Regional transportation policy highlights since this blog’s inception:
In November 2008, the LA County Measure R half-cent sales tax to fund transportation projects passed. Included in that measure, unknown to many voters who were sold on more transit options, was $780 million to study a 710 Freeway extension north to the 210.
In September 2009 at that year’s Mobility 21 summit, California Transportation Secretary Dale Bonner and USC Keston Institute Policy Director Richard Little each mentioned the 710 tunnel as an example of a controversial project. The panelists’ focus in the morning session was building public consensus for projects and creating new funding strategies. The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) was one of many exhibitors that year; its Regional Transportation Plan brochure listed the 710 “gap closure” as the first transportation project in its long-range plan (from a Sunroom Desk post).
In 2012, LA County Measure J proposed to extend the transportation sales tax and fund more projects. By this time, those concerned about the SR-710 tunnel proposal were alert. The measure failed by a narrow margin. Although the No 710 Action Committee did not campaign against Measure J, many voters in affected communities were aware the measure would continue the project funding.
In 2015, the SR-710 Draft Environmental Impact Report was released, clearly favoring a 4.5-mile tunnel linking the north stub of the 710 to the 210. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Congressman Adam Schiff, and many others criticized it as flawed, inadequate and/or skewed. A diverse set of neighborhoods, preservation groups, organizations and five cities had fully mobilized to oppose it.
As the DEIR comment period progressed, from February through August of 2015, many voices echoed those of former La Canada Flintridge Mayor Donald Voss: “We need a solution that the whole region can support!”
In August 2015, the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments voted to remove the SR-710 tunnel from its transportation priority list submitted for Measure R2, “in effect admitting that the proposed project suffers from so much opposition that inclusion in a county-wide sales tax measure would doom it to defeat.”
No 710 Action Committee members have been arguing for sustainable, 21st-century multi-modal solutions to the region’s traffic and congestion problems. They were at last week’s Metro Board meeting with a message that the SR-710 extension / tunnel must be eliminated as an option before any ballot measure is put before the voters.
Beyond the 710 is a five-city coalition (South Pasadena, Pasadena, Glendale, La Canada Flintridge and Sierra Madre) that formed to oppose the SR-710 extension. It issued an exhaustive 88-page analysis critical of the tunnel and the SR-710 Study. It proposed instead a New Initiative for Mobility and Community, featuring more green space and more transit connections at the north end of the 710, encouragement of active transportation and technology for better traffic management.
Mobility 21’s theme this year was Competitive California: Making California the best place to live, work and play. There was no mention of the SR-710 project, and the closest anyone got to the issue was a debate about more highway building in general. The focus was on quality of life, zero emission vehicles, lowering pollution and creating a sustainable transportation system for people and for freight movement. Breakout sessions notes:
- senior citizens are using Uber for transportation but also augmenting Social Security by becoming Uber drivers (but are they being paid enough?)—FYI: Uber was a summit sponsor
- 89% of adults age 45+ surveyed want to stay at home as they age – what transportation options will they have?
- the future is “shared mobility”
- low-income communities and senior citizens need transportation options: Rudy Espinoza (Executive Director of Leadership for Urban Renewal Network) argued that equity in transportation projects meant no new highways. Hasan Ikhrata (Executive Director, Southern California Association of Governments) conceded “no new highways,” but argued that we need to “invest in capacity.”
The keynote of the August 28 event was delivered by California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, honored as the Public Sector Leader of the Year. He was then in the midst of his campaign for SB 350, which mandates increases in California’s renewable energy mix and the energy efficiency of existing buildings. Here are his comments, starting at 21 minutes:
As Sunroom Desk has covered sustainability and civic engagement, the policy trend over time is shifting toward investments in clean energy, zero emission vehicles, a well-formed “Beyond the 710” proposal, a focus on quality of life and more transportation options, and a second round of transit projects funded by a new LA County measure.
A last word on the third theme of this blog:
Online publishing has played a major role in bringing stakeholders together to learn the facts and present their views. Thanks to all who have compiled:
- websites devoted to these issues (check out the comprehensive resources on No710.com!)
- citizen YouTube channels posting videos of civic and community meetings
- Facebook pages that update followers
- and of course community blogs!