Officials vote to redirect a total of $515 Million from doomed 710 Freeway Extension to other regional transit projects
Published : Friday, December 7, 2018 | 6:21 AM
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority voted Thursday to redirect $515 million in funds that had been set aside for the now-abandoned 710 Freeway extension project to other projects meant to improve travel throughout the County, including about $150 million for improvements in Pasadena and South Pasadena.
The Board approved the plan unanimously without making any changes to the previously proposed list of projects. The six-decade-old project to lengthen the 710 Freeway, connecting Pasadena to Alhambra, died last month with the announcement by Caltrans that the agency was abandoning the freeway extension in favor of allocating the money to local transit projects.
“This is something that many thought would not happen, nor could it happen,” Metro Board of Directors Member and L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said. “Deciding is the first step in moving projects forward that will begin to bring relief to cities that have been affected by the 710 gap for decades.”
Metro voted to use $450 million in Measure R funds, along with another $65 million in state and federal funding, to improve traffic safety and flow throughout the County through dozens of smaller projects.
They include a $100 million grade separation project to move the Metro Gold Line Tracks either above or below California Boulevard in Pasadena, as well as a $38 million dollar project to improve the interchange between the 110 Freeway and Fair Oaks Avenue in South Pasadena and a $10 million project to upgrade and synchronize traffic signals and perform other street modifications along Huntington Drive, Fair Oaks Avenue and Fremont Avenue in South Pasadena.
Many more projects meant to improve traffic and reduce emissions in Los Angeles, Alhambra, San Gabriel, San Marino, and Monterey Park are also part of the plan.
“The first round of projects focuses on congestion relief because that is what our cities have dealt with for so long, but we will be including other modes in the coming months,” Barger said. “This list represents the priority congestion relief projects for each city selected by each city.”
The many projects approved Thursday are still in their infancy, and there is much work to be done, Barger said. And it’s best if the involved cities work together to do it.
“I think we need to bring together all cities to really understand how this is going to impact the region, because I don’t want a patchwork where unintended consequences by, let’s say, something that San Marino may do that may negatively impact South Pas,” she said.
“So we are going to be calling everyone together with Metro staff after the first of the year, all the cities, to discuss this on a regional basis and really go over each and every project.”
Alhambra Mayor Jeff Maloney said he supported the move.
“Alhambra deserves this opportunity to fundamentally alleviate the flow of traffic through this corridor and the resulting negative impacts on our health, infrastructure, and quality of life,” he said.”We’re excited to begin working with the neighboring communities, our neighboring stakeholders to ensure that this effort results in a meaningful improvement of congestion and traffic flow through the region. Approving this request is a first step, but it’s an important and crucial first step. Thank you for doing the right thing.”
Monterey Park City Councilman Hans Liang said he was optimistic about moving forward.
“While this is a great beginning in an effort to improve the traffic congestion conditions that the discontinuation of the 710 Freeway have caused, we all know that there’s still a long way to go in order to reach our goals of mitigating these negative effects,” he said.
“It’s no secret that the San Gabriel Valley has had to endure these negative effects for many years, and while we won’t be able to realize a single solution as the completion of the 710 would have provided to the entire region, we look forward to proceeding with alternative solutions,” Liang said.
Some at the meeting were opposed to the plan.
Carter Rubin of the Natural Resources Defense Council said the organization “cannot find this replacement set of projects acceptable.”
“The leading source in California is transportation emissions. This project is only going to increase transportation emissions and it won’t improve mobility,” he said. “So I’m asking that you consider directing funding to sustainable transportation options. They give people more choices, especially communities that have been disadvantaged by our transportation investments in the past. And I want to highlight that San Gabriel valley stands to get 40 more extreme heat days by mid century if we do not mitigate climate change, they are in the line of fire for climate change.”
South Pasadena City Councilwoman Dr. Marina Khubesrian said she was glad to see the work moving forward, but shared environmental concerns, as well.
“This is a great milestone for us. I know there’ll be many more to come. We at the city of South Pasadena are looking forward to the funding recommendation and approval for the two key projects in our city that are recommended,” she said. “These projects, along with others, will go a long way in improving traffic flow in our region. We support the Committee’s recommendations to keep going and moving forward. We have all waited for a long time.”
“However, I will join the voices and say I was disappointed that there weren’t more multi-modal project in safety enhancement projects in on the list,” Khubesrian said. “But I’m glad to hear that we were going to be looking at that. In fact, we’re going to be insisting on that at the next phase of this.”