Bill to Stymie 710 Tunnel Is Stymied by Asm Transportation Committee

Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) presenting his bill to the Assembly Transportation Committee. Image: Screengrab from CA TV
Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) presenting his bill to the Assembly Transportation Committee. Image: Screengrab from CA TV

Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) tried to bring an end to a long-stewing controversy over what to do about the 710 freeway through his district, but his efforts to have the state legislature weigh in seem to be falling short.

He introduced a bill, A.B. 287, that would have created an advisory committee to come up with solutions–and at the same time would have prohibited that committee from considering two proposals that have been the source of decades of dispute and study: a tunnel and a surface freeway through Pasadena.

A.B. 287 won a 3-1 vote in the Assembly Transportation Committee hearing on Monday, but that wasn’t enough for it to move ahead. Too many committee members, including chair Jim Frazier (D-Oakley), declined to vote on it, which prevented the bill from moving forward.

Kansen Chu (D-San Jose), told Holden why he would refrain from voting. “This is a local bill,” he said. “I would like to see locals come together on it.”

“That’s the spirit of the bill,” responded Holden. “To bring the communities together to come up with a solution.”

Both a surface freeway and a tunnel have been proposed, and both have been fought by local residents “for a very long time,” said Holden. The tunnel has been repeatedly condemned as a terrible idea. Nevertheless Caltrans is basically finished with an environmental review of its current proposals for the 710, which it will soon present to L.A. Metro for consideration. The tunnel is one of those proposals, even though heavy community opposition forced Metro to specifically exclude the North 710 tunnel project from the expenditure plan in its recent, successful, Measure M sales tax proposition.

Currently, the 710 freeway ends before it goes through Pasadena. Image: Metro
Currently, the 710 freeway ends before it goes through Pasadena. Image: Metro

“Caltrans is not listening to the community,” said Holden. “We need something in line with future transportation needs.”

“Extending our freeways only adds cars to our roads,” he added. “And there is no justifiable source of funds for the tunnel. It’s way too expensive. A tunnel would put billions of taxpayer money on the line, with no hard evidence [that it would provide] traffic relief in the San Gabriel Valley.”

Labor unions spoke in opposition to the bill; they see the tunnel as a job creator. Also opposed were representatives from nearby cities, including Rosemead and Alhambra, who have long sought a freeway connection northward, under the misguided assumption that it will reduce congestion.

Matthew Harper (R-Huntington Beach), said that the original intention of building the 710 was to solve traffic problems by connecting the Long Beach Port north to the 210 freeway, “so that traffic can go around downtown.” He complained that because it was never completed, “the entire L.A. area gums up when the freeway has an accident.”

“That’s the reason we need to move in another direction,” said Holden. “Under the best of circumstances, [a tunnel] doesn’t even address that. Trucks would not be allowed into the tunnel,” he said.

A tunnel would be like squeezing a balloon on one side, and having it popping up on the other side. And who wants to be stuck in traffic in a tunnel?

We need a different approach: a holistic, realistic approach.

In addition, amidst other state efforts to fight climate change by reducing driving, he said, “It would be hypocritical of me to push a solution that is part of the problem.” Transit like light rail, he said, would be a smart use of funds.

We made a commitment to the voters of L.A. County that we would find the most cost effective way to provide transportation, and digging this tunnel is not it.

This [bill] is an effort to bring harmony in communities that have been fighting forever.

Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) represents nearby communities that would be affected by whatever choice is made along the 710.

“Let me be clear: doing nothing is absolutely not a solution,” she said. “People who live in the area at the termination of the 710 are extremely affected by that freeway. But a tunnel is a 20th century solution to a 21st century problem.”

“It could cost $5 billion at least” for the tunnel, she added. “Imagine what that would do for a rail system for L.A. County and this area.”

“If cars terminating in an area is an issue, then the last thing we should do is . . .  invite more cars into the system,” she said. “What we should be doing is investing in solutions that take cars off the road,” like mass transit and rail and alternative transportation.

Holden asked committee members to move his bill forward so he could keep the conversation going. If they passed it, legislative procedures would put it in the “suspense” file of the Appropriations Committee, where it would sit for the moment.

That would give L.A. Metro time to consider the issue at its May meeting, when the EIR on the tunnel is scheduled to be discussed.

“I’m up against a deadline,” he told committee members. “If I don’t get this bill out of this committee, the opportunity to have more conversations [about a solution] goes away. It could be a very successful tool in moving to consensus,” he added.

But committee members were not swayed. They backed away, and the bill, for now, is stalled.

  • BOB2

    I sure do hope they complete the tunnel that does nothing to the communities on the surface except remove a hundred thousand daily trips off of Pasadena streets. It would and could easily be financed by tolls and private sector funding, not requiring a nickel of public monies. It would not destroy any communities that it would go under. And, unless Chris Holden and Laura Friedman also plan to ban electric vehicles, this project will not add to future air pollution problems, since dirty cars cause air pollution, not the roads they travel on……..
    Expressway tunnels are actually a very 21st century solution,to placing needed road capacity in historic and congested first world cities from Paris, to Madrid, to even Moscow, so that comment from Laura is nonsense, And, I can’t wait until I see her stop herself from driving…… to demonstrate that she is not a pandering hypocrite on this issue…..?
    if we construct the 710 tunnel, at least those of us who are gridlocked on our own City streets in Pasadena, South Pasadena, and Alhambra, would see dramatic reductions in cut through traffic, and quality of life….and imagine capping the 710 stub through downtown to create open space, parkland, and more housing, wouldn’t that be just awful…..?
    This run amok Nimby mob, once had a just cause, saving South Pasadena and parts of Pasadena from a disastrous surface freeway alternative. Now, this neo luddite mob rails, rants, and opposes any alternative that actually would help solve the congestion nightmare on our local streets, even when it is in a tunnel that they will never even see or hear.

  • Numan Parada

    As a supporter of the tunnel, I am glad that this bill has stalled. This freeway has long been needed as a means to drive around LA instead of through it and provide an alternative not just for Fremont Avenue (note that there are no north-south streets paralleling it west of Fremont) but for the 5 and the 101 Freeways, with the underutilized 210 West ready to fulfill its true goal for the region. The transit options, which in themselves are worthwhile, would help locals at best but will do nothing for regional traffic that has no business in LA. Now I am eager to see what the EIR reveals and how the Metro Board reacts to it.

  • Campbell Sadeghy

    Ridiculous and I hope this bills dies. The tunnel needs to be built and a lot of people who will use it will be happy that it is.

    Mass transit doesn’t take people off of the road unless you force them by increasing congestion, reducing car lanes, etc. which is exactly what this clown wants to do and is something the government does not need to be doing. Telling people how to live is something California is trying to do and it needs to stop.

    The majority of people choose to drive and that isn’t changing. Seeing as 80% of the new housing growth is suburban, it’s clear how people want to live. Stop shoving mass transit down the throats of drivers which ironically are the ones that pay for it under the misguided assumption that it will reduce traffic. It won’t. It will make it worse. Much worse.

  • Marke Pulido

    I love driving thru the cities that the 710 would have gone thru, while eating and drinking my food and throwing the trash out the window onto the streets of these selfish cities. In essence…give me a freeway so that i don’t spend a single penny of my hard earned money in any of these selfish, self absorbed cities. I love the fact that i can go, almost, anywhere in southern California on the freeway. Until I need to go to Pasadena from long beach. Either i go all the way around or through the previously mentioned selfish cities. Expect more trash on your streets and more pollution in your air. You could just limit the amount of on and off ramps. I just need to get where I’m going. I have no intentions of staying, visiting our contributing to your local economy. We would never build a freeway through Beverly Hills, it’s not necessary. Not that I’m comparing Apple’s to oranges, but, the cities holding up the 710 connection can’t hold a candle to Beverly Hills, Holmbly Hills and Bel Air in price, location and privacy. Connecting, and completing the 710 as it was originally envisioned is essential to making So.Cal less of a traffic nightmare to all of us who use the freeway system. I don’t have three hours to travel on a metro train and bus, each way, everyday that I work. Los Angeles is way to big for getting around that way. Cars are here to stay. Driving One hour in traffic each way is part of living in So.Cal.

  • “Also opposed were representatives from nearby cities, including Rosemead and Alhambra, who have long sought a freeway connection northward, under the misguided assumption that it will reduce congestion.”

    God forbid anyone actually *look at a map* and conclude a direct route that bypasses downtown LA makes perfect sense for Rosemead and Alhambra, and that connecting the 210 to the 710 was *what was originally planned to begin with*.

    • antiqueshopper

      Cali, you have to realize that these tunnels or any “direct route” can never be built. Besides the fact that the Metro consultants cost estimate is off by half and is more like $11 billion, which SCAG estimated in 2007, and the money basically is not available for such a bloated boondoggle Caltrans/the State would have to get permission/approvals from the cities of Pasadena, South Pasadena and Los Angeles where the now dead surface and proposed toll tunnels would go in and under. These three cities have official resolutions against the tunnels. They will never agree to something that’s so harmful and devastating and against the wishes of their residents. End of story!

      • Campbell Sadeghy

        You are incorrect. Caltrans does have to get any formal agreement from these cities to build the tunnel.

        • antiqueshopper

          Sorry you are very incorrect. Read the DEIR. It states it in that document.

          • Campbell Sadeghy

            It’s a very large article. I didn’t see anything about it in the EIR, but I have specifically asked CalTrans about this in the past. They don’t need formal blessing from the cities to do this.

          • BOB2

            Or maybe, like so many of these Nimby “urban myths” spread by the 710 tunnel opponents, you didn’t notice it, because it isn’t there…..?

          • BOB2

            Yes, they may still need an agreement for a surface route, to close streets, not for a tunnel no one will notice in Pasadena or South Pasadena, except maybe for missing all of that the massive volume of cut through traffic on Fremont, which will have fallen by 50%

      • BOB2

        Oh, do you mean the cost number made up by Nimby’s that’s not actually contained in any such SCAG document from 2007?
        Yes, the current Pasadena Council has unilaterally overturned the overwhelming referendum vote of the Pasadena residents in favor or completing the 710 gap, despite being told by their own legal counsel that such action needed to go back to the voters, which they have refused to do…….
        So much for putting this issue to a legally required local popular vote……by the gutless wonders on the Pasadena City Council, pandering to Nimby’s by opposing the 710, while approving thousands of new condominiums, and more traffic on our already gridlocked local streets. The hypocrisy of these people, know no bounds.

  • GlobalLA

    Get this tunnel built! All these NIMBYs are destroying Los Angeles.

    • Bernard Finucane

      It’s a waste of money. The people who want it can’t pay for it.

      • GlobalLA

        Wrong, we are ALL PAYING for it now. It’s called TRAFFIC congestion, and I’m not just talking about certain areas like those spilling around Valley Blvd/Fremont Ave near the north 710 terminus. It’s traffic being spilled out all over the place in other places. By the way, are you even aware of the countless car accidents on Fremont Ave because the 710 terminus forces them to exit onto residential streets? But the worse thing about this are the MILLIONs of hours wasted by commuters every year.

        “Paying for it” is much more than just dollar terms. We are talking about millions of hours being wasted and our health.

        People who hate the tunnel want other alternatives like bike lanes and light rail. The funny thing about that is that most of these people are NIMBYs who hate higher-density. It’s higher-density that promotes walkability and conducive to bike lanes and light rail. Most people who don’t want the tunnel usually DON’T WANT ANY DEVELOPMENT unless it looks like something from the 1960s.

        • Miles Bader

          Cars are incompatible with high density.

          The answer to congestion is very simple: ban cars.

          • Brad H
          • Campbell Sadeghy

            Hey Brad, obviously if you build freeways people will use them. Shocker I know and these articles acting like they’ve discovered some groundbreaking discovery get really old as they point out nothing new.

            In essence, they want to tell people how to live.

          • Campbell Sadeghy

            Yeah ban cars. Tell people how to live lol okay. Cars are not incompatible with high density and thankfully your extremist views have little to no change of ever seeing light in US cities.

        • Bernard Finucane

          I’m not sure how your (unsubstantiated) claims about who is in favor of what make this a good idea.

          Pasadena is nearly empty. Most of the city is zoned as open area or single family. There is a huge interchange in the city. The city streets are absurdly wide. The commercial areas are full of huge mostly empty parking lots. It makes no sense to tunnel under empty land.

          Your complaints about the “money” lost in congestion — The tunnel would cost about $36K per man, woman and child in Pasadena. Who is going to pay for it?

          • GlobalLA

            This is far more encompassing than propping up numbers by relating it only to Pasadena folks. This is a REGIONAL issue as well and very important. And all that empty land in Pasadena that you mention is more a red herring. Pasadena is poised for more development in the future.

          • Campbell Sadeghy

            GlobalLA, Pasadena isn’t empty and is actually far from it. It just isn’t a concrete jungle filled with apartments and people walking around everywhere.

            I’m sure a good portion of the 150,000 people that live there would agree with me.

          • Campbell Sadeghy

            Pasadena is mostly empty? Please explain that logic? Or is because Pasadena isn’t a concrete jungle. Smh

          • Bernard Finucane
          • Campbell Sadeghy

            So your argument is because there’s a lot of concrete that the city is empty. Gotcha.

          • Bernard Finucane

            Yes, even the pretty tree lines areas of the town have much too much pavement. City streets are extremely extensive, and building like this to support modest, spread out neighborhood doesn’t make economic sense. Spending billions of other people’s money in a doubtful attempt to make driving a bit more convenient for a few affluent suburbanites is unjustifiable.

          • Campbell Sadeghy

            If you want to say concrete wasteland I can just as easily lay that claim to DTLA or WeHo and say Pasadena is a beautiful Greenland with trees and large lawns. Twist things however you want I guess.

          • Bernard Finucane

            There are lots of pretty places in Pasadena. The point I am trying to make is that Pasadena has seen a vast investment of roads and parking lots, not to mention sewage and electrical systems, and that supports a fairly small population and modest architecture. The proportion of public investment to private investment is unsustainably high.

            It’s simply unjustifiable to pour billions in outside tax money into an already heavily heavily subsidized community, especially when convenience s the only expected outcome.

          • BOB2

            Tolls from users would easily pay for this project over fifty years, and where did you get this idea that Pasadena has no people or traffic, what Nimby loony twaddle.

          • Bernard Finucane

            Fifty years is much too long. A project like this would need new investment much earlier. Can you show me your numbers?

          • BOB2

            You can’t finance a 5 billion dollar investment over 50 years? I can do it using variable peak and off peak toll rates to assure free flow, with an 8% return on equity to the investors.
            Of course, you need to realize that the toll would be collected from 220,000 users per day, 365 days per year, for 50 years……, 1/3 of those vehicle trips coming off of the gridlocked 210, and 100,000 of those trips coming off of our gridlocked local streets…..
            And, using this kind of sophistry is evidence of what, other than your credulity, and apparent poor math skills?

          • Bernard Finucane

            If insults are the best arguments you can come up with, you don’t have any good arguments.

          • BOB2

            So where are your arguments that traffic will magically disappear from doing nothing, where is your statistical data on travel flows, or the amount of extra distance folks have to travel to get around Pasadena, or how many trips are eliminated from local streets….. The only one insulting anyone is you, since you have no arguments, you attack my credibility, using one of the cheapest debate tricks in your demagogic playbook..

        • Expert Blockotect

          “‘Paying for it’ is much more than just dollar terms. We are talking about millions of hours being wasted and our health.”

          So adding road capacity that’ll allow people to sit on their ass in their cars is supposedly healthier than walking to a transit stop or biking? If you claim you’re concerned about people’s health, then you should be supporting the alternatives that’ll get people out of their cars and on their feet.

          • Campbell Sadeghy

            Expert Blockotect, because you see people sitting in their cars doesn’t mean it’s a waste of time to them. I’d rather sit in my car than spend hours waiting for buses and trains like I do everyday. Mass transit sucks. I say that as a millennial. I hate it.

            You have no business telling others how to live because you think they could do it healthier. That goes for the way they travel, eat, live, etc.

          • Expert Blockotect

            You missed the argument. The commenter above was trying to argue that adding freeway capacity is somehow healthy.

            But let me flip that around on you. So you don’t think that adding more freeway capacity for ONE mode of transit in an already over bloated highway network, while eliminating funding for tranist/bike/ped alternatives is telling people how they should live? The amount of funding spent on automobile transportation is vastly skewed in its favor compared to transit, bike, and ped all put together. There’s far more incentive to get into an automobile than not to.

          • Campbell Sadeghy

            I believe adding freeway capacity to a city that the majority of people CHOOSE to use for transportation mode is not telling people how to live, it is accommodating them.

            No one is telling you how to live. You have an urban enclave. It is growing. Subways are being expanded. Transit is being expanded. I support that, but not at the expense of car based infrastructure.

            Naturally because a car is faster there will be a much larger expanse of the city in terms of land mass that will be based around car transit.

            It also helps that the majority of people are choosing the suburban lifestyle.

            I’m not against transit or biking. Hell, I love car free in LA(not by choice I can’t afford a car right now). I bike everywhere. I enjoy biking. I still support road expansion.

            I want this tunnel to be built and I think a good compromise is to include a rail component of some sort. Have 6 lanes of vehicular traffic and 4 lanes of truck traffic. I think. The EIS calls for 8 lanes of car traffic.

            Metro already is going to expand 710 to 10 or 12 lanes with new truck lanes. It’s a good start. The tunnel project is equally important as rather than just adding lanes(which every freeway in LA needs), it connect a broken system.

            Yeah it will be be expensive, but most infrastructure is.

            Most of this article is just rhetoric such as the asinine statement “tunnels are a 20th century solution in a 21st century world.” That couldn’t be further from the truth but I’m guessing he’s implying car traffic tunnels anyways. Rail tunnels are just fine?

            Again, I do believe if the majority of people want to live urban, they would. Most people seem to want open yards, more bang for their buck in terms of square footage.

            US subsidizes sprawl through freeway construction. Europe subsidizes the extreme cost of urban living through social programs.

            It doesn’t matter whether or not you build rail or roads, congestion will always occur during rush hour. Not having to wait for 4 trains in Paris because driving is not a viable alternative having to pay a lot just to enter the city is nice. Me waiting for 3 trains on the Expo line because they’re full sucks. Especially spending about an hour a day waiting the things to arrive.

            I can listen to my own music through a steroe. Go wherever I want and not be confined to a track or route being even more confined having designated stops. Not having other people around me coughing and getting me sick. Having seats that are actually comfortable. Not having to deal with irate people. I can go on and on to my view of the perks of owning a car.

            There are other reasons people want to live the suburban lifestyle that is centered around cars. You can sit there and say all you want that it’s because they don’t have an incentive but I call BS on that and it looks to me that is just something you are hiding behind.

            No one will argue whether it is greener and more efficient to move people by rail, bus, or bike because that’s a brainer. Fortunately we aren’t machines and don’t need to be dictated by efficiency.

          • BOB2

            How will funding be eliminated from other programs if toll financing and private funding is used to construct and pay for this badly needed project? Is this more of the usual delusional twaddle from spoiled wealthy nimby elitist’s who always drive to the 710 hearing and meeting to protest the tunnel, but who personally wouldn’t be caught dead themselves on public transit….?. Yes, that nice clean electric Leaf my neighbor drives every day is a very nice form of personal mobility, and ain’t that just awful, right? As Pogo once rightly noted, we have met the enemy, and it is us…….

          • Expert Blockotect

            The freeway tunnel will be privately financed? Someone is blowing a bunch of smoke up your ass. Tolling isn’t even guaranteed yet.

          • BOB2

            I actually ran some of these numbers for the 2nd largest private funder of highway tunnels in the world. I had to sign off on confidentiality….so you can do the math yourself.
            And, no, almost nothing we do in our complex societies is ever completely guaranteed to spontaneously occur, so sometimes we have to get off of our increasingly lazy and spoiled rear ends, and actually take action to make things happen.
            I will “guarantee” that the 210 and Pasadena traffic will suck today, it is a fact. I can tell you that up to 90% of trips generated from some of the new million dollar each condo projects in hip and cool downtown Pasadena will continue to drive their Prius,, Leafs, or really hip Tesla’s…..on our gridlocked streets and freeways.
            Trump denies global warming, and the anti 710 Nimby mob somehow seem to believe that traffic will magically disappear. I find it interesting that both Trump and these Nimby’s seem to share the same fact free universe, based on whatever credulous nonsense that they’ve “heard” from the loudest shouting Nimby fool in the room or Faux News, not on easily observable facts or good peer reviewed science.
            So maybe it’s really just you, getting way up in there, way too close and personal for my tastes, with that blowing smoke……?

        • antiqueshopper

          Alhambra is their own worst enemy when it come to traffic. They have not seen a development that they didn’t like and over development is the cause of Alhambra’s traffic problem at Fremont and Valley. The DEIR says the traffic will increase on Valley due to the diversion of traffic of those not wanting to go in the tunnels and those not wanting to pay the tolls. And, four times as much traffic will be attracted to the area.

          • GlobalLA

            Wrong. It’s NIMBYs who have destroyed all cities in LA County for surpressing more dense mixed-use walkable communities needed to reduce reliance on automobiles. And that includes NIMBYs in Alhambra who fought almost every single project in the city including downtown. It’s crazy to whine about traffic when the fact is traffic is not going to go away. The think traffic must be eliminated instead of mitigated for future growth is absurd.

          • Campbell Sadeghy

            Antique shopper, traffic will have an alternative to the other freeways it currently uses.

            No one is going to say “oh there’s a tunnel let’s drive in it for no reason because induced demand.”

            They already had a trip and used the tunnel instead of their current route because it’s more convenient. That is a prime example of good government building new roads for people to shorten their commute and give them a more direct route.

            Saying oh we’re going to build rail instead which would force you out of your car if you wanted to use this route is an example of bad government.

            Look at this from a regional view and taking stress off of preexisting freeways.

            There is a reason Dallas is getting so many corporate relocations and they are building a huge freeway network. It’s working great for them.

          • BOB2

            I’m confused, as a Pasadena resident, as to when exactly, my “anti-710” pandering City Council in Pasadena banned this over development that you complain is all Alhambra’s fault?

      • Campbell Sadeghy

        It is not a waste of money. If connecting a regional transportation system in one of the largest metros in the US is a waste of money to you, you ought to stay far away from city planning.

    • Campbell Sadeghy

      GlobalLA, I completely agree.

      It’s funny how you have the anti car crowd that thinks these nimbys are on their side when these are the same people who would deny their precious little apartment projects they love in a split second.

  • Patrick Jackson

    I actually favor building the tunnel assuming that as part of it, the 110 north of downtown is completely removed.

    • Campbell Sadeghy

      That makes no sense and completely defeats the purpose of the tunnel.

      • Patrick Jackson

        No. It removes an imposing, outdated freeway with low capacity that isn’t well connected to the rest of the freeway grid and replaces it with parks and development, while providing increased freeway capacity, all underground.

        • Campbell Sadeghy

          I wouldn’t be opposed to capping the 110 but it needs multiple lanes added and it needs to be reconstructed to be more effective and the deficiencies need corrected.

          It that’s done, I would support a cut and cover technique.

  • sinosoul

    Pray tell, Melanie Curry, what is the majestic “holistic, realistic approach” to the absolute clusterF that is Fremont/Atlantic and Valley Blvd? A regional connector between East LA gold line station to S. Pas station? That 1) no one in San Marino would ride 2) would never be approved cause S.Pas nimbys. Or yet another bus line from Paramount to Altadena that’s routed thru Monterey Park/Alhambra, which no one from Monterey Park/Alhambra/Pas/S.Pas will ever ride? (258/260)

  • CV Gal

    Good summary. Thanks for covering this important topic.

    • Vooch

      Pray that the blight of the 710 never expands


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