Holden calls for Caltrans to take 710 tunnel alternative off the table

In a May 11 letter to Duarte City Councilman John Fasana, chair of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board of directors, Assemblyman Chris Holden asked the group to remove plans for a 6.3-mile tunnel connecting the Long Beach (710) Freeway in Alhambra to the Foothill (210) Freeway in Pasadena from a list of traffic improvements for the region.

Meanwhile, in a recent update on the proposed tunnel, Caltrans called the tunnel — which could cost more than $5 billion — the best alternative, but admitted that it was too expensive to build.

“The alternative that best addresses the mobility benefits is the single bore freeway tunnel (SBFT), with tolls and truck restrictions,” states a memo found at the agency’s website. Metro and Caltrans are working in conjunction on a draft environmental impact report (DEIR) on ways to improve traffic conditions and relieve existing congestion.

In the state agency’s opinion, the tunnel alternative “reduces regional and local congestion associated with north-south travel demand within the study area and delivers the best transportation performance and benefits with the least environmental impacts. However, the alternative is not fundable in the foreseeable future.”

The Metro board is scheduled to discuss the alternatives at 9 a.m. Thursday, May 25 at its board of directors meeting at 1 Gateway Plaza in Los Angeles. A final decision will be made in 2018 after the environmental impact report is released.

Estimated to cost between $3.2 billion and $5.6 billion, the tunnel would begin from where the Long Beach Freeway ends at Valley Boulevard in Alhambra and continue 6.3 miles underneath the Los Angeles neighborhood of El Sereno, South Pasadena and Pasadena to connect at the nexus of the Ventura (134) Freeway and the Foothill Freeway.

“The tunnel will cause more problems than it solves,” Holden wrote. “First, the funding is not available. The cost of $5 billion or more is a price Los Angeles County residents cannot and should not have to pay, especially with the potential for the project to go over budget. Second, it fails to relieve traffic in the region since it only shifts traffic from one area to another.”

Last year, the proposed 710 tunnel project made the list of the Top 12 most wasteful highway expansion projects in the country, according to a report issued by the California Public Interest Research Group (CalPIRG) Education Fund.

As excerpted from Pasadena Weekly