Metro Ad Hoc Committee Shuns 710 Extension Tunnel, Recommends Board Fund Alternatives at May 25 Meeting

An ad hoc committee of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors on Wednesday voted to recommend the Metro fund an alternative to the 710 Freeway Tunnel when the full Board meets next week.

Metro Board of Directors Ad-Hoc Congestion, Highway and Roads Committee, chaired by Metro Board Chairman John Fasana and composed of five members, voted Wednesday, 3-2, to recommend the TSM/TDM alternative that’s designed to upgrade existing local street systems instead of recommending to proceed with the Tunnel concept.

Reacting, Assemblymember Chris Holden told Pasadena Now he is encouraged by Chairman Fasana’s Motion.

“The Motion is not only a big step towards killing the tunnel, but also opens the door for affected communities to implement their own locally preferred solutions to relieve traffic and reduce air pollution,” Holden said. “I urge the Metro Board of Directors to make it abundantly clear that the tunnel is a non-starter, and should be put to rest once and for all.”

Glendale Councilman Ara Najarian, who represents the North County/San Fernando Valley sector on the Metro board and is vice chair of the ad hoc committee, told the Los Angeles Times that he believes the Fasana motion is a clear statement of the intent of the Board not to fund any money for the tunnel.

“It’s the first time any motion passed that could potentially kill the tunnel if this recommendation is adopted by the full board,” Najarian told the Times. “The motion represents the capitulation the San Gabriel Valley representative, Fasana, to give up on this whole tunnel advocacy.”

The motion will now head to the May 25 Metro board meeting for consideration, as will the May 10 Metro report favoring the tunnel alternative. The motion requires votes by seven of the 13 board members to pass.

The May 10 report advocating a single-bore freeway tunnel is the latest update on a joint effort by Metro and Caltrans that began in 2011 to review the environmental impacts of a possible 4.5-mile 710 freeway tunnel that cost up to $5.6 billion to construct.

“Studies completed over the past few years clearly capture the mobility benefits included in the Single Bore Freeway Tunnel, with tolls and truck restrictions,” the MTA report said. “This alternative reduces regional and local congestion…and delivers the best transportation performance.”

Metro and Caltrans have examined various alternatives to improve transit with the fewest negative impacts in the area. The other four scenarios include the expansion of rapid transit systems and bus lines, and a series of systemic traffic improvements that has evolved into the TSM/TDM scenario.

According to a Metro fact sheet, the TSM/TDM alternative “is designed to maximize the efficiency of the existing transportation system by improving capacity on the local street system and reducing the effects of bottlenecks and chokepoints.”

“These relatively low-cost, low-impact strategies are geared toward enhancing all of the State Route 710 Build alternatives. TSM strategies include coordinated traffic signal timing to help relieve congestion, ramp metering to control the entry of vehicles onto a freeway, and minor street widening and intersection improvements to improve traffic circulation. TDM strategies promote carpooling, staggered work shifts and more transit use,” the fact sheet explained.

Aside from Pasadena and Glendale, the cities of La Cañada Flintridge, San Marino, Sierra Madre and South Pasadena also oppose the freeway tunnel, citing concerns over health, cost and sustainability. The cities have formed a joint coalition and have proposed “greener” alternatives such as rapid transit upgrades, improved bus services and free transit passes for area students.

Alhambra and Monterey Park have been the most outspoken supporters of the extension, along with a group known as the 710 Coalition, whose members said last week’s Metro status update “validates” the coalition’s position, according to the LA Times report.

As excerpted from Pasadena Now