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Metro approves $450M plan for unbuilt 710 extension—and environmental groups aren’t happy

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They say the projects are too car-focused

In this 2010 file photo, early morning traffic jams the entrance to the 710 Freeway in Alhambra

With a long-planned extension of the 710 Freeway officially dead, Metro is moving forward with plans to complete a cluster of smaller infrastructure projects in the communities where the northern leg of the freeway would have been built.

The agency’s Board of Directors approved $450 million worth of projects on Thursday that range from redesigned on and offramps in Alhambra to a bridge widening project in El Sereno.

Of the more than three dozen projects approved by the board, none are designed to improve transit service or bike access in Northeast LA and the San Gabriel Valley. Only a handful include new crosswalks or other pedestrian infrastructure.

Bicycle advocates and environmental groups say the projects are geared only at easing commutes for drivers.

“We cannot find this list of projects acceptable,” said Carter Rubin, mobility and climate advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This is only going to increase transportation emissions.”

Metro staffers told the board that projects serving bicyclists and transit riders could be approved later, but that, based on feedback from communities around the 710, their first priority was easing traffic congestion in the area.

The selected projects “will go a long way to improve traffic flow in our region,” said South Pasadena Mayor Marina Khubesrian. But she said she was “disappointed there weren’t more multi-modal and safety enhancement projects on the list.”

In a joint letter to the board, a coalition of environmental and transportation advocacy groups argued that public outreach about the project selection process had been scant and pointed out that proposals for dedicated bus lanes from the cities of Los Angeles and San Gabriel had been left off the list of projects recommended for funding.

Before approving the project list, board members gave assurances that more outreach would be conducted when selecting future projects.

“This is all being studied,” said County Supervisor Kathryn Barger. “We are asking for a more transparent process.”