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.

  • Numan Parada

    Well, not quite, at least if we are ONLY talking about transits effect on traffic on a single corridor. In practice, high quality transit slows the growth of traffic in a parallel corridor. That is, the use of highways still grows, just not as fast as when there is an alternative available. That still makes buses and rail worthwhile investments since they bring new capacity to the corridor without rapidly overwhelming nearby roads.

  • ride_it_like_you_stole_it

    “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.”

    If more and better transit options get some locals off the freeways, wouldn’t that help all traffic on the freeways, including regional traffic?

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  • Sam Max

    Please show us how it will quadruple traffic in Alhambra. Such a crock!

  • Expert Blockotect

    Even the majority of residents in Boston and DC get around from something other than a personal car.

    http://iqc.ou.edu/2013/10/23/modeshare2012/
    http://iqc.ou.edu/2013/10/22/the-latest-bike-walk-and-transit-usage-data/

    So much for the “New York is some sort of anomaly” argument.

  • Expert Blockotect

    “NYC is like that because they don’t have a choice.”

    “Yeah, there are.”

    “I am worried for the future of freeways around Manhattan…”

    Yet they don’t have a choice to drive? Explain again why the majority of people in NYC CHOOSE transit over the car?

    “I commend NYC of the investments it’s made in transit and support it.”

    Hmmm…maybe this is why people CHOOSE to take transit in NYC? Maybe LA decides to pitch most of their money behind billion dollar lane boondoggles instead of in transit? Maybe people in LA CHOOSE to take their car over transit because it’s still the most efficient way to get around? Keep trying to argue that people can’t live without their car though.

  • Expert Blockotect
  • Expert Blockotect

    Fair enough, look what I found. It’s your post that “magically disappeared” somehow. I wonder why it did that? Funny.

    The highlights…

    “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.”

    “Trains can go faster than automobile at about 10 times the cost. How much would it be to build high speed mag lev instead of the expo line rail?”

    Wait…the car is faster and trains are faster? How does that work?

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

    And there it is. Are you going to bend yourself into a pretzel trying to explain why you said that?

    Here’s the whole thing…

    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.

  • Bernard Finucane

    >Yet care to take a guess how long tolls will take to pay that back?

    36K sounds like quite a bit of money to me. Let’s say I commute 200 days a year using the tunnel. 36,000/200 = 180. So at a dollar a day it would take 180 years. And if I pay $6 a day ($1200 a year) it will be paid back in 30 years. But of course only about 60% of the population works, and not all of them would use the tunnel. Maybe $10 a day, $2000 a year?

    I think there is a real chance that people would avoid that cost. It’s only about 10 miles to downtown Los Angeles, so the commute would cost maybe $2.50 a day in gas. People moan and complain about gas prices all the time, but this is four time as high.

    And that’s not counting interest.

  • Campbell Sadeghy

    Tolling will almost certainly be a component for the tunnel for a long time. I believe that is generally agreed with most people who want to see this built.

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