Former Metro Board Chair: How Much Will 710 Tunnel Cost?

Maybe Ara Najarian has been reading the news about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie canceling the ARC Rail Tunnel Project because of concerns about cost over runs.

Najarian, the Glendale Mayor and Member of the Metro Board, tells the Glendale News-Press that he will ask the Metro Board of Directors to order a cost analysis to build an underground tunnel connecting the 710 Freeway, which now ends in Alhambra, to the Pasadena Freeway.  Usually, a cost analysis is part of the environmental studies, but given the potentially huge cost of the project, and the wildly different estimates given for the project over the years (see chart below); Najarian is arguing that Metro should have some hard fiscal figures before committing to spending nearly $60 million on an environmental study.

While Najarian announced the motion to the press and hinted at it on the “No 710 Freeway Tunnel” Facebook Page, the motion does not appear on the Metro Board Schedule for this month.  Given that the schedule is so packed that they moved the start of the meeting to 9:00 A.M. from 9:30 A.M., it’s possible that a hearing for the motion will be delayed until next month.

Chart Provided by "No 710"

Chart Provided by "No 710 Freeway Tunnel"

Najarian’s motion and press statements echo a recent op/ed by Assemblyman Anthony J. Portantino which was subtly titled “710 Tunnel Could Devestate the Region.”  In it Portantino writes:

Despite ardent calls from the La Cañada Flintridge City Council and my office to slow this process, freeway proponents plan to charge ahead, potentially before even January. It is imperative that we continue to advocate for a valid cost-benefit analysis before hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are wasted on a tunnel project that will be a financial disaster and devastate Northeast Los Angeles, South Pasadena, Pasadena, La Crescenta, Glendale and La Cañada Flintridge.

Despite the momentum tunnel opponents are gaining, they face a tall task on Thursday.  In addition to the potential impact of Board Member Fatigue, there’s also the minor issue that the majority of the Board favor the project…or at least are pretending to because powerful unions are very upfront about the jobs a tunneling project would create.  Anyone that doubts the political power of unions has to look no further than last week’s press conference announcing the loan for the Crenshaw Line when two union bosses sat on stage and made speeches while Metro Board Members, City Comptroller Wendy Greuel, the Mayor of Inglewood and Denny Zane sat in the audience.

Najarian himself jokes of his proposal’s chances that in front of the Board, “They are going to want to kill it and kill me, probably, because it raises the question of the cost estimate,” but there is some hope for the “No 710 Freeway Tunnel” crowd on Thursday.  Metro Board Members always seem to have plenty of scheduling conflicts on the day of Board Meetings, and a vote late in the meeting could be missing so many board members that the motion could pass with only a handful of votes.