Map of the 710 freeway

A map of the Long Beach (710) Freeway, currently under consideration for an extension. (File Graphic / April 25, 2014)

Los Angeles County transportation officials have pushed back its release of an environmental report regarding 710 Freeway extension proposals, local officials learned this week.

Once available, the data provided in the draft Environmental Impact report will be analyzed by a group called the '5 Cities Alliance,' a partnership between Glendale, La Cañada, Pasadena, South Pasadena and Sierra Madre that allows the cities to pool their resources for one joint study as opposed to each city paying for a separate study.

“We’re all interested in finding out the facts, so at this stage, it’s too early for this to be an advocacy group,” La Cañada City Manager Mark Alexander said during a Monday meeting with that city’s council. “It’s all just fact-finding at this stage, and peer review.”

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority said the delay was needed to more fully analyze population statistics which, in turn, are crucial to evaluating the ideas being studied, officials said in a April 17 release.

Currently, five alternatives are being considered, including the expansion of rapid transit systems or taking no action at all. Alliance members have said they are most concerned with a proposal to construct a 4.9 mile, dual-bore tunnel that would allow trucks to travel from Alhambra to Pasadena.

The Alliance, Alexander has said, provides a means for the five potentially impacted cities to pool data and resources to more efficiently respond to the findings.

Just how long the group will have to do just that — and when it will begin — are unknown.

Legally, transportation officials must provide 45 days for the public to respond. Several local officials, including Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), have written letters requesting an extension to 120 days, according to Ann Wilson, a senior management analyst with the city of La Cañada Flintridge who spoke at Monday night’s meeting.

Caltrans did write a letter in response, saying they had not decided the length, and stating they had to balance the needs of those wanting to expedite the process with the needs of those wanting to comment,” Wilson told the council.

Each Alliance city has contributed $50,000 toward hiring specialists to analyze transportation, air quality, soils geology and safety aspects of the EIR at large, and the proposed tunnel option in particular. Alexander said the group is currently interviewing and selecting the last consultant, a legal expert.

Robert Silverstein, a Pasadena environmental law expert contracted by the city, gave his take on various legal aspects of the EIR process, including the recent delay.

“The goal should be an environmentally superior project, and the goal should be a wide array of alternatives,” Silverstein said, who is not being interviewed to consult for the Alliance.

“All of these things need to be carefully watched to make sure the process is fair and reasonable.”

--

Follow Sara Cardine on Twitter: @SaraCardine.

ALSO: