Connecting with a cleaner world

Connecting with a cleaner world

Supporters believe much-maligned 710 Freeway tunnels will greatly ease congestion and dramatically improve air quality for millions of people

By Barbara Messina 01/17/2013

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How many people over the years have taken Interstate 10’s “710 North Pasadena” off ramp to find themselves trapped in a sea of vehicles trying to get to Pasadena or the Foothill (210) Freeway? 
Former state Assemblyman Anthony Portantino would have you believe that there is a statewide groundswell of opposition to plans to connect the two freeways, particularly if that is accomplished by building a tunnel to close the 4.5-mile gap that separates them.
The truth is, however, despite repeated attempts to stop any linkage between the 710 and 210 freeways after findings that a surface connector was unacceptable, work has progressed on evaluating other means of making this vital connection happen. In 2008, Los Angeles County voters took the matter into their own hands by accepting a tax increase, Measure R, to complete a number of transit projects, including a tunnel to connect the two freeways.  
Support for the 710 connector tunnels comes from residents of the very cities that Mr. Portantino once represented. The city of Pasadena, for example, has an initiative ordinance, approved by 58.3 percent (9,654) voters, that states “it is the policy of the city of Pasadena to favor completion of the 710 Freeway between the I-210 and the I-10 Freeways.” Recent attempts to change this policy have been ineffectual.
The San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments (SGV/COG) represents 31 cities, some of them in Mr. Portantino’s former district. The COG has unanimously adopted a resolution designating the 710 connector as a “high priority.”
Regular polling by the pro-tunnel 710 Coalition consistently shows majority support for freeway completion in communities such as Glendale (51 percent), El Sereno (60 percent) and cities around the San Gabriel Valley. Even among residents of the most vocal connector opponent, the city of South Pasadena, 42 percent of of those polled said they “strongly support” or “somewhat support” completion of the 710. 
So why does Mr. Portantino claim a tunnel option is going forward with no basic information and is a misguided and unpopular idea? Because the disinformation and scare campaign to stop any 710 connection is failing spectacularly, in large part because completing the freeway system is an idea whose time not only has come, but is long overdue.  
Here is a sampling of what’s been going on: 
• In 2008 and in 2012, a 710 tunnel plan was included in the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) of the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG). Last-minute, behind-the-scenes attempts by two cities to change the project description from a tunnel to simple roadway improvements failed. The congestion relief and air-quality benefits of a tunnel project were a major reason why the plan was certified both years. 
• In 2009, the SR 710 Tunnel Feasibility Study found that a tunnel would be feasible and has provided a sound technical basis for the environmental impact study that is under way now. This was not the result opponents had wanted. 
• In June 2010, The MTA Board of Directors adopted a motion for a cost-benefit analysis to be completed before the 710 connector project environmental impact report came up for certification in 2014. Despite this fact, a small group of vocal opponents are calling for a cost-benefit analysis and have former MTA Board Member Ara Najarian championing this demand. Mr. Najarian, a Glendale City Council member, conveniently never mentioned the fact that the MTA Board has already taken the very action critics want.
• In December 2011, when ridiculous claims of tunnel costs were being taken as fact because of Mr. Najarian’s representations, the MTA Board asked MTA staff to prepare a summary of potential tunnel costs. This study, which was presented in public, identified costs in present dollars of about $3 billion. Again, when facts cloud the opposition’s “story,” they are ignored or ridiculed, as demonstrated by Mr. Portantino as well as Mr. Najarian’s disruption of the December 2012 MTA Board meeting, during which he made outrageous and untrue tunnel cost claims from the floor. Adjusted for inflation, the official tunnel cost estimate by SCAG is $5.3 billion. 
• In 2011, the MTA published the first report that establishes the framework for funding a tunnel. The concept of a public-private partnership (PPP) is viable and will limit the expenditure of public dollars. Once again, former MTA Director Najarian and others have chosen to ignore studies already requisitioned, mainly because they do not like the results.
Mr. Portantino seems to have a bad case of “wishing will make it so.” The 710 extension is one of the most popular projects in the state, approved by a majority of voters in California’s most populous county. Voter mandates are typically strong directions given to elected officials. Mr. Portantino does a disservice to the public when he dangles the thought of using the voter-approved 710 extension tax money for other small, politically popular local projects that do not come close to delivering the congestion relief and air-quality benefits we need so badly in Los Angeles County. 
The voters of Los Angeles County are anxious to have the current environmental study of the 710 connector project completed so we can all discuss the findings and participate in the public process that will lead to the implementation of the voter’s will. The time of fear and scare tactics is over. 

Barbara Messina is the mayor of Alhambra, president of the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments and a representative to the six-county Southern California Association of Governments.


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Barbara? Have you paid that $14,000 FPPC fine yet? How's Nick Conway doing?

posted by Eric Maundry on 1/17/13 @ 11:09 a.m.

Why is this perfect example of lies about the 710 even given space for printing?? Babs obviously has invested some way in this proposed project, no doubt, nefariously, subject to yet another huge fine for illegal practices. Check out the facts before taking any of this to heart, read all the official documentation on

posted by janrik91105 on 1/17/13 @ 11:40 a.m.

Wake up Barbara! Seriously it's more like disconnecting from a "Clean World". Exhaust from freeways shortens our lifespan. Building toll tunnels that will dump MAJOR pollution into residential neighborhoods is just BAD planning. If you want facts go to: "No 710 Freeway Extension" on Facebook and read REAL information. Messina is bought and paid when it comes to the 710. The people want light rail to move people, cargo rail to move goods and these kind of investments.

posted by tmgulotta on 1/17/13 @ 12:08 p.m.

If I were a resident of Alhambra, after reading this concoction of lies, I wouldn't know whether to laugh or cry.

How is it that someone who misappropriated $14,000, was not prosecuted, and was elected Mayor? What kind of a City government could return such a person to power?

Everything in this piece is a gross distortion and underestimation of the costs and health and safety risks posed by building a tunnel under the Arroyo Seco Historic Parkland. Shame on you Messina for all if your gross misrepresentations.

Paula S.
Pasadena, Ca.

posted by on 1/17/13 @ 01:53 p.m.

Barbara Messina cites public polling in favor of completing the 710 tunnel. I would like to know if the pollsters included in their question: "Would you be willing to pay a toll of up to $15 to take the tunnel?" This little detail (actually a big issue) keeps getting left out of the conversation by the pro-710 folks. If commuters avoid paying the toll, (and I don't blame them) they end up on the city streets leading to more congestion. If trucks are the only commuters paying the toll, you have trucks carrying freight from the Ports in the tunnel clogging up the 210 and 134. She also cites the cost. The so-called "Big Dig" in Boston ended up costing $22 billion. Why does she think the cost will only be $5.3 billion?

posted by JaneD on 1/17/13 @ 01:54 p.m.

What is sad here is our bureaucracies are working harder for the interests of foreign countries and their need to get their slave labor manufactured cheap plasticware out of the ports and to American markets more efficiently than they are the people whose taxes pay their salaries. Can we call it treason yet?

posted by Eric Maundry on 1/17/13 @ 02:38 p.m.

Knowing something about Barbara, I can't help but wonder who helped her write this nonsense. She has a tough time with complete paragraphs, let alone an entire opinion piece.

It is hard to take anything she says seriously due to her long history of ethical lapses. If Barbara says the 710 tunnel is a good thing, then I know it isn't - at least not for the public.

posted by gilman on 1/17/13 @ 09:04 p.m. has the best explanation of the "in bed" Politics of the Fasana/ Messina cabal. Please look for the Najarian article published yesterday. It beautifully explains the sorted relationship between Messina and SGVSOG. 86 people from Duarte will decide the fate of the region. This is good old boy style politics at it's worst.

Don't let these crooked politicians determine the future of the region we all live in and love.

Paula S.
Pasadena, Ca.

posted by on 1/18/13 @ 07:56 a.m.

The big mystery here is who wrote this piece for Barbara Messina. After having done extensive research on this person, countless hours of having to listen to her irritating voice, and well acquainted with her speech pattern, I am of the opinion she does not posses the vocabulary to execute this narrative. The written piece contains grammatical structure that is not consistant with her speech patterns, technical knowledge that she could not previously grasp. Did Katehrine Padilla or Bo Huddy write this for her. This piece is more consistant with that of a consultant than Barbara Messina. By the way, no one has come to El Sereno to ask anyone what we think about ths tunnel, that in itself is a lie.

posted by JoeCanoElSereno on 1/18/13 @ 11:20 a.m.

I question all of the points Mayor Messina makes about the SR 710 EIR starting with the header “Connecting with a cleaner world.” How will adding more traffic, which will result in more congestion and in turn more vehicle emissions result in a cleaner world? You don’t have to be an engineer to know that adding road capacity increases vehicle usage and congestion. We saw what happened when the 210 was extended east. The only way to reduce congestion and clean the air in the LA basin is to REDUCE THE USE OF VEHICLES. Not only will the 710 tunnel not result in less vehicles and cleaner air, it will blow the vehicle exhaust out of the ends of the tunnel which means at the north, the Huntington Hospital and Sequoyah School and, at the south, the border between El Sereno and Alhambra near many residential neighborhoods. I wonder how many residents in these neighborhoods know the danger to their health this poses? And since it’s being promoted at a public-private partnership, the cost of the 710 tunnel will be supported by tolls estimated at $8-$12 per trip. I wonder how many of those “supporters” Messina refers to in her article would be willing to pay this toll or are even aware of it? Mayor Messina may have people in Alhambra fooled but she can’t fool those in other cities who have representatives that are asking the right questions.

posted by locality on 1/18/13 @ 11:43 a.m.

Please print in letters:

Ever feel like you're being manipulated into undermining your own instinct? Think back when we were kids. We knew when we were told about the starving children that we should appreciate the food on our dinner plate and wanting a cookie instead was wrong. We knew we were being manipulated into eating what we didn't have an appetite for. That sent some of us into a resistance and a stubborn inner "no" no matter how many times we were told finishing that plate was the healthy choice and the right thing to do.

That's the same feeling I got when I read the January 17, 2003 letter from Barbara Messina published in the Pasadena Weekly. Only the dinner plate is full of freeways, traffic, big rig trucks, pollution, neighborhood devastation and 9 miles of toll tunnels through El Sereno, South Pasadena, and Pasadena, and the mommy is Alhambra Mayor Barbara Messina. What kind of mother pushes a poisonous plate at her young ones and tells them it's healthy? 

As residents of this densely populated already freeway full area, our appetite has been ruined. The sugar cookies of Metro's other projects; light rail, bikeways, buses and trams, pedestrian paths are being held hostage until we finish the rancid 710 meat rotting after 6 decades in front of us. It's abusive to make anyone sit at the dinner table until every morsel on that plate is gulped down, especially when mommy knows it will make us sick.

I don't understand Barbara Messina. Her city, Alhambra is a planning mess. The streets are continually denuded of trees and parkways to cater to automobile traffic. High density housing and office buildings are built by design to cater to individual automobiles and not to be inclusive or accessible to any other more affordable form or convenient transportation model. What qualifies as future public health to her? More freeways?

Does she have a plan to put a glass bubble over Alhambra to keep the freeway pollutants out? What about all of the cars of residents that cram her streets just to get around? She helped create a localized traffic nightmare instead of guiding her city to alleviate it by not creating building density near transportation centers. If she really wanted Alhambra to mimic the Alhambra of Spain and the streets of Granada, then that would require the narrowing of streets not widening them and making her city a walkable one.

Barbara Messina certainly cannot claim ignorance. She is informed by her own involvement with experts in SCAG, COG, and the Metro Board. Yet she appears to want a sugar cookie instead of a healthy, fortifying dinner herself. Her sugar cookie is the 710 Freeway and she resists other healthy offerings with a firm "no." How weird. There is no sweetness in that.

Dianne Patrizzi
Pasadena, CA

posted by Patrizzi on 1/19/13 @ 12:22 a.m.

If they build it, I promise to use it.

posted by Vivavilla on 1/19/13 @ 07:23 p.m.

The stats that Messina quotes of all these cities that want the project were collected by Alhambra's own lobbyist years ago. And that was for the surface route not a tunnel. Ask Miss Barbara how much Alhambra has paid for the pro-710 lobbyists over the years?? A lot. There are so many holes in Messina's statements that she is frankly not worth my time to dispute them. Get the facts on Her recent attempt to get Ara Najarian off the MTA Board just shows she doesn't play well with others and that people should question every single word and action that she does. It's too bad too. Because those of us who want responsible transportation solutions would be willing to help Alhambra too if she weren't so nasty.

posted by sbolan on 1/19/13 @ 08:51 p.m.
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