Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa helped present the Mobility 21 “IMBY” (In My Back Yard) list, developed to reach legislators as the next federal Surface Transportation Authorization bill is considered. Upgrading the 710 between the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and the SR-60 freeway is one of the mainly shovel-ready projects on the list developed by the area coalition of transportation leaders. The 710 tunnel proposal came up twice during their annual summit yesterday.
During the morning session, Dale Bonner, California Transportation Secretary, and Richard Little, USC Keston Institute for Public Finance and Infrastructure Policy Director, each mentioned the 710 tunnel as an example of a controversial project. Little remarked that there were two ways of finishing off the 710: with a bulldozer or with a pick ax. The remark got some laughs from the audience.
The panelists’ focus in the morning session was building public consensus for projects and creating new funding strategies. Projects mentioned with wide support included the Alameda Corridor and the Westside subway extension. Educating the public and getting their buy-in was strongly emphasized; as was reducing time wasted on “process.” Bonner commented that while Mobility 21 has done an excellent job working together to create consensus on regional priorities, the big challenge is to “retrofit funding plans” to incorporate the reality of drastically reduced federal and state funds and the potential for public/private partnerships.
Another panelist, Chicago attorney who worked to privatize toll roads in Chicago and Indiana, got some laughs when he remarked that in Chicago, the long process was shortened considerably by just “going to the mayor.”
Engineering, construction, and consulting firms, county transportation commissions, and elected officials attended the LA Chamber of Commerce-sponsored summit at the Bonaventure Hotel. The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) was one of many exhibitors; its Regional Transportation Plan brochure lists the 710 “gap closure” as the first transportation project in its long-range plan.