Abandoned 710 tunnel leaves millions for new transport projects
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) has made the landmark decision to scrap a controversial proposal to extend the 710 freeway with a five-mile tunnel from Alhambra to Pasadena. The vote took place after two hours of public comment in a Metro boardroom packed with several hundred residents, community representatives and elected officials
The agency’s board of directors acknowledged they would likely never have the $3 billion to $5 billion needed to complete the project, which had inspired fierce debate for more than 50 years.
But the agency does have about $700 million in funding to spend on the 710 corridor, guaranteed through Measure R, the sales tax increase passed by county voters in 2008. The funds must be used in the same area and to achieve the same goal as the 710 extension; namely reducing traffic on surface streets in the areas of the San Gabriel Valley and East L.A. where the tunnel would have been built.
Metro plans to spend about $100 million right away on small fixes that have already been studied by Caltrans as part of the most recent Environmental Impact Review, including synchronizing traffic lights, improving freeway ramps, building new sound walls and adding bike lanes.
This leaves about $600 million up for grabs. Metro is currently devising a plan to take in proposals and come to a consensus with communities in the area. State officials have indicated that they will follow Metro’s recommendation, as there is otherwise no funding in place for a solution.
The tunnel was one of five options considered by Caltrans and Metro to build a north-south connection between the busy 10 and 210 freeways through the heart of the San Gabriel Valley, extending the 710 freeway between Alhambra and Pasadena. Until this decision, the proposed 710 Freeway tunnel was the leading option. The board voted to defer decisions on other transportation options that will use the remaining funding until cities along the north 710 corridor and other interested parties can agree. Any new plans will still need to undergo environmental impact review.