710 Freeway Tunnel Vision

710 Freeway Tunnel Vision

Curbed L.A. reported on Tuesday's unanimous Assembly committee vote to recommend that the 710 Freeway be extended underground -- instead of cutting 6.2 miles on the surface through neighborhoods in El Sereno and South Pasadena, along the freeway's course to link the San Bernardino and Foothill freeways at Alhambra and Pasadena, respectively. The extension has been fought for half a century -- no one living along the proposed route wants to see their communities bisected by another freeway.

The Sierra Club, which is a co-litigant in efforts to stop extension construction, claims the project would create gridlock and cause the "destruction of over 1,000 residences, including numerous historic

houses, and 7,000 mature trees that are an integral part of thriving

moderate- and low-income neighborhoods." Another opposition group, Neighbors for Better Transportation, has waged a grassroots campaign against the extension and claims its completion would send pollution-spewing semis into the heart of Pasadena.

An underground passage, which would involve twin, 4.5-milelong tunnels, has increasingly seemed to be a somewhat acceptable workaround to a project that has been suspended but never killed. The problem is that tunneling underground is so expensive that one wonders if the action by the Assembly's Transportation Committee was a serious gesture or, even, a maneuver intended to kill the project by making it too expensive to undertake. (Memories are also stirred by the Red Line's boring through the Cahuenga Pass, which brought on aggrieved residents to complain of noise and dried-up streams caused by the subterranean construction.)

The bill, SB 545,

is sponsored by Senator Gil Cedillo (D-L.A.) and does not provide money

for the tunnels, but only amends the state's Streets and Highways Code

to mandate that "Route 710 between Valley Boulevard in the City of Los

Angeles and Del Mar Boulevard in the City of Pasadena shall not be a

surface or above-grade highway."

That may, in the end, be like

authorizing a bridge to the moon to be built.

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