The Fight Over the 710 Freeway Extension Rumbles On

The fight to complete the 710 Freeway extension continues to rumble along with neither side willing to concede. L.A. Metro voted in historic numbers to reject the proposed 4.5-mile tunnel that would join El Sereno to Pasadena. But despite this vote, local legislators and cities have made moves that show the fight is far from over. It is impossible at this point to say whether the tunnel will ever be built or if the project will finally be killed off once and for all.

The 710 Coalition

The 710 Coalition represents a number of East San Gabriel cities who want to see the construction of this $3-5 billion tunnel completed. The Coalition voted on May 30th, 2017 to hire an attorney whose job it is to look into whether the Metro vote is legal or not. It is the group’s intention to determine if the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority overstepped its bounds by voting against local voters. The vote cast was to complete the construction project by passing Measure R and providing $780 million in reserved funding for a plan known as “Interstate 710 North Gap Closure (tunnel).

Rosemead City Councilwoman Margaret Clark stated, “We want to find out if we have any case to try to get that back on the radar. It is basically to see if there’s anything we can do. It is a fight over the fact that we need that completion.

The Other End of the Spectrum

At the other end of the spectrum is the 710 Action Committee, who are asking Governor Jerry Brown, Caltrans, and Secretary of Transportation Brian Kelly to announce the death of the project. The original proposal for this project dates all the way back to the 1960s. Attorney Antonio Rossmann sent a letter to the Committee in which he suggested that Caltrans is not obligated to wait for the completion of the environmental impact study before choosing the most preferred alternative plan.

Rossmann goes on to say, “Keeping the tunnel as part of a revised EIR not only wastes time getting to approval of a better project but also consumes scarce funds that would then be needed to complete analysis of the tunnel component of that EIR. Those funds could and should instead be dedicated toward the adoption of the consensus-based project.”

However, Caltrans must continue to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. These acts both require the completion and certification of a final environmental review for the 710 project before anything can be done.

According to L.A. Metro, they received more than 8,000 comments on the project. Of these, 1,328 expressed approval of the tunnel, while only 237 stated they were against it. All comments will be included in the final review that must be completed no later than the end of Q1, 2018. Despite this vote, the project is still in a holding pattern as both sides continue to fight over it.