To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Forum on Alternatives to the 710 Tunnel

Pasadena City Councilmember Steve Madison invites you to a Forum on Alternatives to the 710 Tunnel.  Everyone is invited, you do not have to live in Pasadena.

When:  Thursday, September 15, 2016
Time:    6:30 - 8:00 pm  (doors open at 6pm)
Where:  Pasadena Convention Center Ballroom
              300 E. Green, Pasadena

Message from Steve Madison: 

We hope that you will attend this important forum on alternatives to the 710 tunnel.  The forum will address the preferred Pasadena plans and demonstrate how they fit into regional transportation plans.  We think this is an important beginning for providing information to the public about a better way to move people and fix traffic.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

f Metro Can’t Manage Rail Expansion, Why Should We Trust Them to Manage Another Tax Increase?


By Beth Cone Kramer, August 8, 2016


THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-Just when you thought the November ballot was splitting at the seams with volumes of initiatives and measures, the Board of Supervisors has stuffed in another, agreeing unanimously last week to add the MTA’s proposal, asking county voters to approve a half-cent sales tax increase that would continue indefinitely to bankroll a major expansion of SoCal’s transit network.

Back in June, MTA directors greenlighted the “Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan,” which would add at least $860 million a year to expand the county’s rail network through the San Fernando Valley, San Gabriel Valley, and the Sepulveda Pass. The funding isn’t limited to rail; the proceeds from the tax would fully or partially fund ten new highway projects, which would include a State Route 71 expansion and a new carpool-lane interchange between the 405 and 110.

What does this mean to your wallet? The county’s base sales rate would be pushed to 9.5 percent and 10 percent in cities like Santa Monica and Commerce. Ouch. And if that isn’t enough to break a sweat, the half-cent tax would double to one-cent in 2039 to replace revenue lost when Measure R expires. That one-cent increase would also continue indefinitely.

We all know that the traffic jams, Sig Alerts, and smog in these parts are among the worst in the country, especially on that parking lot otherwise known as the 101/405 interchange. Though the measure seems to have support from labor groups and municipalities, Supervisor Don Knabe expressed concern about what is now the third tax to fund Metro that does not have an expiration date.

If the measure is approved, Metro will get two cents on every dollar spent in LA County, a mighty steep allowance. However, the measure faces some uphill battles, including a ballot already jammed with a tax initiative and a two-thirds pass threshold. Other taxes on the ballot for county voters include a parcel tax for parks and a community college bond measure; LA City voters will be voting on a $1.2 billion bond measure to fund housing for the homeless.

Giving any entity unlimited access to our credit and debit cards for eternity is always a dicey move but add in the fact that the MTA doesn’t appear to be doing a bang-up job with what’s already in the coffers just further raises our eyebrows.

Getting Angelenos to ditch the Prius for a ride on the Metro is a challenge. Two months after the Westside light rail extension, riders have been waiting for hours for a train because the MTA doesn’t have enough rail cars to accommodate the Expo Line’s ridership, due to a year-long delay in acquiring additional cars. As it stands, rail cars don’t have adequate space for bikes, wheelchairs, sometimes even passengers during peak hours. Waiting twelve-minutes for the next train doesn’t make riding the Metro more of a draw to commuters who are on a schedule.

Westsiders have been turning to the Metro during the week; trips have increased by half since the trains began running in Santa Monica but logistical issues have not allowed the Metro to keep up with demand for cars.

Back in 2008, LA County voters approved a half-cent sales tax increase to fund almost thirty miles of light rail tracks and rail cars; the first fifty from Italian company Ansaldo/Breda came in years behind schedule and overweight by almost three tons. The MTA deal with the company collapsed and the transit authority was left scrambling for a replacement, this time giving a $900 million contract to Japanese-based Kinkisharyo International back in 2012 for 235 new cars. Kinkisharyo delivered the first silver and yellow cars expediently but tests are taking longer than planned. Of the 41 cars delivered, 13 still need to be tested. While the goal is to run trains every six minutes by year’s end and three-car trains by 2017-2018, platform length limits trains greater than three cars, which means not everyone will get a seat.

The challenge of continuing to encourage commuters to trade in their gas cards for a Metro Card and to attract new riders needs to be balanced with the blank check sales tax proposal put up by the MTA. If the MTA is not up to the challenge as of yet, handing over the checkbook does not seem like a prudent plan.

Metro in trouble.  Lousy planning. New Westside extension short on train cars. Riders left standing at stations for hours because trains are jammed.

Our question is, if they can't -- with years to do it -- manage to prepare for the extension, then why should we trust them to handle the new sales tax they're asking for?

Obviously, they're not ready for growth. So why would people give up their cars to stand in line for hours waiting for a train?

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Here’s which cities are for, against a half-cent LA county transportation tax


By Steve Scauzillo, August 2, 2016

 Students walk home after school near heavy traffic along Florence Avenue bridge over the I-5 Freeway in Santa Fe Springs on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013. Florence Avenue is expected to be reduced from four to two lanes as part of the I-5 widening construction project. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda/San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

 Students walk home after school near heavy traffic along Florence Avenue bridge over the I-5 Freeway in Santa Fe Springs on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013. Florence Avenue is expected to be reduced from four to two lanes as part of the I-5 widening construction project.

Lurking beneath a unanimous vote Tuesday by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors placing a half-cent sales tax measure on the November ballot to fund $132 billion in transportation improvements was some hefty opposition from cities in the southeast and South Bay.

While others praised Measure R-2’s list of rail, highway and bikeway projects as equitable, the South Bay Cities Council of Governments and the Gateway Cities Council of Governments disagree, saying the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) kicked their freeway and railway projects to the back of the line in favor of added projects for the west side of Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley.

Last month, the Gateway Cities voted 21-1 to oppose the measure, with Long Beach abstaining. The South Bay cities voted 9-0 in opposition, including Carson, El Segundo, Gardena, Hermosa Beach, Lawndale, Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills and Torrance, records show. Inglewood, Lomita, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach and Rolling Hills Estates abstained.

The two organizations, representing 43 out of the 88 cities in the county, may stir up enough opposing votes that could place Metro’s ballot measure — one it has asked the county to name Measure M — in jeopardy of gaining the necessary two-thirds vote on Nov. 8.

Ballot watchers and Metro insiders say obscure regional city groups angry over missing out on local transit dollars may not sway traffic-weary motorists from voting for congestion relief. On the other hand, elected officials from tight-knit communities such as Bell, Cudahy or Huntington Park could influence voters through word of mouth and informational fliers mailed to thousands of homes from City Hall, said Karen Heit, transportation consultant for the Gateway Cities.

“In these small communities, where their councilman also coaches football or soccer teams, it could be a very real factor in the way people vote,” she said.

Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics at USC, said people vote for tax measures when they believe the dollars will come home. Already, Metro is benefiting from Proposition A, approved by voters in 1980; Proposition C, approved by voters in 1990; and Measure R, approved by voters in 2008. Metro opened two light-rail line extensions this spring using sales tax dollars. The new measure would bring the total sales tax for transportation to 2 percent. It does not have a sunset date.

 “No community organization has absolute influence on these types of votes,” said Schnur, who added: “It is not determinative but it doesn’t help.”

A Metro survey conducted in May found 72 percent in favor of a permanent, half-cent transportation measure, said Pauletta Tonilas, Metro spokeswoman. Of those, 70 percent in favor lived in the South Bay and 71 percent in favor lived in southeast Los Angeles County.

Still, if Metro loses votes from these and other Gateway Cities such as Artesia, Bell, Bellflower, Cerritos, Commerce, Compton, Downey, Hawaiian Gardens, La Mirada, Lakewood, Lynwood, Maywood, Norwalk, Paramount, Pico Rivera, Santa Fe Springs, Signal Hill, South Gate and Whittier, it could doom the measure.

Because voters in many of these cities are mostly Democrats and are more likely to approve a local tax, losing them means Metro has to work harder in more conservative parts of the county to increase voter support, Schnur said.

“If community leaders in one part of the county come out against the measure, then you need to increase support to an even greater degree in areas that support it ... or in communities that are more likely to benefit,” Schnur said.

Unlike presidential politics, strategies don’t focus on race or ethnic groups but rather on location, he said. “On a transportation measure in particular, geographic considerations have a huge impact,” he said, calling transportation taxes a zero-sum game. “You either get the light-rail route or you don’t.”

The measure’s project list includes 19 of the 44 projects that are new, added since 2008’s Measure R. Eleven are scheduled for groundbreaking in the first 15 years. The Gateway Cities argue that two of their projects, the widening of the 5 Freeway from the 605 to the 710, and the proposed Eco-Rapid rail line from downtown L.A. to Artesia, were pushed aside to make room for new ones.

“We do have a problem with all these other projects marching up front,” Heit said.

The 5 Freeway project would not break ground for another 20 years (2036), well after the southern half of the 5 project is finished. But a tunnel through the Sepulveda Pass would begin in 2024, part of a $9 billion project to connect the west side of L.A. with the San Fernando Valley, most likely by rail. In addition, the last segment of the Purple Line subway under Wilshire Boulevard finishing in Westwood would break ground in 2018, while the Eco-Rapid line would not be completed until 2041.

“If you read the ballot measure, the first thing it says is that it will fix the freeways. What they don’t tell you is not for 20 years,” Heit said.

It appears the middle, north and east end of the county may favor the measure, while the southern and southeastern areas may not, creating a north versus south scenario.

The San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments voted in support of the measure last week. “From our perspective, we kind of got what we wanted from the tax measure,” said Mark Christoffels, a consultant to the SGVCOG and chief executive officer of the Alameda Corridor-East Construction Authority.

The east San Gabriel Valley’s next foothill extension of the Gold Line from Azusa to Claremont is scheduled to begin construction in 2019 and will receive more than $1 billion from the measure, about 99 percent of the cost.

The San Fernando Valley Council of Governments has not yet take a position but may vote in support in September. Seven Los Angeles City Council members from the San Fernando Valley, led by Bob Blumenfield, wrote a letter of support to Metro in June. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, a Metro board member, has ardently supported the measure.

The East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor Project and the extension of the Orange Line busway to the Gold Line would both begin within the first few years. A light-rail station at 96th Street that would allow a people-mover to take passengers directly into LAX would start construction in 2018.

South Bay Supervisor Don Knabe said Tuesday he believes Measure M is geographically unbalanced. Yet, conservative Supervisor Mike Antonovich praised the tax measure, saying Metro got it right by asking each COG for a list of projects.

“The proposal before us today includes input from the bottom up for a regional transportation system,” he said before the historic vote.

Supervisor Hilda Solis, whose district includes the San Gabriel Valley as well as many southeast cities, said she believed the measure includes an inclusive list of projects. “It didn’t necessarily mean a dollar would be attached to every item (cities asked for). That is impossible,” she said.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Metro faces high hurdle in persuading voters to back transit sales tax measure


By Meghan McCarty, August 1, 2017

 127934 full

When Los Angeles County voters see a measure on their November ballot asking them to approve higher sales taxes for transportation projects, they may well ask: what's in it for me?

The answer depends on where the voter lives — and that, in a nutshell, is the challenge facing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority as it seeks to convince two-thirds of the electorate to approve the measure. It's a tall order in the biggest county in the nation.

If the measure is adopted, county residents would pay a new half-cent sales tax and continue to pay an existing half-cent tax originally set to expire in 40 years.

The proposed sales tax increase would raise over $120 billion and fund train lines, buses and and highways as part of a broad vision to reduce the region's dependence on cars and connect a divided, far-flung county lacking a comprehensive network of transportation systems.

With about 10 million residents living in 88 cities and unincorporated areas, L.A. County is double the size of the next most populous county, Cook County, Illinois. A wide variety of communities characterize L.A. County, from dense urban areas to suburban housing divisions, beachside enclaves and rural ranch lands.

"It’s just a colossal thing," said Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles.


A map from L.A. County's Metro shows existing transportation projects and those that would be built with funds from a sales tax increase that will be voted on this November. Slide the white bar to see the changes.

Forging any kind of political consensus in a county as sprawling as L.A., stretching from the northwest San Fernando Valley to the Port of Long Beach, is difficult, he said. To do it, Metro will need to perform an extraordinary balancing act by offering a broad range of projects that provides something for everyone, Sonenshein said.

It’s a bit like trying to cater to a giant, unruly family: keeping track of so many competing relatives at once can sometimes leave someone behind.

A broad coalition did come together in 2008 to pass Measure R, which funded the recently opened Gold and Expo Line sections.

But an extension of that tax, known as Measure J, failed in 2012 by a thin margin – falling short mostly in communities on the edges of the county where investment in transit has been minimal.

"The Valley dramatically got short-changed," said state Sen. Robert Hertzberg (D-18th District), who serves the San Fernando Valley and pushed Metro hard to make his area a higher priority with this year’s ballot measure.

When an early draft of the proposal didn't include funding for his favored projects, Hertzberg held press conferences, took out full page ads in newspapers and sent out emails campaigning against it.
"I went to war. It wasn’t gonna happen, I was not gonna support this," he said.

The effort paid off. In June, when Metro released its final project list, it included plenty for the Valley: new bus service to California State University, Northridge; streamlined improvements to the Orange Line rapid bus; a new transit line along Van Nuys Boulevard; and a subway under the Sepulveda Pass.

Hertzberg and a coalition of San Fernando Valley politicians and business groups recently announced their full support for the latest measure.

But inevitably, when one community gets attention, another ends up feeling abandoned.

For years, the Harbor Gateway Cities in the southeastern part of the county have pushed for a light rail connection between downtown L.A. and Artesia, traveling through densely populated, working-class Latino neighborhoods that rely heavily on public transit.

Metro has included funding for the rail line in the ballot measure, but the line would not be completed for at least 25 years.

"It’s a slap in the face for the Gateway Cities," said Huntington Park City Councilwoman Karina Macias.
Huntington Park City Councilwoman Karina Macias points out the future site of a light rail station. Under Metro's ballot measure proposal, it would not be completed for at least 25 years.
Huntington Park City Councilwoman Karina Macias points out the future site of a light rail station. Under Metro's ballot measure proposal, it would not be completed for at least 25 years.

"I don’t know if I will be alive or any of the majority of my residents are gonna be able to see that happen," she said of the rail line. "There’s no incentive for us to go out there and really tell our community, 'You know, vote for this and you’ll get something in return,' when in reality they’re not."

Leaders throughout the Gateway Cities and the South Bay have publicly declared they will not support the measure if Metro does not move up the timetable for projects in their areas.

Metro CEO Phil Washington said the agency made every effort to equally distribute projects through the county.

"There is something in this plan for everyone," he said. "It's not perfect, and everybody's not getting their project in the first five years, simply because we're not collecting all the sales tax in the first five years."

Washington points out officials spent years collaborating with local representatives to narrow down the projects, and ranked them based on factors like cost and impact on congestion. Each subregion was given a project or program within the first 15 years of the plan, he said.

Metro hopes it can speed up many of the projects farther out on the timeline with additional funds from the federal government or private partnerships. But there’s no guarantee of that, especially with federal transportation funding on the wane.

Cal State L.A.'s Sonenshein said the solution to the county’s fractured politics and division over transportation spending could lie in the question before voters.

"I really do think that in the long run, if we did have mass transportation, that people in distant areas would feel more connected," he said.

However, to reach that point, projects funded by the measure would need to be built and, to be built, voters would have to approve the additional taxes. Whether they do or not will remain an open question until the November election.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Bertha’s woes grind on: cost rises, tunnel delayed until 2019

 Bertha’s problems will cost Washington state an estimated $223 million in cost overruns, and further delay the Highway 99 opening — until early 2019.


By Mike Lindblom, updated July 21, 2016

 The southbound deck of the Highway 99 will be built, here, between two massive walls. This is the view looking north.  (Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times)

 The southbound deck of the Highway 99 will be built, here, between two massive walls. This is the view looking north.

 OLYMPIA — Tunnel-machine Bertha’s two-year breakdown will further delay the Highway 99 tunnel’s grand opening until 2019 and saddle Washington state with an estimated $223 million in cost overruns, lawmakers were told Thursday.

The overruns are driven largely by the need for the state to keep its staff and engineering consultants on the project longer than expected, as well as by rising land, labor and materials costs for final road connections after the tunnel is finished.

Taxpayer costs could go higher still. The state’s figure assumes the prime contractor, Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP), fails to win court battles against the state. STP’s claims exceed $200 million.

For now, Roger Millar, acting transportation secretary, told the Legislature’s Joint Transportation Committee he will ask for $60 million in the next two-year transportation budget, to keep enough cash flowing.

A 2019 opening would mark a full decade since former Gov. Chris Gregoire chose the deep-bore tunnel option and lawmakers approved the tunnel bill sponsored by then-Sen. Ed Murray, now Seattle mayor. Gregoire dismissed critics such as then-Mayor Mike McGinn, who warned that a clause in the bill put Seattle taxpayers at particular risk for paying for overruns.

Nothing about that was mentioned Thursday.

The extra costs almost certainly would be paid by the state’s drivers in gas taxes, more transportation-fund debt, or by tolls and fees.

In separate discussion this week, the state toll division said it would study a peak toll of up to $2.50 each direction — higher than a past committee’s suggestion of $1.25 each way.
Millar said he doesn’t know yet where $223 million would come from, adding that state leaders have time to prepare and don’t need to make decisions in a panic.

That amounts to a 7.1 percent overrun in the state’s total budget to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
State losses aren’t a completely new revelation. Last fall, WSDOT disclosed that it expected to lose $78 million to delays, according to a letter in an insurance lawsuit. If the state were to recover insurance money, that could reduce Millar’s new, higher $223 million estimate.

The 1.7-mile, four-lane tunnel was originally supposed to open to drivers by the end of 2015, to replace the old and seismically vulnerable viaduct.

The $3.137billion cost included the tunnel, connecting ramps, a port-truck overpass, rebuilt Alaskan Way surface street, and viaduct demolition. On Thursday, Millar issued a higher figure: $3.374 billion. (This includes a new $14 million expected from Seattle, to compensate for utility replacements.)

State and contractor officials had refused to discuss cost and schedule figures for several weeks — saving the bombshell news for the Washington State Department of Transportation’s bosses in the Legislature.

Millar said the numbers were prepared for an annual report due this month to the Federal Highway Administration, which supplied one-fourth of viaduct replacement money.

Lawmakers mostly seemed to take the news in stride.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Curtis King thanked Millar, who became WSDOT chief only last year, for being forthright and giving lawmakers ample time to act.

King, R-Yakima, compared the pending 7 percent overrun with a study showing that megaprojects exceed their budgets by an average 28 percent. “It could have been a lot worse,” he said.

“I appreciate the fact that we are talking about $200 million, and not the ‘$2 billion’ I hear on the airwaves regularly,” added House Transportation Committee Chairwoman Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island. “It is not a shock that if we have a three-year delay we have some costs, and putting it out there, for the public to know that we are being very transparent about it, is great.”

Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, said the increase is still very hard for taxpayers to accept, because they were told in 2009 there wouldn’t be overruns. “How are you ever going to earn the trust of the taxpayers …?”

Orcutt later said he blames the contractors — not WSDOT — for either ordering a flawed machine, or operating it incorrectly.

As for the tunnel-boring cost, the state last year passed $1 billion in total payments toward the $1.35 billion STP contract. Chris Dixon, project manager for STP, last week would say only that “cash flow’s definitely a concern, but it’s not going to stop us from finishing.”

He spoke Thursday at the Olympia hearing about Bertha’s performance, and quickly left the Capitol campus, saying he needed to catch a plane.

Delay grows longer

Bertha has finally been digging consistently this summer, at a pace of close to 40 feet a day since April 29. It restarted Monday after a three-week maintenance stop to inspect and replace some cutting teeth.

Dixon said Thursday it would emerge at South Lake Union next summer — slipping further beyond the hope for December that his boss, Tutor-Perini Corp. CEO Ron Tutor, expressed to shareholders this spring.

The overall three-year delay includes more than two years to reach and repair the buried machine near Pioneer Square. In addition, contractors added what state officials called a more conservative pace for the remaining two-thirds of the dig from Sodo to South Lake Union, including two more maintenance stops.

Linea Laird, chief engineer for WSDOT, said the state and contractors are cooperating, and believe it’s smarter to keep working steadily on the project, rather than have a funding impasse that drives up costs in the long run for everybody.

In its claims, STP blamed a steel pipe, left over from state groundwater testing, for the damage to Bertha, which led to grit penetrating into the rotary bearing assembly. The state replies it’s far-fetched to argue an 8-inch-diameter pipe could ruin a massive machine.

STP and Hitachi Zosen, which built the giant drill in Japan, fronted the money to accomplish an unprecedented repair job and strengthening last year.

King said the 57-foot-wide tunnel could someday qualify as “the eighth wonder of the world.”
Its final costs remain an open question

Saturday, July 16, 2016

‘Beyond the 710’ has best plan to end Pasadena’s freeway stalemate: Terry Tornek


By Terry Tornek, July 15, 2016

 A 710 Freeway stub in Pasadena. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz/Staff Photographer)

 A 710 Freeway stub in Pasadena.

Last month marked the first anniversary of the public release of Beyond the 710, a proposal to resolve the nearly 50-year stalemate over the north end of the 710 freeway. The proposal (www.beyondthe710.org) could solve the problems of the current 710 configuration, improve connectivity for all the affected communities and provide exciting opportunities to better use newly freed-up land.

While there are still obstacles to implementing a vision for the 710 that works for everyone, we can celebrate that the Metro board of directors has taken a major step forward by voting to place the proposed sales tax ballot measure on the November ballot with a provision that makes clear the funds generated by the new measure will not fund a tunnel that would plow through and decimate our communities.

As leaders of the cities that are most opposed to the tunnel proposal, I and the undersigned now encourage the board to separately instruct its staff and Caltrans to add the Beyond the 710 proposal to the current 710 north study. We see this as a path forward to ending the stalemate between those bearing the brunt of the 710 Freeway bottleneck traffic and those who fear the tunnel as an existential threat to their communities.

And this fear is justified. The tunnel presents significant health, financial, engineering, seismic, water, public safety, traffic and legal problems. Studies have shown that the tunnel would create cancer hotspots at the exhaust vents. Just as important, the massive, multi-year project would have little positive effect on traffic and commute times and in fact create new severe traffic congestion and thus air quality impacts in other areas.

Further, while the cost of the 4.5-mile tunnel is estimated between $5 billion and 10 billion, we all know that if it was ever built, the costs would most likely be much higher.

At the same time, our leaders recognize that the existing freeway “stubs” present real problems for the surrounding communities. At the north end, the stub is a huge gash in the fabric of Pasadena. On the south end, the 710 freeway funnels and dumps its traffic onto Valley Boulevard and does not provide good connectivity to the surrounding communities.

But the Beyond the 710 proposal converts these problems into real opportunities. It proposes to remove these freeway stubs, replace them with four-lane great streets, and use the freed-up land to build new parks and greenspace, transit, bikeways, residential and commercial development, and affordable housing, and provide extra room for local institutions such as Cal State Los Angeles.

On the north end, this approach would reconnect and heal Pasadena. But it’s the south stub transformation that would really be magical. Replacing the stub with a grand boulevard would better disperse local traffic, making it easier to get where people want to go and relieving congestion that currently burdens Alhambra and other nearby communities. The price tag is 10 percent of the cost of a tunnel.

And that’s why our cities, along with organizations such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, believe that Beyond the 710 is indeed a path to moving beyond the stale debate over the tunnel.

The Metro board needs to step up and direct planners to formally study the proposal. It would serve as a clear signal to voters that Metro is taking a truly balanced approach to the issue, and would encourage them to support of the ballot measure in November.

Voters must be assured that Metro works for them. By demonstrating the vision necessary to resolve this issue, we’re confident that we can move forward and ease congestion throughout the county while preserving the quality of life our residents treasure.

Terry Tornek is mayor of Pasadena. This column was also signed by mayors Paula Devine of Glendale, Jonathan Curtis La Canada Flintridge and Diana Mahmud of South Pasadena; Sierra Madre Councilman John Capoccia; Glendale Councilman and Metro board member Ara Najarian; and South Pasadena Councilwoman Marina Khubesrian.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Good News for No 710 Tunnel Advocates at Key Meeting

No Funding to Pay for Tunnel


By Dr. Bill Sherman, July 14, 2016

 The Metro Board meeting of June 23 was very interesting and important for the No 710 Tunnel advocates.

The Board was to consider the wording and provisions of the Proposed Transportation Ballot Measure for the November 6, 2016 election.  This has been called Measure R-2, but will probably be renamed measure M.  This measure will raise the Sales Tax in Los Angeles County by ½ percent to 9 ½ % with no ending date.  The Measure must be passed by 2/3 of the voters in Los Angeles County.

The Anti Tunnel People had threatened to oppose the Measure if the Tunnel was in the provision or the language could be manipulated to pay for a tunnel.  The Board heard us and included the clause: “No Net Revenues generated from the Sales Tax shall be expended on the State Route 710 Gap Closure Project”. This is almost an iron clad promise to not fund the Tunnel with Measure M monies.

The wording in the proposed ballot measure is the third recent decision from governmental bodies that seemingly are anti-Tunnel.  The San Gabriel Council of Governments (COG) in March had the opportunity to send to the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) a list of projects they wished to include in the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP).  This is a plan that sets out potential projects for the next 20 years.  The COG which is composed of 31 cities in the San Gabriel Valley decided to not place the tunnel on their list of possible projects.   The SCAG in April, when the RTP was finalized, did not name the tunnel as a project in their plan.

These three boards all seem to be backing off on their support for the Tunnel.  They are saying that there are more important transportation needs in Southern California than the Tunnel.
Pro Tunnel factions in the past have said that Measure R passed in 2008 mandated the construction of the Tunnel.  This is not true, but the pro-tunnel people claim it.  If Measure M is passed anti Tunnel groups can then say that the Tunnel has been rejected by the residents of Los Angeles County.

The evaluation of the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) is stalled in Metro’s hands.  After it was released in July of 2015 there were 2500 comments sent in covering 8000 separate topics.  Metro has said that they will not finish reviewing or responding on these comments until the fall of 2017. After the review is completed a “preferred alternative” will be selected and sent to the Metro Board for an up or down vote.  The DEIR has cost 70 Million dollars to date and the cost continues to rise.  The original budget was 40 million.

It is not to say though that the DEIR was worthless. The study told us to expect 180,000 vehicles a day entering and exiting the portals from the two tunnel variation.   The DEIR was called inadequate by the United States Environmental Protection Agency because it did not give data on air quality at the portals. The Health Risks were not assessed either. The traffic on the 210 and the 134 will be made worse.  There will be little improvement in Alhambra and South Pasadena in traffic congestion. 
The Study does not address serious concerns about tunneling across major earthquake faults and creating a break in the water tables between the San Gabriel Valley and Los Angeles. There will be a toll to use the tunnel, at least $5/trip or more for passenger vehicles. The cost was placed at 5.6 Billion, but this is much too low.  There has been some opinions from responsible parties that the money for construction will never be found.    There have been community proposals for utilization of the areas at the existing North and South stubs of the 710.  These are promising.

It is the anti- tunnel people’s hope that the tunnel will be killed by the Metro Board or other responsible parties before the preferred alternative is selected.  At the end of the day the decision to kill the tunnel will be a political one.  Let us hope our elected officials will have the courage to end this boondoggle once and for all.