710 Tunnel Opponents Receive Good News

Members of the No 710 Action Committee have some successful “chipping away” to celebrate this week.
Among their small, potentially significant victories: revised language inserted into a proposed ballot measure that now explicitly bars funds raised by that ordinance to be used for projects associated with the State Route 710 project, including the 4.9-mile-long tunnel.
For six years, the No 710 Action Committee has diligently been fighting the proposed freeway tunnel that would connect the 710 and 210 freeways and cost more than $5 billion to build.
The tunnel is opposed by the city of La Cañada Flintridge and many of its neighbors, in large part because they expect it to cause increased congestion and pollution. Proponents argue that the 710 connector is long overdue and will ease traffic elsewhere in the region as well as create jobs.
Last week, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority indicated that it had considered the debate when it released the revised spending plan for a potential November sales tax ballot measure.
Formerly known as Measure R2 but now referred to as the Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan, it would ask voters to consider approving a new half-cent sales tax in the county and the continuation of the existing half-cent sales tax in perpetuity or until voters decide to discontinue it.
If the measure passes, it will do so with the following language included: “No Net Revenues generated from the Sales Tax shall be expended on the State Route 710 North Gap Closure Project.”
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” said Jan SooHoo, a La Cañada Flintridge resident and 710 opponent. “It doesn’t mean they’re not going to build the tunnel, it just means they’re worried about us and about the controversial and divisive nature of this project, and that causing the public to vote against the measure.”
SooHoo said Metro could still use the approximate $700 million balance from Measure R, which passed in 2008, and pair it with money from private partners to pay for the tunnel.
Still, she was pleased to report that no money from a new measure will go toward 710 tunneling.
SooHoo said Richard Helgeson, who also is part of the No 710 coalition, identified a “loophole” in the original Measure R2 language. When their group pointed it out to Metro officials, they asked that the group submit what its members preferred to see included.
So, in a letter to Metro’s Board of Directors, Helgeson wrote that the committee requested that the agency “take the steps necessary to remove the SR 710 North tunnel from the status of a project which would be eligible for any further Metro funding, and that you move a resolution which will provide that no Metro resource, whatsoever, may be used from this time forth to further this project.”
Metro responded affirmatively.
“I think had we not been there as an ever-present group at every board meeting to ‘kill the tunnel, kill the tunnel,’ and making them aware of our determination and persistence, I don’t think they would have done this,” SooHoo said.
She added that the No 710 committee also was pleased by the Pasadena Unified School District school board indicating that it will sign on to a joint resolution in opposing the tunnel along with the other schools in the Five Star Coalition that also includes LCF, Burbank, Glendale and South Pasadena.
“Perhaps it seems like a small step,” SooHoo wrote in an email, “but I believe that our cities can also use this joint resolution of school districts representing over 70,000 students in their campaigns to stop the tunnel.”
Also for the first time, members of the Pasadena City Council seem unanimously to agree that they’re in opposition of the tunnel, SooHoo said. She said they appeared primed to hold a special election next year to repeal Measure A, the 2001 initiative that promotes completion of the 710 Freeway.
“We just keep chipping away, chipping away,” SooHoo said.

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