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L.A. City Council joins opposition to 710 Freeway extension

August 28, 2012 |  2:09 pm

The Los Angeles City Council joined a chorus of voices opposing plans to extend the 710 Freeway north on Tuesday, unanimously adopting a resolution opposing any above-ground freeway or tunnel that would cut through the city.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority on Thursday narrowed the 12 alternatives down to five and decided to cease exploration of any above-ground extension, but a tunnel connecting the 710 Freeway to the 210 Freeway is still on the table.

MTA officials have said they do not prefer a single option, but foes believe the tunnel is the favored option because it provides a route for trucks from the port of Los Angeles to move cargo inland.

The resolution comes a week after Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, (D-La Canada Flintridge) called for the freeway extension study to be halted altogether and two weeks after the Pasadena City Council called any surface or tunnel routes connecting the 710 and the 210 freeways "nonstarters."

The transit authority has sought for years to ease traffic congestion where the 710 freeway ends on Valley Boulevard in the El Sereno neighborhood, but any construction in that area would affect residents in several northeast Los Angeles communities that fall within Los Angeles Councilman Jose Huizar's district. The L.A. council also adopted a resolution in 2009 that opposed any tunnel that began or ended in El Sereno.

"You would disrupt some neighborhoods that have existed for generations," Huizar said. "I just think there are other alternatives, like multi-modal transportation."

Surveyors have proposed a 4.5-mile tunnel that would connect the 710 and 210 freeways as one of five alternatives. The MTA is also considering an expansion of the Gold Line that would connect Fillmore Station and the East L.A. Civic Center station, an expansion of bus service including dedicated lanes; enhancing coordination of traffic signals and existing transit services and a "no build" option.

Huizar criticized the MTA for setting up "a process that creates more concern and alarm than anything." The transit authority began the environmental study process with more than 40 alternatives encompassing much of northeast Los Angeles, and narrowed the possible options to 12 earlier this year.

"We, as a city, and any other public agency should not take for granted the communities that would be impacted the most as Metro and Caltrans have," Huizar said.

South Pasadena, La Canada Flintridge and Glendale have also opposed any alternative involving construction of a freeway or tunnel, citing increased air pollution. But cities like Alhambra and San Marino say the extension will form an essential link in the regional transportation network.

The freeway and tunnel options have drawn heated opposition from community members. A cheer went up from the roughly 50 people who came to support the resolution after the vote, and many sported anti-710 freeway buttons and T-shirts.

Marina Khubesrian, a South Pasadena councilwoman at the Tuesday meeting, called the tunnel option "insane."

The tunnel, she said, is "not in my backyard, it's not in yours, but I don't want anyone to sit there, with no access out for miles, breathing exhaust fumes."

Harry Knapp, a former mayor and council member of South Pasadena, said he supports low-impact measures such as traffic synchronization and the expansion of bus lines.

"Anything that doesn't have them plowing through neighborhoods," Knapp said.

An environmental report is expected to be released around winter 2014. 

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-- Frank Shyong and Adolfo Flores at Los Angeles City Hall

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