Council Approves Historic Project List Request to Metro, Would Dramatically Change City’s Transportation Landscape

‘Early Action Project List’ represents remaining allotted Measure R funding for cancelled 710 Extension project

Published : Tuesday, January 30, 2018 | 6:30 AM

Historic Project

As more than one participant called the moment a “once in a lifetime opportunity,” the Pasadena City Council Monday evening approved a recommendation for Mayor Terry Tornek to send to the Metro Board for their approval, the City’s SR 710 North Early Action Project List, Pasadena’s piece of an overall package worth $1 billion in transit improvements.

The projects represent an allocation of $105 million in remaining Measure R sales tax funds, as well as similar funds that would have otherwise gone to the 710 North Extension Tunnel project, to be used on mobility projects in the corridor between the 710 stub in Pasadena and 710 Freeway’s northern terminus in El Sereno. The Metro Board voted against the 710 Extension last year.

The Council also approved a friendly amendment to the motion by Councilmember Tyron Hampton, which would allow for free transit passes for both high school and college students in Pasadena, as part of the package. The original recommendation only provided for free transit passes for college students.

Both Pasadena and South Pasadena retained the services of Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates (Nelson\Nygaard), and worked together to ensure that the combined project lists would have complementary benefits in both cities, and that their individual projects will not result in negative impacts on the adjacent city, according to the staff report.

Pasadena also reached out to the City of Alhambra to identify projects that will provide benefits throughout the corridor which connects traffic moving between the 710 and the I-210, and develop a comprehensive approach towards maximizing the benefits of the available funding. Their joint project efforts are currently focusing on enhancements to Fair Oaks Boulevard in Pasadena and South Pasadena, Huntington Boulevard in South Pasadena and Fremont Street south of Huntington Boulevard in South Pasadena and Alhambra, the staff report said.

The Nelson\Nygaard priority list includes a Gold Line grade separation at California Boulevard; modifications to the 1-210 stub freeway access ramps to remove access to and from California Boulevard and make operational improvements to the access ramps at Del Mar Boulevard; the implementation of traffic calming and “Complete Streets” Programs for St. John Avenue/Pasadena Avenue/South Orange Grove Boulevard, Allen Avenue, Hill Street and Avenue 64; the implementation of Intelligent Transportation Systems projects to include performance monitoring and analytics for intersections near Gold Line crossings, automated data collection for pedestrians and bicycles, and high resolution traffic signal data collection and broadcasting,

The projects would also include signal upgrades along the Walnut Street corridor and expansion of the 1-210 Connected Corridor project; as well as transit improvements that include rapid bus enhancements in the Fair Oaks/Atlantic and Rosemead corridors, as well as new Rose Bowl shuttles.

In addition, the package would include a host of bicycle improvements that include currently unfunded projects in the adopted Bicycle Transportation Action Plan, the Arroyo Link and Bike Share expansion; and “Mobility Hubs” as recommended in the Pasadena Preferred Alternative Plan.

While all of the gathered community speakers and Councilmembers praised the project, a number of residents voiced concerns over the removal of the California Avenue ramps, a heavily traveled route, used by many to get to the 110 Freeway or to continue south on Fremont Avenue to the 710.

According to the Nelson\Nygaard report, the removal of the existing I-210 “stub” off-ramp north of California Boulevard along with improvements to Del Mar and Fair Oaks Avenue would help to accommodate traffic being shifted to those streets.

The ramp closure, according to Nelson/Nygard, would provide a number of benefits, effectively shifting north-south regional traffic away from the one-way couplet of St. John and Pasadena Avenues—relatively narrow residential streets—to Del Mar, Fair Oaks and Arroyo Parkway, which are broad commercial arteries that are designed to accommodate such traffic.

This would be “consistent with the City of South Pasadena’s accompanying effort to shift regional traffic from Fremont Avenue to Fair Oaks,” the report stated, and would also enable traffic calming improvements to St. John and Pasadena. As part of the project, Pasadena is also requesting funding for a new traffic signal at Fair Oaks and Bellevue.

Sarah Gavit, West Pasadena Residents Association (WPRA) vice president and SR-710 Committee chair, however, told the Council that the WRPA supports the full package of projects, except for the removal of the California Boulevard Ramps.

“Most of the community is unaware of this plan,” said Gavit, “and it will affect the entire community. Gavits asked the Council for “comprehensive community input” as the projects move forward.

Resident Pilar Reynaldo also asked for the improvements to include the intersection of Church Street Avenue 64 south to the Los Angeles border, where a cyclist was killed in 2013, and “numerous accidents occur,” she said.

“This is a great opportunity to fix this intersection and make us all safer,” she said.

“Complete Streets” programs—which take into account car, pedestrian, rail and bicycle traffic—would be implemented along Allen Avenue, along the north-south Allen Avenue corridor, between Villa Street and Colorado Boulevard, and Hill Avenue between Villa Street and the northern city limit at Topeka Street.

The Gold Line grade separation would involve building a 12-foot high bridge over the California Boulevard crossing to alleviate the traffic stops now affecting traffic in the area. The California Boulevard crossing is the only one of the route north-south intersections with enough room for the grade separation.

Finally, the Pasadena Complete Streets Coalition called the package “a once in a lifetime opportunity to advance the development of a healthier, more sustainable, and economically vibrant Pasadena,” and also requested more First Mile/Last Mile infrastructure, better bus stops with shade, a “robust bike network”, along with safer, more visible crosswalks and an upgrade of Pasadena Transit Buses to zero-emission EV buses.

According to Department of Transportation General Manager Fred Dock, the actual entire cost of the requested transit improvements would not be calculated “Until Metro selects the Early Action Projects and defines the terms under which the projects will be funded,” adding,

“It is anticipated that Metro will address each project or category of projects through a funding agreement with individual cities, at which time, the fiscal impact of each project agreement will be known,” Dock said.

Metro staff will report back to the Metro Board regarding the consolidated Early Action Projects list no earlier than February 2018, and if approved, Metro staff will amend the Fiscal Year 2018-19 Metro Budget to initiate and implement funding for the City’s list of projects.

Although the entire package would be cancelled should Caltrans still decide to build the 710 Tunnel extension, City Manager Steve Mermell called that scenario “unlikely.”