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Sierra Madre Joins Opposition Against 710 Tunnel

By Wonder

Sierra Madre joins opposition against 710 tunnelThe Sierra Madre City Council on Tuesday threw its support behind neighboring cities that oppose the tunnel option proposed by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s SR 710 study.

“The City Council feels that the tunnel option would be detrimental to our city, and not only to our city but to the area in general,” said Mayor Josh Moran, citing concerns for increased traffic congestion and pollution likely to result with the tunnel alternative.

Approved unanimously by the City Council, Moran directed city staff to draft a simple resolution outlining Sierra Madre’s opposition to MTA and Caltrans’ Environmental Impact Report with the intention of developing a tunnel solution to close the 710-Freeway gap.

The council’s decision was also fueled by the city’s supposed exclusion from MTA’s stakeholder meetings that sought participation from local communities impacted by any of the proposed transportation alternatives.

“To find out that Sierra Madre is in the study area, and that we were not invited until recently in the last couple of weeks to be part of this hearing process, I am extremely agitated that Sierra Madre is getting stuck like that,” said Councilman Chris Koerber.

In response to the study’s alignment with Environmental Protection Agency goals to reduce congestion and air pollution through alternatives to surface roads, Councilman John Harabedian said the idea for a tunnel is a nonstarter for Sierra Madre.

“Well, if this is a traffic fix, it’s like telling someone with a weight problem to buy bigger clothes to lose weight,” Harabedian said. “You don’t build more roads if there is a traffic problem.”

Harabedian agreed with City of South Pasadena Mayor Michael A. Cacciotti, who spoke at the meeting, that what is needed to close the SR 710 gap is to look at multi-modal public transportation options.

Cacciotti outlined several multi-modal transportation ideas that would better serve the interests of local communities. He proposed the moving of goods by electric rails through the San Gabriel Valley rather than with diesel-polluting trucks. Cacciotti also supported bus, light rail and rapid transit projects with full funding, including an extension of the Metro Gold Line Foothill all the way to the Ontario Airport.

“Instead of moving tens of thousands of vehicles in the central L.A. freeway system east of the San Gabriel Valley, reduce that and improve air quality by providing people an alternative to cars, including trucks, and exorbitant gas prices with a comprehensive, integrated system that is efficient and fast,” Cacciotti said.

During public comment, Harry Baldwin, executive director of the 710 Freeway Coalition, tried to persuade the City Council to wait for answers from the MTA’s Environmental Impact Report. Representing the cities of Alhambra, Monterey Park, San Marino and local officials who support the 710 study, Baldwin said the EIR, when completed in 2014, will provide answers to what problems exist and how they will be mitigated.

“What we’re requesting is that you stay with your ears tuned to what’s going on,” Baldwin told the council. “Let’s support the MTA and go ahead with their Environmental Impact Report. That report will be taking more public comment, and that’s what they’ve been doing all along.”

Moran said he believed the study is based on the unrealistic assumption that surrounding communities will continue to rely only on their cars and that light rail and buses would only minimally impact traffic congestion. “It seems that they had a preconceived notion just to go through and bore this tunnel, put a few names on it, and everybody is happy,” the mayor said. “It’s just not the case.”

The total distance of the State Route 710 gap is about 4.5 miles. The 710 Freeway currently ends at Valley Blvd. in the City of Alhambra, and a portion of the 210 extends south to California Boulevard in the City of Pasadena, where it ends.

A total of $780 million was specifically set aside from Measure R in 2008 to revisit the question of extending the 710 Freeway through SR-710 environmental studies and improvements. Metro staff has forwarded five alternative projects to be considered in an EIR, which include a bus rapid transit from Los Angeles to Pasadena, a freeway tunnel alternative connecting the north and south termini of the 710, as well as the option not to build.

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