caltrans of a 9,000-page final environmental impact report for the proposed 710 Freeway extension project that favored a series of community-led street and traffic improvements over the tunnel.
Roughly $730 million in Measure R funding remains available for cities along the 710 corridor. In a Nov. 12 board meeting, Metro approved 34 alternative projects put forth by Pasadena, Alhambra, Monterey Park and other municipalities totaling more than $514 million.
Jan Soo Hoo, a La Cañada resident and transportation activist since 2009, said while those who advocated against the tunnel for years are relieved it is not likely to come to fruition anytime soon, much work remains to ensure it stays dead.
Soo Hoo said one goal moving forward is to ensure any future interest in a tunnel would require transportation officials to restart the environmental review process; another is to work so that subsurface land rights acquired years ago by Caltrans are returned to the cities of jurisdiction.
“There was always that niggling worry in our brains a private investor would, in fact, show up willing to do it,” she said of a future tunnel. “We have to make it as difficult as possible, to keep it from ever coming back.”
Former La Cañada City Councilman Don Voss advocated strongly against the negative environmental and health impacts the tunnel would have brought to cities along the Foothill (210) Freeway, representing La Cañada in multiple regional transportation agencies.
In an interview Tuesday Voss said now that the tunnel is effectively dead, it is imperative La Cañada continue to work alongside neighbor cities who also opposed the tunnel to help craft solutions to regional transportation issues.
“Lending our vision for transportation in Southern California to those affected is a way to lay down the olive branch and say, let’s focus on solutions and work together,” he said. “So many people have learned so much about Metro and Caltrans and tunnels — we should be able to put that to good use.”
State Sen. Anthony Portantino, who helped lead the charge to stop progress on the tunnel alternative, said the release of the environmental impact report was a relief to him after 20 years of fighting.
“Now we can move in a direction of actually solving local transportation needs,” he said Monday.
On Monday, on the first day of the new legislative session in Sacramento, Portantino introduced SB-7, a bill that aims to amend the California Streets and Highways Code so that the 710 Freeway effectively terminates at the 10 Freeway. Portantino said the bill would cement the end of the tunnel by removing the idea there is a gap between the 710 and 210 freeways that needs to be connected.
The senator said La Cañada Flintridge should be proud it was among the first municipalities to join in the fight against the proposed 710 Freeway extension and advised city officials to continue to engage in talks with key transportation players about what’s next.
“They should be coordinating with Supervisor Kathryn Barger’s office and [Glendale City Council’s] Ara Najarian on how Metro should be appropriating the available funds,” Portantino said. “Because now it’s a regional issue.”