- Associated Press - Thursday, May 28, 2015

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Critics of a proposal to connect two freeways by tunneling 4 miles under neighborhoods in Los Angeles and several adjoining cities offered their own alternative Thursday.

For decades, transportation planners have puzzled over how to close the gap between the 710 and 210 freeways, a few miles east of downtown Los Angeles.

On a map, the two freeways look as if they are reaching out to connect - but for the densely populated neighborhoods between them. Because they don’t connect, traffic from each is funneled onto surface streets in east LA and the suburbs of Alhambra and Pasadena.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is considering five ways to ease this congestion, among them a tunnel that could cost up to $5.7 billion.

On Thursday, elected leaders and community activists from cities including Pasadena renewed their criticism of the plan, framing their “Beyond the 710” idea as a way of “ending the debate over a tunnel proposal that has generated widespread and passionate opposition.” Their idea is to ease congestion by expanding bus service, upgrading roads and encouraging more walking and biking along the corridor between the two freeways.

Supporters of the tunnel countered that public support is on their side, and that the new proposal was simply an attempt by opponents to rebrand themselves.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is soliciting public comment on its range of proposals, which aside from the tunnel includes a light rail line or doing nothing. The authority’s board is unlikely to vote on a proposal soon.

“No decisions have been made and won’t be made probably until a year from now,” Metro spokesman Marc Littman said.

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