California lawmakers OK taking 710 extension underground

| 9/18/2009

A bill in California intended to help get a proposed extension of the Interstate 710 freeway built from Los Angeles to Pasadena as a tunnel is headed to the governor’s desk.

The 710 freeway is a major north-south interstate running 23 miles through Los Angeles County. The freeway runs from Long Beach to Alhambra, stopping short of the originally planned end in Pasadena.

Caltrans has acquired more than 500 residential properties along the corridor since the 1950s in anticipation of building the 4.5-mile extension. But because opposition and multiple lawsuits have stalled the project, and the agency essentially became a long-term property manager.

In the final hours of the legislative session, the Assembly voted 57-8 to prohibit the Interstate 710 gap closure project linking the Long Beach Freeway to Interstate 210 in Pasadena from being constructed as a surface or above-grade highway. The Senate followed suit on a 33-1 vote shortly thereafter, thus clearing the way for the bill – SB545 – to advance to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk.

Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, said the bill fulfills “a commitment made to the city of South Pasadena that would ensure that there would never be a surface-route solution for 710 corridor.” Instead, his bill requires the extension to be built underground.

Advocates for getting the extension done say that failing to complete the 710 Freeway contributes to traffic congestion in northeastern Los Angeles and the northwestern San Gabriel Valley because there is no north-south alternative between the Golden State Freeway and San Gabriel River Freeway.

Despite the legislative effort to help spur the project along, some doubt the work will ever get done. Critics say the state doesn’t have any money.

To view other legislative activities of interest for California in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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