I-710 tunnel: Such a 1950s idea [Blowback]
Micheal Dieden, a Los Angeles resident and the president of Creative Housing Associates, responds to The Times' July 29 Op-Ed article, "Finish the 710 freeway." If you would like to write a full-length response to a recent Times article, editorial or Op-Ed, here are our FAQs and submission policy.
James E. Moore II is correct that the 710 Freeway is a "poster child," but not for the reasons he explains. The 710 Freeway is a poster child because is it represents one of the great examples of local citizens organized to preserve their historic neighborhoods against the devastation of another freeway destroying communities in California.
If it were not for ordinary citizens, led by South Pasadena residents, the historic neighborhoods in Pasadena, South Pasadena and Alhambra would be wiped out today. Instead, these cities are now served by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Gold Line light rail. Their neighborhoods are not only intact, but have matured into some of the most desirable in Southern California. In addition, around the Gold Line's stations, new transit-oriented neighborhoods have sprouted. Such developments offer housing opportunities in walkable neighborhoods to families that can forgo an automobile and save $10,000 annually for the cost of owning a car, allowing for a more productive use of hard-earned income for college accounts, family vacations and emergency family needs.
Having defeated a proposal to build a the I-710 connection above ground and bulldoze a chunk of South Pasadena, freeway advocates still hold out for the rather extreme measure of constructing a 4.5-mile tunnel underneath South Pasadena, a project with very risky environmental and seismic ramifications, not to mention an exorbitantly expensive taxpayer price tag.
But most importantly, why spend the precious time and money on yet another obsolete freeway when the entire country, and world for that matter, is abandoning freeways and moving to mass transit, both bus and rail? Moore needs to let go of the past and embrace the future, which relies on no more public money for freeways and increased investment in public transportation.
For example, why not build a trolley on Huntington Drive through Alhambra, South Pasadena and East L.A. on the same route as the old Red Car, which would absorb much of the 710 traffic and make each transit stop an economic catalyst for job growth and new transit neighborhoods? In lieu of wasting money on the 710, the region's public policy goal for the San Gabriel Valley should instead call for linking the great educational institutions of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena City College, the Claremont colleges and Cal State Pomona with transit, thereby allowing "creative nodes" to be built at each station, creating hundreds of entrepreneurial small businesses and well paying jobs.
The last 50 years of transportation planning in L.A. have not been about "talk," as Moore states, but about the struggle to transform the means by which we transport people, save neighborhoods and create more walkable and livable neighborhoods. Southern California once had a great transit system; it was destroyed by freeway advocates. That system failed, and it is incumbent on this generation to replace it and finish the public mass transit system throughout the region.
-- Micheal Dieden
Photo: A 710 entrance in Monterey Park. Credit: Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times.