Name the SR-710 Extension Moves to the Final Page, But How Much Will It Cost?

Final Round: Let's Rename the 710 Gap Project

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Last week’s poll asking you to vote on what name L.A. Streetsblog will use to describe the 710 Extension Project was easily Streetsblog’s most popular poll to date, with 252 total votes.  Two project names got sixty votes each to move on to this final poll.  One week from today, either Art Dean’s “Golden Freight Freeway” or Joanne Nuckols’ “SR-710, L.A.’s Big Dig” will become the official name that Streetsblog uses to describe the project from here on out.

The 710 Extension has been a hot topic this week.  Yesterday at the Metro Board Meeting, staff presented an estimate on how much the project would cost if the agency decides to move forward with a tunnel alternative.  The cost?  $2.81 billion.

That number is less than 20% of the cost of the infamous “Big Dig,” despite the Dig actually being a smaller project by length.  Not surprisingly, Glendale Mayor and Metro Board Member Ara Najarian took exception.  In a spirited back and forth with Board Chair Don Knabe, Najarian questioned the ethics of senior Metro Staff Art Leahy and Richard Moliere for signing the document.

The methodology for coming up with the $2.81 billion number was somewhat convoluted. 

The Consultant has been monitoring the procurement and bid award for the Alaskan Way Tunnel (AWT) in Seattle, a project that compares technically to the SR-710 North gap concept and elements of the Westside extension project. Washington State DOT awarded the contract for the project in January 201 1, providing us with a unique opportunity to undertake comparative costing of our estimates with current market data.

We have extrapolated the data from the Alaskan Way Tunnel project and conducted two independent estimates of cost for our tunnels, with particular emphasis at this point on the SR-710 North gap project, in response to the Director’s motion. Our preliminary findings, utilizing the actual bid cost for the A W deep bore tunnel, validates the updated cost estimates for the SR-710 North gap tunnel project that we have developed at this early stage.

At the L.A. Subway Blog, Juan Matute also goes through those numbers and comes up with his own estimate: between $6.52 billion and $7.22 billion.

Why such a large difference?  For starters, both Najarian and Matute noted that the Metro estimate assumes that the proposed tunnel would be the shortest of several proposed lengths, 21,000 feet.  Some of the tunnel designs are as large as 28,000 feet.

“We have to stop the community process right now,” Najarian thundered about the numbers being used at the 710 Conversations, “We’re deceiving people!”

Najarian’s stand earned more people than just praise from gadfly John Walsh that he was “acting like John Walsh,” the Board agreed for further study of a cost estimate that assumed a 28,000 foot long tunnel and a review of how much the “Big Dig” cost per square foot.

On the last request, Knabe let out an exasperated, “You could google that, but ok…”

A new cost estimate is expected at the May Metro Board Meeting.