‘On the Record’ On 710 to 210 Freeway Gap

Residents from El Sereno, Monterey Park and Alhambra feel burdened by traffic and proposed solutions.

By Gloria Angelina Castillo, EGP Staff Writer

More than a dozen residents and neighboring stakeholders went on the record at Metro’s SR-710 Conversations scoping meeting in El Sereno on March 28; with a majority saying they oppose any freeway extension to ease traffic at the I-710 and I-210 gap, no matter if it’s at street level or takes a subterranean route.

A few people, however, said they favor moving forward with project to relieve traffic congestion in the area.

Veteran filmmaker Moctesuma Esparza lives in El Sereno and says the project must be stopped. “This is a continuous employment plan for Caltrans,” he said, adding that the voices of El Sereno residents had been ignored during previous attempts to build the freeway extension.

Moctesuma Esparza (left) grilled Caltran's Garrett Damrath after the meeting. EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo

 “That’s still true,” he said. “Our community doesn’t have the same voice as South Pasadena, Monterey Park or Alhambra, and whatever the process is, that’s not going to change. And so whatever is done, this community is likely to end up in court because we will find the lawyers to fight this,” he said.

Esparza said there is no money to build the project, but according to Metro, it will be financed with voter-approved Measure R revenue.

Some in attendance expressed concern that El Sereno could be split if a freeway extension is approved. Others are worried about air quality and suggested the money would be better spent creating jobs and fixing dilapidated streets.

Comments submitted in favor of a traffic relief plan seemed to support an underground tunnel option.
Paul Talbot, Monterey Park’s city manager, said his city has experienced the brunt of the negative impacts from the gap between the 710 and 210 freeways.

“Both the schools and the children in the schools have suffered-respiratory problems due to the vehicles getting off of the freeways and getting into gridlock,” Talbot said. Fremont, Atlantic and Garfield are congested “beyond belief due to the traffic that is dumped in our communities,” he complained.

Talbot recommended a freeway portal starting just north of the 10-freeway interchange and south of Valley Boulevard.

Alhambra’s former city attorney, Leed Aley, spoke against Caltran’s tunnel Option 1, which would go through El Sereno, as well as Options 4 and 5. Those options were part of a previous plan proposed by Metro.

“If the 210 is going to be reached, we will support any portal south of Valley Boulevard, as far south as possible,” he said.

Tom Williams, an active Northeast Los Angeles resident, said if Alhambra says it’s the area with the biggest traffic congestion problem, than the freeway extension should go there. “Why put it in El Sereno if it’s going to benefit Alhambra?” he asked.

His suggestion was to put a surface route or viaduct “South Valley Boulevard, which is in Alhambra, across to Mission Road, which is [also in] Alhambra, to Alhambra Boulevard and up Meridian to connect to Main and Huntington Drive.”

Because this is a commuter congestion problem, any freeway project to fill the 710 to 210 gap should be off limits to trucks, Williams added.

Click on this image to watch videos of the scoping meeting in El Sereno.

El Sereno Organizing Committee member Hugo Garcia asked “How can we support a tunnel when the environmental concerns have not been addressed?” He’d like to see health studies specific to El Sereno.

His group was part of a lawsuit filed against Caltrans in the 1990s alleging discrimination; the case was never heard in court after the Record of Decision was withdrawn. The plan at the time called for 80 percent of the freeway extension to be built above grade in El Sereno and 80 percent below ground in Pasadena, he said.

The El Sereno Organizing Committee supports a multimodal traffic diffusion plan to synchronize traffic signals and implement traffic calming measures, he said. They are also against a toll road option that “sounds like a second-class system,” Garcia told EGP.

Garcia understands the frustrations that have led to some to say the freeway extension should be built in Alhambra, but said he doesn’t wish that on any community.

A labor union representative at the meeting said the traffic-improvement project would create jobs.

After the meeting, homeowners asked a Caltrans representative if “exhaust pipes” for a tunnel would entail eminent domain; he said no.

According to Metro there is no single defined project or plan to close the gap or ease traffic in the area. Metro scheduled 20 community meetings to allow potentially impacted communities to give input. Other options for residents to submit comments are also available, Metro spokesperson Helen Ortiz-Gilstrap told EGP. Comments and concerns can be submitted in person at the meetings, mailed-in or submitted online through Metro’s website. Translators are available at meetings and meetings are viewable online, she said.

The public comments will give Metro and Caltrans a good look at what people want, Caltrans planner Garrett Damrath told EGP.

He said people who don’t want anything at all to be done “will probably not see that come to fruition.”

“We are tasked to go through the environmental process to find out what we can do here,” he told EGP.

“We are out here because there is a [traffic] problem. We know there is a problem. We are tasked to find a solution, [and] asking the public what would fix this problem.”

Decision makers, who Damrath said includes Metro’s board, Caltrans and the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), will weigh the agency’s recommendation and the public’s comments in making their decision.

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April 7, 2011  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.


One Response to “‘On the Record’ On 710 to 210 Freeway Gap”

  1. emenot on April 13th, 2011 3:42 pm

    Whats wrong with the people of El Sereno? I am so confuse! Il Sereno is situated just east of the Golden State Fwy and they live on happily. When a project that benefit the mass, its a good thing! If Alhambra(where the cpnnection is to be builded), Monterey Park, Alhambra, South Pasadena and Pasadena and the rest of the communities north of Pasadena can benefit and cut down on local traffic grid lock that generate enormous idling emission thereof, what and where is the down side of this project??? Is El Sereno extorting the rest of the above mentioned communities?

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