From Sylvia Plummer, September 16, 2013
Article on 710 EIR/EIS that will appear in the South Pasadena Review on Wednesday.
The environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the “Gap Closure” project to connect the 710 South to the I-210 is moving forward like a giant bulldozer. The Metropolitan Transportation Agency (MTA) will let nothing stand in its way. MTA will finish the study recommending the construction of the 6.3 mile underground tunnel. The agency conducting the study says they are considering five different options to end congestion on our streets and freeways, but this is a sham. The EIR is being conducted by a firm hired by the MTA and it is funded by Measure R Funds (1/2cent sales tax in LA County for thirty years). The cost of the study is 37 million dollars. Though the MTA is funding the EIR Caltrans says they have the final say.
We all know that the LA County freeways are congested during rush hours. The data generated up to this time showing improvement in our freeways and local streets is somewhat sparse. Their studies say 61,000 vehicles will be taken off the I-5 through the downtown segment in the year 2035 if two tunnels are bored with four lanes in each direction and no tolls are charged. The benefits to the 10, 60, 210, 101, 405, or the 110 are much more modest (perhaps 15,000 vehicles for all the other freeways). The data showing reduction on our local streets (Fair Oaks, Fremont, & Garfield) is very suspect. They say that with a two tunnel connector and no tolls that 75, 000 cars will be taken off the local streets. They include such streets as Rosemead, San Gabriel Boulevard, los Robles, Eagle Rock Boulevard, and other unnamed streets. These streets are a long way from the proposed tunnel.
And by the way this tunnel is not to be a freeway, but a toll way. The public will have to cough up $5-$15 for each trip though the trucks passing through the tunnel of course will pay more. They have never provided a real cost estimate for the construction of the tunnel. One estimate is 3.6 Billion. This only covers the cost of the boring, not the other costs or the cost of operation. Other estimates have been as high as 14 billion! Whatever the cost is it will be borne by the public. They say that they will create a Public Private Partnership (PPP) that will build and pay for the tunnel. But remember that the PPP recoups its money from tolls. If the cost of trucking goods goes up with these tolls the public’s cost of buying goods in the store will go up.
No one is listening to the public or the scientists who tell us that the connection will bring air pollution and disease with it. Good studies show that there is an increased incidence of cancer related to the 710 South as well as asthma in children. There are several other diseases that have been said to be associated with poor air quality (heart disease, strokes, autism, etc.). The firm conducting the study tells us that the air will be “scrubbed.” Scrubbers can take out the visible particles we see from trucks, but it is the stuff you can’t see that is just as harmful. There is no scrubber built that takes out ultra-fine particulate matter, or ozone, or nitrous oxides, or unburned fuel.
It is not to be said that the construction of the tunnel can’t be stopped. It can be stopped by our elected officials or the courts. The recently election of Eric Garcetti as mayor of Los Angeles gives hope. When he was a LA City councilman he voted and sponsored a resolution against the 710 tunnel in Northwest LA. In his campaign he spoke out against the Tunnel. The MTA board is composed of 13 voting members. Garcetti controls four votes and longtime tunnel foe Ara Najarian is a fifth vote. It will take seven votes to stop the tunnel.
The courts have never looked with favor on the 710 North project. They twice have issued injunctions in 1973 and 1999, which remain in force, to stop the project. The EIR is filled with errors and faulty assumptions. Their reasoning and logic in conducting the study is outright wrong. It will take money to hire lawyers to stop the Tunnel in the courts. There is a coalition of cities opposing the tunnel. Among those are the Cities of South Pasadena, Pasadena, La Canada-Flintridge, and Glendale. There are many other cities/communities which have spoken out against the Tunnel (Los Angeles, Sierra Madre, Highland Park, Eaglerock, Silverlake, Glassel Park, La Crescenta, Altadena, West Pasadena, and El Sereno). There are even people in San Marino, Alhanbra, and Monterey Park who oppose the tunnel. There are prominent elected officials in Pasadena who have spoken out against the Tunnel (Mayor Bogaard, Pasadena City Councilman Steve Madison, and Councilwoman Margaret McAustin). Our Local State Senator Carol Liu and former State Assemblyman Anthony Portantino have opposed the tunnel. Congressman Adam Schiff opposes the tunnel.
At the South Pasadena City Council meeting of September 18 there will be a presentation on the direct impacts that the EIR has proposed with the five remaining alternatives.
The fight goes on.