East Los Angeles residents fear they will once again be forced to bare the brunt of efforts to relieve traffic in the region.
They remember all too well the disruption to businesses and residents extending the Gold Line east caused in their neighborhood.
Lea este artículo en Español: SR-710 Tren Ligero Podría Ser una Carga Para el Este de Los Ángeles
Those concerns were expressed Saturday during a public hearing at East Los Angeles College hosted by Metro and Caltrans to get feedback on the State Route 710 Study.
While a majority of people who spoke at the hearing appeared to support a freeway tunnel option, several eastside residents said support in other cities for a light rail train through their neighborhood has them worried.
More vocal communities along the route are getting all the attention, they complained.
In March, Metro and Caltrans released a Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS), which outlined five alternatives for closing the gap between the 710 and 210 freeways. The options include a traffic management system, a rapid bus line, a light rail, a freeway tunnel and the required “no build” option.
About 100 people from Pasadena, South Pasadena, Alhambra, Monterey Park, El Sereno and East Los Angeles attended the hearing.
Many speakers supported the option to build a 2-way, 6.3 mile tunnel from Valley Boulevard in Alhambra to the connection with the 210/134 freeways in Pasadena.
The double decker option would have two lanes traveling in each direction and would run for 4.2 miles of bored tunnel. Vehicles carrying flammable or hazardous materials will be prohibited in the tunnel.
Several eastside residents claimed they “were left out of the conversation,” referring to the decision to include the Light Rail Train (LRT) alternative. They pointed out that some of the businesses hurt by construction of the Gold Line Eastside Extension in 2009 never recovered.
A light rail will destroy “one of the nicest corridors” and the East LA Civic Center on Third and Mednik Streets, they complained.
“We do not need the rail,” Martha Hernandez told Metro. “We can get to Pasadena on the Gold Line,” she said, adding that eastside residents can already get to Cal State LA by taking Metro’s Silver Line. There is also an express shuttle from ELACC.
Liz Sanchez lives one block from Mednik Street where a station could be built if a light rail is chosen. She told EGP a train would add to parking problems in her neighborhood because there’s no plan to provide public parking for rail passengers.
“I have a disability and even now it is hard to find parking… I don’t want to be selfish, but this is not a good option,” she lamented.
Clara Solis asked Metro and Caltrans to explain why East LA residents should bare the burden of other cities’ transportation problems. “Fifteen of our precious businesses that are walking distance from residences will be removed,” she said.
Yolanda Duarte, advisory chairperson for the Maravilla Community Center, said Metro 710 project spokespersons had gone to the eastside Center to give the community and businesses more information about the project.
“On two occasions questions were asked if businesses or residences will be taken, the answer [by Metro] was no. [Now] The EIR states 15 businesses will be targeted” to make room for rail stations, she said, visibly frustrated. The businesses are on Mednik, south of the I-60/at Third Street: One home and a businesses on East Cesar Chavez could also be taken.
People were able to review maps and other visual materials pertaining to the five alternatives and ask Metro engineers questions before the public hearing got under way.
Metro planners explained that if the light rail is chosen, it would travel 7.5 miles, divided into 3 miles of aerial track and 4.5 miles submerged approximately 6-stories underground.
The rail line would run from south of Valley Boulevard, with the first aerial station on Mednik Avenue adjacent to the East LA Civic Center Station, and two more aerial stations on Floral Drive and at Cal State LA. It would then go underground with stations in Alhambra, Huntington Drive, South Pasadena and to the Fillmore Station in Pasadena where it would connect with the Gold Line.
Many eastside residents have long resented Metro opting to build the Eastside Gold Line above ground while approving preferred but costlier underground subway options for other communities.
Several people said the eastside is once again getting the short end of the stick, complaining that the proposed rail line would run above ground through East LA, but then go underground through the more affluent communities north of Cal State LA.
“Why don’t we get a tunnel” like they do in Pasadena, one speaker demanded to know.
“Take out this project, do not even consider it,” said Gilbert Hernandez.
How to fill the 4.5-mile gap between the 710’s terminus in Alhambra and the Foothill (210) Freeway in Pasadena is a debate that has raged on for more than six decades. If a route is eventually selected, a revenue source to cover the hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of dollars needed to build it would still have to be found. The project could take three to five years to complete if the light rail is chosen.
L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis represents East Los Angeles and other areas impacted by the SR-710. She told EGP via email it is imperative to reduce congestion, improve air quality and enhance mobility for all residents, however, she does not yet see “any option as a natural choice” due to the many pros and cons.
“For example, the light rail alternative threatens the highest number of businesses and homes while the tunnel options could become a bottomless money pit. A combination of alternatives may end up being the way to get the most for our money,” she stated, adding that her staff is studying the various options and will hold community input meetings in addition to those scheduled by Metro.
“The communities I represent deserve a solution that absolutely improves their quality of life and environment … while improving mobility and using transportation to foster economic growth,” she said.
Metro and Caltrans have scheduled two more public hearings:
—Wednesday, May 6 at La Cañada High School auditorium, with a map viewing from 5-6 p.m. and public hearing at 6 p.m.
—Thursday, May 7 at the Los Angeles Christian Presbyterian Church, map viewing 5-6 p.m. and public hearing at 6 p.m.
The full study is available at http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist07/resources/envdocs/docs/710study/draft_eir-eis and can be viewed at the Caltrans District Office, 100 S. Main St., Los Angeles, CA 90012 and public libraries listed here: http://www.metro.net/projects/sr- 710-conversations.
Comments will be accepted by mail through July 6: Mail to Garret Damrath, Caltrans Division 7, Division of Environmental Planning, 100 South Main Street MS-16, Los Angeles CA 90012.
To read more about the SR-710, go to www.EGPNews.com.