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Ron Kaye: Activism and the 710 tunnel

July 20, 2013|By Ron Kaye
  • Ron Kaye
Ron Kaye

Joanne Nuckols has put the people she calls "transportation bullies" in their place for decades.

She reels off the long, sordid history of South Pasadena's fight against extending the 710 Freeway through her town, lawsuit by lawsuit, injunction by injunction, community action by community action, as the grassroots movement spread to include residents all along the corridor.

On Saturday, Nuckols and dozens of other activists joined by a cadre of elected officials from Glendale, La Cañada, Pasadena and South Pasadena were to stage a rally and press conference at Blair High School in Pasadena before the start of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's community meeting intended to sell the public on the virtue of a multi-billion-dollar, four-mile tunnel from Alhambra to Pasadena.

It has been a tough sell for 60 years, but transportation officials keep trying, with the full support of those who would benefit most: the engineers, contractors, truckers, unions as well as the politicians they keep in office.


"It's so exciting to be involved, it's like a revolution," said Nuckols, who has been active on transportation issues almost since she and her husband moved to town in the late 1960s. "They treated us like we were just a little fly they could swat away. The defining moment came in '73 when we got the first injunction against the freeway."

Saturday's protest, coming on the 14th anniversary of yet another injunction that blocked freeway construction, was called because of the fire that occurred a week ago in the northbound tunnel connecting the Pasadena Freeway to the I-5 when a tanker spilled 8,500 gallons of gas and set off an inferno, causing damage that will take a long time to repair.

A similar fire occurred six years ago in Santa Clarita when two dozen trucks crashed and burned in the southbound I-5 bypass tunnel — an event that prompted Nuckols and other activists to create a banner and yard signs to show "what can go wrong in a tunnel."

Doug Failing, who was regional Caltrans director at the time of that crash but joined Metro as its highway construction expert after passage of the Measure R sales tax for transportation, is the target of much of the criticism from the No on 710 activists.

"You ask questions and you get no answers," Nuckols said. "It's like they're tone deaf. They try to feed us this pablum, but we're not eating it. They just ignore the fact that those tunnels should never be built and will never be built."

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