Assemblyman Chris Holden of Pasadena introduces bill to kill 710 Freeway tunnel project
POSTED: Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017 - 4:10 p.m.
UPDATED: A DAY AGO
SOUTH PASADENA >> Assemblyman Chris Holden introduced legislation that would prohibit building a tunnel to close the 6.2-mile gap of the 710 Freeway between the 10 and 210 freeways, the assemblyman announced Thursday.
This is the first time a piece of legislation would aim to kill the controversial project proposed by Caltrans. The freeway tunnel project would run through El Sereno, South Pasadena and Pasadena and has divided communities in the San Gabriel Valley.
"It is clear the 710 tunnel project is a misguided and obsolete solution," Holden said. The Democratic lawmaker from Pasadena, who represents the 41st District, had been a supporter of allowing the freeway tunnel project to play out at Caltrans. This marks the first time Holden has come out against building the freeway tunnel in his career, which started on the Pasadena City Council when he supported Measure A in 2001, a local ballot measure approved by Pasadena voters to support a surface route.
In an oblique reference to cities in support, such as Monterey Park, Alhambra, Rosemead and San Marino, Holden intimated on Thursday during remarks made at a park in South Pasadena that his new stance doesn't just favor those cities opposed, including Pasadena, South Pasadena and La Cañada Flintridge.
"Moving in a different direction is not only good for this community, it is an important step for the entire region," he said. "The tunnel option puts billions of taxpayer dollars on the line with no hard evidence pointing to traffic relief for the San Gabriel Valley."
Alhambra Councilwoman Barbara Messina, who leads the 710 Coalition of cities and labor unions in support of constructing the gap-tunnel, took Holden's announcement personally. She said she and Holden were in lock-step on the freeway completion for decades and had been friends since the early 1980s.
"This really upsets me. I feel betrayed by him," Messina said. She predicted the bill would fail to get enough votes for passage.
Assembly Bill 287 would put the 710 Freeway project in the hands of an advisory committee that would recommend an alternative, such as light-rail routes, dedicated busways, roadways and bike lanes. The committee would be made up of three people from Caltrans, two from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), two representatives each from Alhambra, Los Angeles, Pasadena and South Pasadena appointed by those cities; two members of the Assembly as appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly and two members of the Senate as appointed by the Senate Rules Committee.
Holden said the committee should consider alternatives to the tunnel included in an EIR released by Caltrans and Metro, as well as new ideas. A group called Beyond the 710 proposed $705 million in immediate traffic fixes as opposed to a $5.6-billion Alhambra-to-Pasadena freeway tunnel. The plan would include building a two-lane "Golden Eagle Boulevard" from the south stub at Valley Boulevard just north of the 10 Freeway to Mission Road that would serve Cal State Los Angeles.
Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek said Holden switching to the anti-freeway tunnel side may be the death knell for the project. He advocated that about $700 million set aside for the tunnel in Measure R, a county transit tax, be released for immediate roadway and possibly bus and rail projects, instead of the tunnel "to create real jobs that can happen before (union members) retire."
Holden wanted to see a light-rail system that would connect East Los Angeles, where the Gold Line eastside ends, with cities beyond the San Gabriel Valley, such as Downey and Whittier. He said the committee would prepare a report by January 2019 for Caltrans and Metro. The report would be an advisory document, one that Caltrans and Metro could ignore, but Holden said that would be unlikely.
"They cannot overlook what could be constructive options," Holden said.
Messina argues the tunnel is the best regional option connecting Long Beach with Pasadena. The tunnel would not allow trucks as currently proposed and would be a toll road.
"Caltrans and LAMetro are the deciding factor. Their job is to do regional projects and this is a top priority regional project. I don't see them caving in to Chris Holden," Messina said.
However, others see the tunnel project as losing favor. Funding for the project was taken out of the recent L.A. Metro transit tax, Measure M. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti ensured the measure would be neutral on the sticky political topic.
Pasadena City Councilman Steve Madison said Holden's bill is another brick in the wall of opposition that could pay political dividends even if it is not approved.
"Look at our major leaders: Gov. Brown, Brian Kelly, his transportation secretary and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti. My take is all of them are looking for that one final nudge to kill this thing," Madison said.