Caution: Slow Down
Some Pasadena council members say freeway tunnel opposition vote should go back to the
By André Coleman 12/13/2012
Though many political observers believed most members would be against the idea, the Pasadena City Council Monday slammed the brakes on formally opposing plans to build a tunnel to connect the Long Beach (710) and Foothill (210) freeways.
The council did vote 4-3 against plans to construct a 4.5-mile-long tunnel from where the 710 ends at Valley Boulevard in Alhambra to the northern end of the Huntington Hospital property line at Pasadena Avenue in West Pasadena. But a total of five votes were needed for approval of the resolution. In 2001 voters approved Measure A, which supports the idea of connecting the two freeways, approval came before a tunnel was being considered and officials were looking at building an overland route.
After the vote, the council then voted 7-0, with former Councilman Chris Holden no longer on the council and serving in the state Assembly, to send a strongly worded letter to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) Board of Directors promising strong opposition to the tunnel proposal if it were to be used by big-rig trucks, or if the tunnel itself was deemed a safety or environmental hazard.
Bill Urban, president of the West Pasadena Residents’ Association, which opposes the tunnel, took the vote in stride, saying he understood the measured response.
“We do feel we need to do more educating and finding out about it ourselves before it comes up again next year,” Urban said. “Then, when it does come up again, they will see why it is a bad idea. We respect and understand the handcuffs our city has on it because of Measure A.”
Supporting the resolution Monday were Mayor Bill Bogaard and Council members Victor Gordo, Gene Masuda and Steve Madison, whose district includes West Pasadena. Madison introduced the resolution.
Opposed were Council members Margaret McAustin, Terry Tornek and Jacque Robinson, who said they believed the city legally could not oppose the extension due to provisions of Measure A.
“Personally, I believe there is no way to mitigate the many harmful impacts a tunnel would bring, trucks or no trucks,” Robinson told the Weekly. “However, I do believe we are legally constrained against taking a firm position as a city council unless we go back to a vote of the people. In the meantime, I hope Metro hears loud and clear that Pasadena will not stand in support of anything that will harm the health of our residents or the quality of our neighborhoods.”
Plans to extend the freeway date back to the 1950s, when Caltrans used eminent domain to seize and purchase more than 500 homes in Pasadena, South Pasadena and El Sereno in order to build a surface route connecting the two freeways.
The overland route has long been shelved due to a lack of federal funding. Four years ago, county transit planners came up with the idea of building two giant tunnels to connect the two freeways.