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Caltrans considers tunnels to complete 710

November 18, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
A study finds that an underground tunnel may work in the campaign to complete the Interstate 710 Highway. The findings could resolve the long battle involving South Pasadena and Pasadena residents who have fought plans to extend the freeway to the Interstate/State Route 210. There is a six-mile "missing link" of the 710 that was never completed, originally slated to connect to the 210.

Caltrans of course ran into opposition from South Pasadena residents every time it tried to build the freeway on the surface, so now Caltrans is looking underground to close the gap.

The 710 stops dead at Valley Boulevard right where construction halted 50 years ago. Through-traffic funnels down to a handful of north-south streets that are almost always clogged. But closing the gap and completing the 710 is a number one priority for Caltrans, even if it has to tunnel underground to do it. And now it knows it can.

"It is feasible and it can be done," said Caltrans spokesperson Deborah Harris.

For a year, Caltrans engineers have drilled down to check for earthquake faults, subsurface water and contamination in five separate potential freeway route zones.

One would bend the 710 west to link up with the 2 Freeway near the 5.

Another tunnels northwest to the 2 at Eagle Rock.

A third tunnels straight north to the 210 in Pasadena.

A fourth tunnels northeast to the 210.

And the fifth tunnels east to link up with the 605.

Caltrans knows tunneling is expensive, but it may be the only way to complete the 710.

"Where there are issues and conditions at each of the five zones, but we have the technology to handle those conditions and issues," said Harris.

"I've lived here for 35 years," said Val Marquez, who owns a home in El Sereno.

Marquez heads a homeowners' group in El Sereno. He's worried hundreds of homes in his neighborhood would have to be destroyed to make way for a portal or entrance to a freeway tunnel.

"They don't understand that it takes," said Marquez. "It takes a good runway to get into a tunnel and that would mean that a lot of homes would be gone because of that."

A member of Marquez's group thinks the only solution is to move the portal south of Valley Boulevard.

Doctor Tom Williams, a geologist, says only recently have officials begun to address the group's concerns.

"We would be very happy for it to be moved and end south of Valley Boulevard," said Williams.

Ironically, now that it looks like it's feasible,communities from El Sereno all the way to La Canada Flintridge are raising concerns about the freeway being constructed underground because of possible impacts on them. It may be technically feasible but now the politics begin.

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