Like a volcano that erupts after years of sending up ominous puffs of steam, the opposition to an extension of the Long Beach (710) Freeway has spilled into the open in recent weeks with heat and force.

Significant moments included a public audit that showed just how terribly Caltrans has managed the homes it has owned for decades in the 710 right ofway, and the awakening of a slumbering Pasadena when planners for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority unveiled since-scuttled plans to put a highway along Avenue 64.   Another significant moment came Thursday, when Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) told MTA he believes it’s time to spike the study of the 4.5-mile tunnel connecting the 710 to Pasadena. Until now, the most vocal opponents of the project have included local officials in South Pasadena, La CaƱada Flintridge and Glendale who risked getting swamped by the Port of Los Angeles, trade unions, shipping and trucking concerns when push comes to shove.

Schiff’s forceful letter to the MTA suggested that the 710 battle may be joined on Capitol Hill.

After Schiff issued his letter, we asked his office if the congressman would seek to use federal control of transportation dollars to block the tunnel. Schiff’s spokesman, Patrick Boland, wrote that while the federal highway funding process “gives Caltrans great discretion over the use of its federal dollars, [the Department of Transportation] may be reluctant to see it proceed on such an expensive project without a consensus of those representing the region.”

Boland also underscored Schiff’s concern that the price tag for the tunnel will be enormous: “The tunnel option is no longer financially viable. Metro will have to consider opposition to the tunnel by any member of the California delegation such as Representative Schiff to pose a serious obstacle to pursuit of a tunnel. Since very substantial federal resources would be necessary, Metro would be wise to give fresh consideration to the alternatives.”