Assemblyman Chris Holden introduced legislation that would prohibit building a tunnel to close the 6.2-mile gap of the 710 Freeway between the 10 and 210 freeways. This is the first time a piece of legislation would aim to kill the controversial project proposed by Caltrans. The freeway tunnel project would run through El Sereno, South Pasadena and Pasadena and has divided communities in the San Gabriel Valley.
Holden called the 710 tunnel a misguided and obsolete solution. He said that “Moving in a different direction is not only good for this community, it is an important step for the entire region. The tunnel option puts billions of taxpayer dollars on the line with no hard evidence pointing to traffic relief for the San Gabriel Valley.”
Alhambra Councilwoman Barbara Messina, who leads the 710 Coalition of cities and labor unions in support of constructing the gap-tunnel, took Holden’s announcement personally. She said she and Holden were in lock-step on the freeway completion for decades and had been friends since the early 1980s. “This really upsets me. I feel betrayed by him,” Messina said. She predicted the bill would fail to get enough votes for passage. Messina argues the tunnel is the best regional option connecting Long Beach with Pasadena. The tunnel would not allow trucks as currently proposed and would be a toll road.
Holden’s bill would put the 710 Freeway project in the hands of an advisory committee that would recommend an alternative, such as light-rail routes, dedicated busways, roadways and bike lanes.
Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek said Holden switching to the anti-freeway tunnel side may be the death knell for the project. Pasadena City Councilman Steve Madison said Holden’s bill is another brick in the wall of opposition that could pay political dividends even if it is not approved.
“Look at our major leaders: Gov. Brown, Brian Kelly, his transportation secretary and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti. My take is all of them are looking for that one final nudge to kill this thing,” Madison said.
Other reactions range from glowing support to outrage. The 710 Coalition, a grouping of cities, school districts, businesses and individuals that support the tunnel alternative, called Holden’s proposal an “audacious maneuver by 710 tunnel opponents to thwart years of progress toward completion of the freeway.”
Pasadena officials, on the other hand, enthusiastically supported Holden’s legislation. Former Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard said Holden’s bill is a great step in a battle that’s been going on for more than 40 years. Bogaard said that “when the facts are known – the environmental facts, the financial facts, the absolute need for other improvement in transportation in this region – the answer will be clear: the tunnel has no role in the future of Southern California,” Bogaard said.
Holden said that the freeway tunnel may have been a viable option 50 years ago, but it is not in today’s or tomorrow’s reality. “Our state led the way by building one of the most advanced freeway systems in America,” Holden said. “We should lead the way now by taking a 21st century approach to addressing our transportation needs.”
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