A bill that cleared the State Assembly’s Committee on Transportation Monday seeks to undo an obscure law that primarily restricts the power of one Southern California city from negotiating with the California Department of Transportation.
The law, first passed in 1982, allows Caltrans to go forward with some freeway projects without getting approval from local governments even when a project requires closing local roads. Through what Neon Tommy describes as a “dozen finely crafted provisions”, the law only applies to the city of South Pasadena. This law was crafted to allow Caltrans to complete the 710 Freeway by closing the “South Pasadena gap”, a project they’ve been trying to build for decades in the face of widespread public opposition.
Even with this onerous law on the books South Pasadena and nearby cities have continued to fight against the project in the courts, and Caltrans continues to push the freeway forward – they are currently exploring prohibitively expensive tunneling options under the city, hardly a prudent use of limited state funds.
This years effort to repeal the law – AB 353 – isn’t the first time politicians have tried to repeal it, but previous attempts have been unsuccessful thanks largely to registered opposition by powerful lobbying groups like AAA and the California Trucking Association. It’s time to fully restore South Pasadena’s voice in 710 Freeway process and undo this narrow law.