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.

  • JRider

    Transit advocate here. These names are both no good because they imply the I-710 Gap Closure Project is a bad thing on the face of it. Disapprove.

  • Joe

    As somebody who doesn’t really follow east-coast auto transportation developments, I don’t think “big dig” has the negative connotation that you’re looking for.

  • I’m not looking for a positive name. I just refuse to call it a “Gap” project so I asked people to come up with their own names and we’d vote. I haven’t even voted…yet…

  • The Truth

    Make that estimate $22 Billion and I’ll believe you.

    Cost? under 3 bill…Really. Now that’s funny, especially since the Big Dig actually cost $22 BILLION. But hey the original estimate for the BIG DIG was also low balled at 2.8 bill too. Funny how both the Big Dig estimate and the 710 Tunnel estimate match. Must be the same crooks involved.

    “A July 17, 2008 article in The Boston Globe stated, “In all, the project will cost an additional $7 billion in interest, bringing the total to a STAGGERING $22 BILLION, according to a Globe review of hundreds of pages of state documents.

    “The Big Dig was the most expensive highway project in the U.S. Although the project was estimated in 1985 at $2.8 billion (in 1982 dollars, US$6.0 billion adjusted for inflation as of 2006), over $14.6 billion ($8.08 billion in 1982 dollars) had been spent in federal and state tax dollars as of 2006.] A July 17, 2008 article in The Boston Globe stated, “In all, the project will cost an additional $7 billion in interest, bringing the total to a staggering $22 billion, according to a Globe review of hundreds of pages of state documents. It will not be paid off until 2038.” At the beginning of the project, Congressman Barney Frank joked, “Wouldn’t it be cheaper to raise the city than depress the artery?” The project has incurred criminal arrests, escalating costs, death, leaks, and charges of poor execution and use of substandard materials. Former Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reillydemanded that contractors refund taxpayers $108 million for “shoddy work”. On January 23, 2008, it was reported that Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, the consortium that oversaw the project, would pay $407 million in restitution for its poor oversight of subcontractors (some of whom committed outright fraud), as well as primary responsibility in the death of a motorist. However, despite admitting to poor oversight and negligence as part of the settlement, the firm is not barred from bidding for future government contracts. Several smaller companies agreed to pay a combined sum of approximately $51 million.”

  • LB947

    Why not call a project that closes a gap a gap closure project?

    Make no mistake, the 710 Gap is a gap.

  • My favorite is still “Tunnel to the 20th Century”.

  • Spokker

    Never mind how much the Big Dig cost. The biggest problem with it is that it didn’t even work.

    “A Globe analysis of state highway data documents what many motorists have come to realize since the new Central Artery tunnels were completed: While the Big Dig achieved its goal of freeing up highway traffic downtown, the bottlenecks were only pushed outward, as more drivers jockey for the limited space on the major commuting routes.

    Ultimately, many motorists going to and from the suburbs at peak rush hours are spending more time stuck in traffic, not less. The phenomenon is a result of a surge in drivers crowding onto highways – an ironic byproduct of the Big Dig’s success in clearing away downtown traffic jams.”

  • Graceonice

    The Metro Board really outdid themselves at this meeting. Najarian’s (legitimate) claim that the staff report with the cost estimate was a gross underestimate and misleading to the public was echoed by those in the audience who spoke. The report only included what are called “Civil” costs (the excavation and concrete tube) without the cost for mechanical, electrical, plumbing, monitoring and controls. The report estimates only $5 million for environmental mitigation, when such items for noise, air quality, archeological, historic and others would typically run over $100 million. No estimates for cross- and emergency passages were included.

    Najarian demonstrated (again) that he is the only Board member who feels a responsibility to the taxpayers when he stated that his fear is that this report as presented would legitimize the $3 billion figure as an answer to the public’s questions about the cost of the tunnel, when this estimate is not accurate. No one else on the Board seemed concerned in the least.

    Another classic moment came when Najarian pointed out that the report used a tunnel length of 21,000 feet (surprisingly, or not, the length of the so-called Meridian route or zone 3) for the estimate, ignoring the fact that the Board itself had voted to move the south portal 7,000 feet further south to avoid El Sereno. He asked that the length be increased to 28,000 feet for the new estimates. The most humorous part of this discussion came when Gloria Molina kept harping on the fact that the Board really doesn’t know yet which of the five routes examined in the geotechnical feasibility study would be used, so length wasn’t really an issue. This in spite of the fact that during a discussion at December’s Board meeting, when another Board member was confused about a route, Molina herself jumped in to state “Oh, I’ll show you where it will go — right here.” as she pointed out the Meridian route. Keep in mind that the mantra of MTA all along is that their studies are “route neutral” — that is, they don’t favor any one of the five potential routes. Right!

    The Board is not to be trusted. They plan to use funds from private investors to build the tunnel under a public-private partnership, but in the meantime, they are burning through millions and millions of taxpayer dollars doing these flawed studies.

  • CV Gal

    I am amazed that there are still a handful of people who support this project even though there are countless examples of why it is such a bad idea. If the sheer waste of money doesn’t scare you then the obvious hazards of being in a tunnel during an earthquake, fire, or terror attack should. Every report, study, and analysis of this extension shows an increase in traffic and noise, and a degradation of air quality and quality of life. Do not believe the folks that say this tunnel will make your life better. They lie. They have something to gain financially.

    But the real issue at hand is the process by which this project is being pushed through. On Monday morning, the SR-710 “Gap Closure”, and call it what you wish, will officially begin the Scoping process, the first step of Environmental Impact. And to date, this project HAS NOT been defined, it has NO purpose and need outlined. It DOES NOT have a cost estimate that is even close to being accurate. And NO alternatives have even been considered to solve our traffic congestion. No rail extensions, no Mult-mode considerations, no environmentally responsible options. Nada. Does that seem strange to you?? It does to me and that is why I continue to ask the Metro Board to do these things before continuing. The people of Los Angeles deserve an honest process.

  • reality check

    Metro Board Chairman Don Knabe’s 710 B-B-Q Pit:
    What the freeway means for us:

  • JRider

    @CV Gal:

    *face palm* Much of what you said was factually incorrect.

    If you want to oppose the 710 tunnel, do it for the right reasons…

  • Graceonice


    Be specific. What statements were “factually incorrect”? Inquiring minds want to know.

  • reality check

    710 freeway tunnel – How able-bodied people escape tunnels.

    The rest of us not physically capable… SORRY:

    Visualizing an accident in the tunnel and showing how evacuees can escape the tunnel.

    Can you run faster than the toxic gases from a fire??!

    No worries – tunnel is supposed to stay intact during earthquake, even if all the bouncing “soft tissue” formerly contained in the crashing cars and trucks is considered a “loss”.

  • Elaine

    When you say “Big Dig” – could you please clarify which part (or all) of the Big Dig that you are referring to? I understand that it included bridges, tunnels, surface streets… and that the scope of the project changed over the years as it neared completion. Thanks!

  • Joanne Nuckols

    Elaine, the main reference to the Big Dig in Boston was the cost which originally was estimated to be $2-3 Billion and ended up being $22 Billion and took about 20 yrs to complete. Much the same with the 710 Tunnels. Original estimate by CEO Snoble $1 Billion to SCAG estimate of $11.8 Billion. (This blog has a cost chart showing all the various estimates since 1992.)

    The original concept for Boston’s Dig was to reunite the neighborhoods/city divided by the elevated fwy, which is a good idea, some shoddy construction aside. In the case of the 710 Tunnels, it would be creating a new freeway via a tollway and dividing neighborhoods at the portals and mid-point ventilation shaft. There has never been a documented factual “purpose and need” shown for this freeway/tollway which will only bring more traffic to the area.

  • Brad

    Uh, looks like someone stuffed the ballot box on this vote. The names that were competing both got 60 votes in the first round and were about tied from last week until yesterday and now BIG DIG suddenly has almost 600 votes. That is more than double of all of the votes for all choices in the first round.
    And guess what, you can vote multiple times simply by refreshing the web page and voting over and over. Thats how it was done. This vote is worthless. Mr. Newton, either use both of the top two or choose your favorite from the first round.

  • Fortunately, I can see what URL’s votes come from. The totals have been adjusted.

  • @Brad

    “This vote is worthless”

    We knew that from the beginning but it is fun to play along. Besides this poll is akin to a poll between Justin Beiber and Lady Gaga, in the end who ever wins, you end up as a loser.

  • True, these are hardly scientific polls, but I have to think they’re a little better than Mega Shark v Crockosaurus (tagline: no matter who wins we lose.)

  • Cynthia

    Wow, it happened again! After you adjusted the vote totals and they were neck and neck all day, LA’s Big Dig gained about 50 votes in a matter of only 10 minutes around 5:30 PM. Someone hammering away at CTRl+r must really, really, really want to win!


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