Monday, March 16, 2015

The SR 710 Environmental Study Reveals Important Impacts on residents of Los Angeles County

On March 6, 2015 Caltrans District 7 released the Draft Environment Impact Report for the SR 710 project.  This long awaited study considered five alternatives for reducing traffic congestion, and determined that the most effective option would be a freeway tunnel bridging the existing gap between Alhambra and Pasadena.

The Los Angeles Daily News reports that locals hold strong opinions regarding the proposed alternatives for improving transportation in this area.  A group called the 5-City Alliance is supporting the light rail option, claiming that a freeway tunnel which focuses more on improving conditions for vehicles like cars and trucks, will not ease traffic as well as the implementation of public transportation. Light rail, however, will have cultural as well as aesthetic impacts. This excerpt from the above-referenced Daily News article describes possible effects of the light rail on nearby property owners:

“…impacts from the light-rail train include the displacement of 15 businesses along Mednik Avenue south of the 60 Freeway; acquisition of 58 full properties in Alhambra, East L.A., Monterey Park, Pasadena and South Pasadena; and the relocation of 73 businesses and the displacement of 645 employees.”      

The SR 710 EIR study explores several alternatives as possible means for improving the traffic conditions in the area. The first one is the Transportation System Management/Transportation Demand Management (“TSM/TDM”) which is a series of improvements to streets, intersections and existing equipment such as traffic signals. There is also the required no-build alternative. The remaining three alternatives would have the most impact. These are the Bus Rapid Transit Alternative, the Light Rail Alternative and the Freeway Tunnel Alternative.

According to the EIR, the four alternatives other than the no-build, would have land use impacts ranging from 16-47 temporary construction easements and acquisition of land ranging in size from .6 to 1.5 acres.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the freeway double decker tunnel is the most expensive option, with a $5.6 billion price tag. A slightly more cost effective alternative is a narrower double decker tunnel where north and southbound traffic move in opposite direction on each level.  The light rail cost is approximately half of that of the larger tunnel, but it’s also the option that would take the longest, at an estimated six years to build.