Ara Najarian began his new MTA Board term by getting unanimous support (including from Duarte Mayor John Fasana) for his motion asking for a clear answer as to which agency, Metro or Caltrans, has the authority to select and fund an SR-710 study alternative. Caltrans officials had asserted it had final authority, but Metro is conducting the alternatives study. Communities near the alignment of a proposed 710 freeway tunnel responded with alarm about lack of accountability in the decision making process.
Anthony Portantino, former 44th District representative, attended the meeting and spoke in favor of the motion, saying it was scary that significant taxpayer dollars are being spent to move a $15-20 billion dollar project forward without a clear understanding of who would make the final decision.
After the meeting, Najarian posted on Facebook:
“The success of my motion restores some faith in the MTA Board in that they/we do have some common sense. Supervisor Antonovich also realizes the confusion that exists in the decision making process for the tunnel and supported the motion. And guess what? John Fasana seconded the motion! We all just want to know who has jurisdiction on this project.”
In a followup to Najarian’s motion, Metro Highway Director Doug Failing’s Memo to the Board concludes: “The ultimate decision to fund an alternative included in the final environmental document rests with the Metro Board.”
One day earlier, South Pasadena, Pasadena, and La Canada Flintridge Technical Advisory Committee members voiced strong objections when the SR-710 technical team presented a new set of “refinement” options for the freeway tunnel alternative. These ranged from an un-tolled dual-bore tunnel, to a tolled single-bore or dual-bore tunnel, to a tolled single- or dual-bore tunnel with bus express lane, with the further variation that all of these options could be proposed with or without truck traffic allowed! La Canada Flintridge representative Ann Wilson pointed out that a smaller tunnel is actually a different alternative, as it provides a lower level of service and different effects on traffic congestion and project costs. The question of whether Metro or Caltrans has authority to prohibit truck traffic was not directly answered.
The additional freeway tunnel proposals show that questions about
- truck traffic,
- which parties besides the trucking industry will be willing to pay tolls, and
- how many travelers and buses would use a tunnel that has no intermediate exits
are still unanswered!
More dissatisfaction surfaced when questions about tunnel impacts on local traffic and existing on/off ramps were raised. In communities around the south portal of the tunnel, vehicles will have to drive east or west on surface streets to Interstate 10 access ramps, and then transition north to the 710 if they want to use the tunnel. At the north portal, the St. John Street access ramps to the 134/210 will be eliminated and street traffic in the vicinity of Huntington Hospital will be affected. Emergency response time impacts and increased congestion on surface streets in the area surrounding the 210/134 interchange are big concerns if a tunnel proposal goes forward. Metro’s original F7 dual-bore tunnel freeway alternative and portal locations are laid out in this pdf (from which the map above is taken).
Other alternative refinements presented at this week’s meeting sounded much more attractive.
- The TSM/TDM option includes improvements to at least 28 intersections in the study area.
- The Bus Rapid Transit alternative is conceived of as “rail-like” service which will incorporate a high-tech fare collection system, ITS transit signal priority, dedicated bus lanes where possible (some on-street parking would have to be removed for these), and improved stations and stops to attract riders; it would run from Whittier Blvd in the south to Colorado Blvd in the North.
- The LRT alternative includes a stop at CSULA and a tunnel under Fremont Avenue; it would end under the Filmore Gold Line Station (one Technical Advisory Committee member suggested that the rail line continue all the way to the 210 and be combined with a new park and ride facility).