Assemblyman Mike Eng, D-Alhambra, sent a letter to the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board Monday urging members to continue studying a tunnel option for the 710 Freeway Gap Closure Project.

After "a 40 year impasse" and a consideration of more than 40 different options for the 4.5 mile stretch between I-10 and I-210, Eng said the tunnel is finally a good alternative that should remain in play.

"Those that call for the rejection of the tunnel option when we are so close to the issuance of the final EIR want to unreasonably change the rules at the last minute because they fear the outcome," Eng said in the letter.

Metro's team is currently studying five options for the 710 Freeway extension: "no build," traffic management systems, bus, light rail and a twin-bore underground freeway tunnel. The Metro Board will have its monthly meeting on Thursday at 9 a.m., and freeway protesters say they plan to attend although the issue is not on the agenda.

Though those who oppose the freeway fear increased congestion and air pollution will result from the tunnel, Eng said he thinks connecting the freeway will actually reduce traffic on the freeways and on surface streets in Alhambra.

Also, the letter said, "closing the gap would help achieve greenhouse gas emission-reduction targets set by the California Air Resources Board by 16 percent by the year 2035."

But Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, who sent a letter urging Metro



to disband the freeway project earlier this year, said he doesn't buy that statistic. Metro, he said, needs to publicize any data it has supporting the tunnel now, he said, not later.
"The decision needs to be based on the facts at hand, not on political pressure, and the facts at hand are very simple: there has been no demonstrated benefit to air quality, or traffic that has been put forth by the proponents," Portantino said. "And the facts that are not being disclosed is also significant. The proponents will not tell you how much this project will cost and how many trucks and cars are going to use it."

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena, also sent a letter to the Metro Board last week urging the elimination of the tunnel option.

In the end, Eng said, the tunnel could have immense benefits for San Gabriel Valley communities and the greater region, and ending the study now would be unproductive and unfair.

"For them to call for an end to the tunnel before all the facts are in is inappropriate. It's kind of like saying you don't like the way the score is going so let's end the ball game in the third quarter. I think it's unfair," Eng said. Those of us who have gone through this ... have raised this expectation that we're going to actually have a study of the environmental alternatives."
lauren.gold@sgvn.com, 626-578-6300, ext. 4586