Street improvement plan adopted over LA-area freeway tunnel

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LOS ANGELES (AP) - A proposal to build a 5-mile (8-kilometer) tunnel linking two Los Angeles-area freeways died Wednesday after state officials decided on a street-improvement plan instead.

The final environmental impact report brings to an end a decades-long battle over how close a gap between Interstate 710 in East Los Angeles and Interstate 210 in Pasadena.

The proposed tunnel route went underneath neighborhoods including South Pasadena, which bitterly fought any extension plan - whether it was the tunnel or, before that, a surface freeway.

The total tunnel price tag was about $4 billion. Critics said it was unaffordable and eventual construction might take years and disrupt San Gabriel Valley communities without easing congestion.

The state will instead fund roadway improvements to ease traffic that jams streets in the gap.

"Generations of neighbors on both sides of this issue passionately pushed their perspectives, and now we can all turn our attentions to collaboratively solving local transportation needs," state Sen. Anthony Portantino said in a statement.

The 710 is a major artery for trucks hauling freight from the massive Los Angeles and Long Beach port complexes northward toward Los Angeles. But the freeway ends in the El Sereno area of Los Angeles and traffic spills onto streets in neighboring Alhambra and other communities.

Caltrans had long planned to close the gap. During a freeway construction boom in the 1950s and 1960s, Caltrans bought up hundreds of property lots between Pasadena and Alhambra in order to demolish them ahead of the freeway extension.

However, the proposed route through South Pasadena was fought tenaciously by opponents who argue it would bisect their wealthy little community and threaten architecturally important Craftsman-style homes.

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