21st-Century Transit Solutions and Political Will: Bike-Friendly Success and Tunnel-Friendly Failure 4

Long Beach’s stance as “the most bicycle-friendly city in America” is the result of “political will,” Charlie Gandy told his audience Wednesday at the final May Bike Month event organized by Glendale’s Safe and Healthy Streets program.

Gandy, Mobility Coordinator for Long Beach, presented traffic planning and road design changes that encourage bicycling and walking, and urged his audience as “stewards of the community” to advocate them.

Stewardship of the community became much narrower, and another side of “political will” was evident, at Thursday’s MTA Board meeting, when a large contingent of politicians from San Gabriel valley communities appeared to argue for the 710 Tunnel and succeeded in persuading a majority of the board to proceed with an EIR. Among them: Assemblyman Mike Eng, who called it “A win-win situation,” and said “We need to hang tough, we need jobs;” and Monterey Park council member David Lau, who urged moving forward, saying “The impact is strongest in our city.”

While a set number of communities might benefit from an extension of the 710, the tunnel would accomplish nothing in terms of reducing overall numbers of vehicles on Southern California roads. The extension has been debated for more than 40 years, making it a distinctly outdated solution to what is a 21st-century global problem: reducing fossil fuel consumption and pollution. The “political will” San Gabriel communities brought to the meeting doesn’t demonstrate the kind of stewardship needed in this region.

Chairman Ara Najarian, who has taken a strong stand against the tunnel, put forward a motion to have Metro study a range of transit solutions before proceeding with an EIR of the tunnel. A large group came to the meeting in support of Najarian’s motion, and urged the board to adopt 21st century transit solutions such as light rail and “multi-modal” transport, and to consider the evident environmental risks. Trisha Gossett, of the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council, opened with “Due to what we have witnessed in the Gulf of Mexico, it is hard to believe anything can ‘go wrong’ digging the world’s largest diameter tunnel, through three fault lines, under the second-most heavily populated city in the United States…We know that drill baby drill, led to spill baby spill!”

Your Editor chimed in with another reference to the Gulf Coast tragedy: “Day after day, for 30-some odd days and continuing, we are seeing how badly things can go wrong with complicated projects built under the surface.” The proposed 710 Tunnel, justified on the grounds that it will move more freight trucks through the region, represents the same fossil fuel addiction that makes oil spills possible. As lamented in an earlier post, the United States hasn’t mobilized to find a cure for this disease. We needed persistent political will back in the 1970s; we need it more desperately today.

Despite Chairman Ara Najarian’s political will and his motion to have a range of transit solutions considered before approving an official EIR, he and Jose Huizar were the only two to vote against proceeding with the tunnel study.

Sidenote, although it took center stage at the board meeting literally as well as figuratively: The large center seating area of the MTA Board Room was completely taken up by members and supporters of the Bus Riders Union, whose numbers were greater than all of those who had arrived to discuss the 710 on both sides. Tunnel supporters, mostly elected officials, occupied one side seating area. On the other side of the room were tunnel opponents, mainly residents. The Bus Riders Union disrupted the meeting repeatedly with demands for a public hearing on the upcoming July MTA fare hikes, and at one point chanted, “One less tunnel, a thousand more buses!”

4 thoughts on “21st-Century Transit Solutions and Political Will: Bike-Friendly Success and Tunnel-Friendly Failure

  • Tom Williams

    The distribution of public was not quite right

    The far/right side was the proponents/FOR the tunnel and supporters of getting the FHWA process going while the near front door/left side was the opponents/AGAINST the tunnel and included alot of non-Politicos and supporters of the FTA process. Both were the opening of the EIR process and requires notices to the State CEQA Clearinghouse in Sacramento

    Both sides didn’t recognize a small core in the middle non-polticos Tunnel Oppoments along with the Much Younger more vocal Bus Riders Union (I also rode the bus down to MTA).

    Both opponents and supporters of the FTA/FHWA processes DO NOT know/consider that in both processes the costs, costs/benefits, jobs generated, etc. can not be considered in the CEQA/NEPA processes…ONLY in the Project Development and PRoject Definition processes can we get the MTA to see the errors of this whole project.

    Huizar did stand up and maybe we can get him amendments to be added and HOPEFULLY we can get someone on the Board to have staff conduct a real Project Definition…as is being done for the last three months thru the MeaureR PPP consultancy.


  • don justin jones

    Transportation solutions without the human effect is policy in a vacuum. The tenants are the chaff in the process as there is a rush to spend the R money. No where do I hear a consideration for the families but rather options that will lead us to Chavez Ravine solutions remember that was to be the center piece of urban renewal and now is chattel to a divorce of the owners. They wont’ have to pay the 15 dollar toll fee as proposed now will they.

  • Eric Maundry

    I often wonder how much of this is driven by the needs of overseas trade. I don’t think it is inconceivable that some of our overseas trade partners are not happy with the Long Beach/Los Angeles 710 bottleneck, and have put some pressure on the US to come up with a solution. These countries do lend us a lot of money, and because of this probably have more than just a little influence. This is far too expensive and contentious a project to be all about making local commutes less inconvenient.

  • Editor Post author

    Tunnel opponents had plenty of time to talk at the 6-hour meeting and one topic was the question of what was driving this continued push for an incredibly expensive, environmentally risky, engineering challenged and regionally limited transportation project. It was first estimated to cost $1 billion and is now estimated to cost $14 billion, which one speaker pointed out is 1/3 of the annual federal transportation budget.

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