Just a Reminder, There’s a Reason They Haven’t Begun Digging the 710 Tunnel

Whether or not you’re planning to pay $9 to hear the Metro sponsored “public forum” on how important it is to improve the I-710 Freeway tonight, it’s important to remember one thing: there’s a reason that they haven’t purchased the shovels for the Big Dig. The proposed tunneling project is opposed by many Southern California communities and advocacy groups, both near and far.

There are currently two different projects on the books for the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles that could change the nature of surrounding communities and transportation plans in just a 20-mile corridor along the I-710. The first, down in Long Beach, would add four lanes of traffic to the existing ten lanes of the I-710 between Long Beach and East Los Angeles.

The other, the one that seems to be the focus of tonight’s event, would likely create a tunnel to connect the I-710 from its current terminus to the rest of the L.A. freeway network north of Pasadena.

Over a decade ago, Friends of the Earth, a nation-wide environmental group, declared that connecting the I-710 to Pasadena was “one of the dumbest highway projects in the country.” Adding a tunneling option to the study hasn’t done much to soften the blow. A video (above) and article produced by Sustainable Cities notes that if the highway is expanded, it would literally quadruple the amount of traffic in an already polluted corridor.

Of course, it’s possible that tonight’s discussion will take a different turn. The panel appears to be balanced with UCLA Professor Brian Taylor and Linda Adams representing progressive transportation thinkers, and Southern California Association of Governments CEO Hasan Ikharata and Chamber of Commerce President Gary Toebben likely pushing the need to “finish the gap.”

A lot will depend on how NBC’s Conan Nolan moderates the discussion. On his weekly talk show, a sort of Meet the Press for local politics, Nolan hasn’t demonstrated much knowledge or interest in transportation issues. But, he has shown a strong interest in the opinions of members of the Chamber of Commerce.

In other 710 related news, officials have pushed back the release date of the EIR which analyzes the five remaining alternatives for the unfunded mega-project. If the EIR had been released on time, its release and tonight’s discussion would have occurred very near each other, lending further credence that tonight’s event is more a 710 widening rally than a real discussion.

At least it’s not a block party.

A secondary point in the article is that Caltrans is backing away from a request to lengthen the public comment period for the project from the maximum (120 days) in favor of something close to the minimum (45 days). Their reasoning is that they want to be fair to the people who want the project built as fast as possible.

The debate over the routing of the I-710 has been going on for 65 years since 1959.

  • rickrise

    There’s also a PDF of the entire Sustainable City News article available here:

    http://www.sustainablecitynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/BeyondFreeways710_2.pdf

    Four parts covering the history of the 710, the horrible health impacts it has on nearby residents, progressive alternatives that Metro and CalTrans are studiously ignoring, and the money morass the whole expansion project is sinking into. A lot of eye-openign investigative reporting by Justin Gerdes and Leila Dee Dougan!

  • calwatch

    You only have to pay $9 if you drive and park in the lot. And the 710 North project is probably the most studied, most comprehensively outreached transportation project in the country today. If the no project alternative ends up getting recommended it is not for trying to put together a project.

  • Just call Steve Lopez and ask for a Disabled Parking permit. There are tons of spots on Grand at that time of night.

  • Niall Huffman

    As calwatch pointed out, the $9 is the fee to park a car at Disney Hall. Zocalo doesn’t charge admission for their events.

  • wqjackson

    I think adding add four lanes of traffic to the 710 and the funnel would be in the best interest greater Los Angeles area. It would reduce truck traffic on the 405 and the 5 FWY going through downtown LA to where the 210, 405, 5, and 14 freeways meet in the northern area of the SFV.

  • ubrayj02

    I read the feasibility report for the 710 widening and for those that haven’t, but support this project, you really should check it out and compare the baseline of port traffic and automobile traffic that makes the project “feasible”.

    Reality has dealt the heaviest blow to these projects. First, the port container traffic predicted (back in 2005) has never materialized and thus truck traffic has never materialized. We simply are not going to be moving as many TEU’s (twenty-foot equivalent units) as the crazy real estate boom days of yore.

    This one fact destroys the whole feasibility report, and also destroys the projects ridiculous claims to improve air quality – as these improvements were based on an insane increase in the number of trucks driving on the freeway. Trucks that will never materialize mean that their pollution won’t either.

    The second big problem with the 710 projects is that shipping through the Panama Canal is going to be radically cheaper and easier to do with larger ships by 2015. The Panama Canal is currently being upgraded to accept vastly larger ships that will simply skip LA and go straight to Miami, Texas, Louisiana, and lots of other places on the other side of the country. These ports have been working double time dredging their harbors in preparation for the post-Panamax size ships that will skip Los Angeles.

    Finally, supposing port traffic explodes overnight and supposing Panama Canals widening never comes online the dollars and cents on this project just don’t pencil out. Los Angeles County tax payers are covering these projects by selling sales-tax revenue based bonds. In other words, we’re borrowing money and promising to pay it back with sales tax dollars. Here is the kicker: the project’s own feasibility report states that any growth from these projects will likely occur in the Inland Empire – Riverside and San Bernardino County! This is “growth” mind you, not even sales tax! And we’re aren’t going to get either from these projects. In fact, we’re only going to get worse commute time car travel, more pollution (due to induced demand), and be saddled with debt that will shovel any growth outside the county’s boundaries! WTF are these people thinking?!

    Riverside County should pony up the money for these projects, at least! This isn’t about what is good for the County or even what is good for regional trade. This is about making all the consultants, contractors, and politicians who get elected with the latter two groups money keeping the gravy train going. Little South Pasadena has dumped so much money on lobbying and reports that it fired its sole bike project coordinator last year to focus more money on fighting the 710 – and that has objectively made life worse in the here and now.

    These projects need to be stopped. If it was a ballot initiative that got them in Measure R, we should do an initiative to get them removed.

  • J. SooHoo

    I won’t comment on the tunnel and whether or not it should be built, not because I don’t have an opinion — I do! However, the idea from the article mentioned in this piece that Caltrans is backing away from a request (actually multiple requests, including one from U.S. Congressman Adam Schiff) to extend the public comment period to 120 days in order to be fair to the people who want the project built as fast as possible is just ludicrous and laughable!

    Metro/Caltrans has committed to 90 days for public comment. This came with the press release announcing a delay of at least 10 months in the release of the DEIR/EIS from Spring 2014 to February 2015. 30 days is just 0.15% of the 20,075 days that constitute the past 55-year history (1959 – 2014) of the project and only 10% of the 300 days of Metro’s/Caltrans’ delay in the release of the DEIR/EIS. Does anyone in their right mind really think that granting the extra 30 days for review is unfair to tunnel proponents?

    With over $5 Billion at stake — let alone the predictable cost and schedule overruns that will occur should the project ever be built — it doesn’t seem unreasonable to grant an extra 30 days to allow a thorough as possible review of what is certain to be many thousands of pages.

    Just another excuse by these agencies to add to the long list of absurdities that have been a part of this campaign.

  • Kenny Easwaran

    The LRT option they’ve been including there is an oddly constrained one – it doesn’t seem to include any possible connection to various rights-of-way in the south that may naturally connect to this one.

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