The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted Thursday to end its share of funding for a controversial proposed $3.2 billion, 4.9-mile tunnel to extend the 710 freeway from its current terminus from Alhambra to Pasadena.

The unanimous vote, which came after hundreds of speakers testified at a hearing, diverts roughly $700 million in funding earmarked for the tunnel project to other local street-improvement projects in the Alhambra, Boyle Heights, and South Pasadena communities.

While the California Department of Transportation has the final say on the tunnel project, by removing its share of funding Metro has effectively killed it, thus putting the 45-year battle over extension plans for the 710 freeway back to square one.

The 710 freeway is a major conduit for truck freight traffic coming up from the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. As the freeway was being built in the 1960s, protests from South Pasadena delayed completion, resulting in the freeway ending at at Valley Boulevard on the border between El Sereno and Alhambra. Ever since, truck and other vehicular traffic coming off the freeway has inundated streets in those communities.

Attempts to extend the freeway to connect with the 210 Freeway in Pasadena have been repeatedly stymied by opposition from South Pasadena, Pasadena, and neighboring cities that didn’t want another freeway slicing through their communities. Several years ago, Caltrans proposed putting the connecting segment underground to avoid disrupting those cities, but still met with opposition.

Predictably, these communities welcomed Metro’s decision.

“Today’s Metro Board decision is a vote for healthy communities, fiscal responsibility and a 21st century approach to transportation in Los Angeles County,” said Ara Najarian, a member of the Metro board and a Glendale City Councilman. “The time has come for us to move beyond this outdated project.”

Officials in Alhambra and other San Gabriel Valley cities that have had to suffer the traffic burden of the freeway ending at Valley Boulevard pushed for the money to be redirected to synchronizing traffic signals and other traffic improvement measures in their communities.

Public policy and energy reporter Howard Fine can be reached at hfine@labusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @howardafine.

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