A 710 Tunnel connecting to the 210 Freeway is still on the table, surviving another round of analysis by consultants, despite heightened opposition. Communities along the route object to the plan and call for an end to the expensive study; Los Angeles joined in official opposition to a tunnel route on August 27. But consultants’ traffic models, ‘focus factors’, and presentation skills were deployed to argue that the tunnel should still be considered.
The slides from Metro’s August 29 SR-710 Technical Advisory Committee meeting are still not online, so no links are available (keep checking the website-they are worth reviewing). At the meeting, TAC member Anne Wilson of La Canada Flintridge questioned the absence of any toll projections in the presentation. Consultants said they had not yet addressed whether the tunnel would have a toll. Searching for that August 29 presentation online, though, I came across Metro’s clarification about studying P3 possibilities for a 710 tunnel toll project posted on June 21.
Audience members also noted that an alternatives analysis is incomplete and flawed without toll information. Any discussion of tolls, however, would also likely have to quantify how many trucks would be using the tunnel, and that presents problems.
Metro consultants continue to insist that trucks are not a big factor in their study of the tunnel option. Meanwhile, an Environmental Impact Report on building additional lanes in each direction on the existing 710, to accommodate more trucks leaving the ports, is out for public comment. Communities for a Better Environment, representing many along that existing route, is opposed to the plan. Also, a Metro-sponsored session on goods movement in Southern California has been postponed from September 12 to a date uncertain. Metro representatives questioned about this at the August 29 TAC meeting said that they are still looking into how to structure the session, and that there is nothing specific in the goods movement session plan related to the SR-710 project.
Glendale City Council member and Metro board member Ara Najarian said, “There’s no doubt in my mind that the primary purpose of the 710 tunnel is to facilitate truck traffic to and from the port of Los Angeles, Metro staff have told me that trucks are deeply embedded in their modeling to make this financially viable. They are in retreat and circling their wagons, and put off that goods movement discussion. Trucks are a key component to this project’s success, mainly because there will be a $20 approximate toll for vehicles to use the tunnel and whereas they anticipate passenger vehicles to perhaps exit before the tunnel begins, they fully anticipate the trucks to factor that into the cost of business.”
South Pasadena Transportation Manager Dennis Woods, another member of the Technical Advisory Committee, said most of the consultants’ analysis so far was based on moving vehicles, not people. He pointed out that there is a state mandate to reduce vehicle miles traveled as well as greenhouse gases.
How much would Transit Travel Time and Vehicular Travel Time and Severely Congested Facility Miles (charts in the presentation) be affected by Bus Rapid Transit and Light Rail alternatives? Strangely, consultants’ analyses showed only small effects, while a tunnel option had a dramatic positive impact.
TAC member Bill Sherman and other audience members complained that consultants were making poor comparisons. No comparative cost information was presented, and cost is officially not a factor at this stage of the SR-710 alternatives study.
One Bus Rapid Transit line, or one new Light Rail line, may not dramatically improve traffic congestion in the study area. But if the true cost of digging and constructing a tunnel (upper estimates at this stage are $12 billion) were dedicated to completing a bus and/or light rail network throughout the region, it would likely have a dramatic positive impact within the study area. Looking at it another way, if cost were a major factor, that one new bus line might score quite a bit higher in the analysis…
Slide #54 listed five broad objectives of the SR-710 study; all five had some connection to increased transit lines or encouraging transit use in the study area. In other slides, consultants ranked ‘focus factors’ to assign values to the project alternatives. The tunnel option somehow scored high for most of their criteria, but for effects on the transit system in the study area it got the lowest score – 1. Why, if this project is about improving mobility, and there is stated commitment to improving transit and increasing its use, does the tunnel option continue to be on the table?
Surviving alternatives—no build, bus rapid transit, light rail, and the tunnel option (F7x)—will be presented to the Metro board on September 27. The transit options are much less expensive, less dangerous, more likely to improve air quality and quality of life in the region, but they are still too narrow and don’t address system-wide mobility issues.
Concerned about the impacts of a five-year, 24/7 construction project of two huge freeway tunnels which will bring thousands of additional vehicles onto the 210? Contact Metro, Caltrans, and state elected officials as soon as possible!
Concerned about the region’s transportation future and commitment to quality of life? Check out the I-710 expansion EIR, which will destroy homes along the route, increase the size of the freeway in both directions, and facilitate more diesel trucks (although the stated intent is to ‘encourage’ low- and zero-emission vehicles, they are not required). The deadline for public comment is September 28. More on that in a subsequent post.