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Caltrans Officially Kills 710 Extension Project After Decades Of Debate

PASADENA (CBSLA) — The 710 Freeway extension project is officially dead after six decades of debate over lengthening the busy interstate route from Alhambra to Pasadena. Caltrans announced Wednesday that it had finalized a report endorsing local street improvements instead of a freeway tunnel.

"After many years of discussion, the greater Pasadena, South Pasadena and Alhambra community can move forward with important local road and transit improvements to help more people get to where they're going while keeping communities connected," Caltrans Secretary Brian Annis said.

Annis joined a host of local officials in Pasadena to announce the certification of the final environmental impact report on the freeway gap, adopting the local street improvements in lieu of a tunnel that would have connected the Long Beach (710) Freeway with the Foothill (210) Freeway at a cost of more than $3 billion.

The adoption of the local-street alternative became all-but-inevitable last year when the Metro Board of Directors diverted $700 million in funding away from the tunnel proposal and applied it to area road projects. Other options that had been considered to close the freeway gap included a rapid-transit bus line, a light-rail line and a "no-build" option.

"I'm ecstatic that the EIR was finally signed, bringing closure to this six-decade 710 fight," said Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge. "Generations of neighbors on both sides of this issue passionately pushed their perspectives and now we can all turn our attentions to collaboratively solving local transportation needs. This removes the threat of the freeway and allows Caltrans to sell the balance of properties acquired to facilitate its construction."

The possibility of a 710 extension has been on the table for decades, but has been thwarted by generations of opposition from some of the communities in its path, including South Pasadena. Caltrans began in the 1950s and 1960s buying empty lots, houses and apartments along the planned route of the surface freeway extension. But a series of lawsuits and opposition from some communities and activists has kept the project in perpetual limbo for decades.

Two years ago, Caltrans began the process of selling off the houses and apartments it owns along the corridor as part of its shift away from a surface freeway extension and toward a tunnel or other options.

The tunnel received a wave of momentum after county voters approved Measure R in 2008, a half-cent sales tax that raised $780 million for improvements along the 710 corridor, some of which has already been spent on studies and reports.

Some leaders of communities along the corridor, including Alhambra, had been in support of the tunnel as a viable alternative to relieve the extra congestion and air pollution caused by freeway traffic cutting through the surface streets. But other communities opposed it out of safety concerns over building the tunnel and with doubts that it would relieve congestion or reduce air pollution in the area.

A Metro study concluded the tunnel would have carried 90,000 vehicles and removed 42,000 vehicles a day from local streets.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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