'There's just too much traffic;' Metro hosts open house to address 710 Freeway options

Metro's forum included stations with maps and posters where residents could learn more about options for extending the 710 Freeway.
Metro's forum included stations with maps and posters where residents could learn more about options for extending the 710 Freeway.

The Metropolitan Transit Agency hosted the last of three public forums Saturday at Cal State LA, addressing whether to extend the 710 Freeway or create other transportation options in the area.

L.A. voters approved Measure R in 2008, a half-cent sales tax increase which funds, among other things, $780 million for 710 Freeway environmental studies and improvements.

Transportation officials have long-sought to close the so-called “missing link” between where the 710 Freeway abruptly ends in Alhambra to the 210 Freeway in Pasadena.

“Twenty-percent of the cars that pass through this area start outside this area and end outside this area, and if we don’t do anything it’s going to be one in four cars,” said Frank Quon, Metro’s executive officer for highway programs. “I think you’re starting to hear the community say ‘There’s just too much traffic.’’’

Metro presented options at the forum for how to alleviate congestion, which include doing nothing, improving traffic management systems, adding more buses, adding light rail, and building a tunnel to expand the 710 Freeway north.

“We’ve narrowed it down to five alternatives and we really want to get more input,” Quon said.

The forum included stations with maps and posters where interested residents could learn more about each alternative, but many who attended expressed skepticism that they would really be heard.

“It seems like their decision is already made,” said Yolie Garcia, who lives in the El Sereno neighborhood in Northeast LA. “They want the 710 extended.”

Most of the stations were empty, except for the one displaying maps where a four-mile tunnel connecting the 710 and 210 freeways would be built.

Residents — some of whom have opposed the 710 Freeway expansion nearly as long as officials have wanted to build it — crowded around the table, including Maria Miranda.

She worries about increased pollution from cars and trucks and that she and her El Sereno neighbors could be uprooted when construction begins.

“If this goes through, most of the tenants are going to lose their homes,” said Miranda. “It’s almost like Chavez Ravine. We’re going to be thrown out on our butts.”

The L.A. City Council unanimously adopted a resolution last year opposing the extension of the 710 Freeway.

Metro officials insist all options are still on the table, and will be carefully reviewed.

A final environmental impact study is expected in two years.