By Josh Stephens.
When residents of South Pasadena, California, hear “mind the gap,” they think of anything but the Jubilee, Hammersmith or Piccadilly. For them, the gap in question refers not to a subway but to a freeway — or lack thereof.
The 710 runs 23 miles north-south through the heart of the Los Angeles Basin, roughly paralleling the path of the Los Angeles River, from the port city of Long Beach to the inner suburb of Alhambra. There, the freeway abruptly stops, just past its interchange with the 10 Freeway, as if swallowed by a tar pit. Four-and-a-half miles to the north, the 210 freeway runs perpendicular to the 710’s logical route, and heads eastward to connect Los Angeles County to the Inland Empire.
“The area is widely considered to have an incomplete transportation infrastructure,” says Metro spokesperson Paul Gonzales. “This has persisted for about five decades.”
A plan is now afoot to close the gap. In March, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), in cooperation with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), released anenvironmental impact report detailing alternatives for closing the gap. After years of bickering and speculation, the EIR was mandated by 2008’s Measure R, a successful ballot measure that earmarked $780 million for the 710 corridor.
Of the report’s five options — from a legally required “no-build” alternative to a light-rail line to a busway — the one that has arguably received the most popular support involves a freeway-sized tunnel running uninterrupted for 4.9 miles under South Pasadena at depths of over 100 feet. The largest version of the tunnel would feature two tubes, each with two levels of roadway.
It would, supporters say, mark the end of the freeway-building era.