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.