The Pasadena City Council voted to support the controversial measure that has become an emotion community and political fight for the last several decades between Alhambra and Pasadena
Los Angeles, CA – Standing on the Northwest steps of Cal-Trans in downtown Los Angeles today (Tuesday 8-22-09) lawmakers on both sides of the isle and controversy shook hands and expressed harmony over a bill that erases a decades old gap in the 710 Freeway between Pasadena and Alhambra. Both the opposition and proponents are urging the governor’s signature.
“This is a historic compromise and growing up with all these interconnected freeways, this one part we failed to complete,” said State Senator Gilbert Cedillo (D-Los Angeles), who authored the Senate version of the measure SB 545, which passed the Senate. It allows the state to continue a 4.5 mile tunnel option to complete the freeway. Most of the debate has been on a surface freeway that would have eliminated homes and trees. The measure removes the surface route from the Regional Transportation Plan. State transit officials have been favored a tunnel option most recently.
“When we were shaking and holding hands on stage, we didn’t want to let go, because it took so long to get here,” Senator Cedillo said. “After 50 years of battle, now is the time for us to come together as a community. Now is the time to have improved transportation outcomes, to create jobs, to clean the air and improve the quality of life.
“When we see 40 percent of the goods movement coming from ports all over the world through the 710 freeway to LA and Long Beach ports, it’s like water rush to the top of hose, and being pinched at the top,” said Mayor Steve T. Placido of the city of Alhambra. “When many people said that communities could not get together, you said, ‘why not’, and they did. When they said, ‘republicans and democrats could not get together’ you (public) gave us the message that ‘we need jobs,”’ explained Mayor Placido.
“And when you think about the fact that for every billion dollars in infrastructure,18,000 new jobs come to the region with high unemployment rates and forclosures, Senator Cedillo’s bill solves those problems. And when you say can the governor signs this bill, you say, ‘why not.’ Placido said.
“When my wife and I moved to Monterey Park 25 years ago we were asked will the 710 Freeway ever be built in our lifetime, and I’m happy to say that it’s within reach,” said 49th District Assemblyman
Mike Eng (D-Monterey Park). “Earlier this month we took a historic step in which the city of South Pasadena agreed to the ‘Gap’ that will complete the town will be underground. The project will cost several billion dollars and we hope it is one of the first public private partnerships (PPP) that can happen under the latest legislation. We have until 2017 to get this PPP going. For every $billion dollars of infrastructure, we create 18,000 jobs, which equals 50-60,000 new jobs in this area and many of them will be permanent jobs.”
“This goes back to 1949 and 50 years ago the state of California came up with a highway plan, which included a system from Long Beach through Pasadena,” said Pasadena City Councilman Mike Ten. Since then cities have been fighting over a proposed surface route in that corridor. This is hopefully the first step urging the governor to sign the death of a surface freeway.”
For the past 50 years South Pasadena has been fighting a surface freeway, because “of the devastating effects a surface street would do to a very small community,” explained Ten. “We’re only three and a half square miles, which means you would cut out about one-sixth of all the homes in our city and completely dividing it in half. It was unacceptable to carve up the city.”
Construction jobs are some of the best paid jobs in California, and it is a project that voters of LA County have already approved with the so-called “Measure R” imposing a half-cent sales tax on themselves for transportation. The tunnel project has received a $780-million financial commitment from Measure R tax fund money. Councilman Ten believes there is hope that it could be the beginning of a new public private partnership.
Mayor David Sifuentes of South Pasadena agrees. “I was born in El Sereno, which 40 years ago I marched with my older sister for this fight to prevent a surface route destroying, not only El Sereno, but South Pasadena, Pasadena and Alhambra.”
Mayor Sifuentes also said today’s event is unprecedented. “We have joined together, which we have not done in many years to fight for the same effort to get this bill passed. “Once the governor signs this bill, it will provide up to $500 million to the state budget by selling those Cal-Trans homes that’s on that corridor. That alone would add millions to help balance the state budget.”
In terms of California going green it takes thousands of idling cars off the side streets of the cities on the corridor and cleans up the polluted air.
Many of the concerns have been over removal of homes and trees, but a tunnel idea resolves those hurdles. There will be many jobs created in engineering to construction and the cost is estimated from $3.6 billion dollars and up. It’s also estimated to take about eight or nine years to plan and about that long to dig the tunnel.
Assemblyman Mike Eng, Mayor Steve Placido of Alhambra, Mayor David Sifuentes of South Pasadena, Caltrans Reps. and reps. from the community of El Sereno are all urging the Governor to sign into law SB 545. This measure also has the support of Southern California Assn. of Governments (SCAG), which is the the clearing house for federal transportion funds.