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SR-710 North Extension - A History
Posted by CV Gal, January 25, 2014
Sign the Petition at no710.com
In 1958, a Master Plan of Freeways was adopted by the State of California. The Long Beach Freeway was outlined in that plan. In 1964, a 23-mile portion of the freeway was constructed, now called Interstate 710 (I-710). It runs from Ocean Boulevard west of downtown Long Beach and northward to Valley Boulevard in El Sereno (City of Los Angeles), near the Alhambra border. The unfinished corridor now called the State Route 710 (SR-710), was not built at that time but it was planned for the near future.
1960 - 2000
In the 1960s, in preparation for eventual excavation of the new SR-710 section, 500 houses were purchased to clear a surface route. They were located in El Sereno (220), South Pasadena (112), Pasadena (143) and Alhambra (25). At the time, it was estimated that a total of 976 houses would be needed for the project. The 500 houses are still owned by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) today. Some have been rented back to residents on a month to month basis for decades. Some are vacant. Most are in disrepair.
Over the course of the next forty years, the SR-710 portion of the freeway was not completed, largely due to intense community opposition and judicial injunctions which are still in place. Many freeway “gaps” remain in the region’s original master plan as only 60% of the projects have ever been finished. One example is the SR-2 Freeway that terminates on the south at Glendale Boulevard near downtown Los Angeles, instead of connecting with the I-405 through Beverly Hills as planned.
First Decade of 2000s
Between 2003 and 2009, Caltrans and the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA or Metro) began to look at whether it was feasible to construct a bored tunnel rather than a surface route to extend the SR-710 Freeway and connect it to the I-210. Ultimately, five zones were examined through boring, seismic reflection, and surface wave testing in a geotechnical feasibility study. Upon completion of the study in the fall of 2009, Caltrans reported that it is “technically feasible” to construct a tunnel in any of the five zones which roughly spanned from the I-5 & SR-2 interchange to the I-210 & I-605 interchange. They added that no single route had been chosen. However, based on geologic and financial considerations and actions by the MTA Board and staff, many community members speculated that Zone 3, the original Meridian route through El Sereno, South Pasadena, and Pasadena would be chosen. The final geotechnical report presented in March 2010, indicated that no conditions exist that would stop, prohibit, or otherwise preclude tunneling through any of the five zones, even though seismic faults and contaminants exist throughout. With no accurate project definitions (need & purpose), no true feasibility studies, no examination of alternative transportation modes, or cost-benefit analyses conducted, the project was pushed forward through to the Scoping and environmental analysis stages.
The tunnel would be comprised of two 57-foot deep bored holes, approximately 150 feet underground and would require 200-foot wide concrete portals for entrances, exits, toll plazas and ramps. The bored tunnels themselves would measure 4.9 miles in length and would be the longest road tunnels ever built in the U.S. The portal ends would have about a half a mile of "cut & cover" excavation where the dirt is removed then filled back in. The total project is currently designed to be 6.3 miles in length. (4.9 bores + .7 cut & cover + .7 other) Ventilation towers and other structures may need to be built at surface level along the route to vent concentrated exhaust or it may just be blown out of the ends and/or vented further down the road.
The plan is to build the south portal in the City of El Sereno, north of Valley Boulevard and CSULA where hundreds of Caltrans-owned homes would be destroyed. The north portal will surface at Del Mar Blvd in Pasadena, right next to Huntington Memorial Hospital and schools. On the north end, the tunnel will only be accessible by the I-210 and SR-134 freeways and will not serve the community of Pasadena. On the south end, drivers must already be driving on the I-710 in order to access the tunnel. There will be no ramps at the portal ends or at any point along the 4.9 mile route.
Tunnel Cost Makes the Tolls Exorbitant
The cost of the project has been estimated by various sources to range from $1 billion and $14 billion and is expected be funded through a public-private partnership (PPP) and $780 million in Measure R funds. MTA is currently using the figure of $5.425 billion in their projections. It is predicted that the tunnel toll would be between $5 and $15 to use each way—a prohibitive expense for most commuters but not necessarily for trucking companies who could pass the cost on to consumers through increased prices. The resulting jobs created by the expansion, would be primarily for expert tunnel builders from outside the State or Country, less so for local citizens.
A Toll Tunnel Increases Congestion
Building a new tolled roadway will not relieve congestion problems in the region and could actually exacerbate current conditions. Commuters will, almost certainly, continue to use local surface roads to avoid paying tunnel tolls. An analysis by the City of La Cañada Flintridge of three separate highway studies indicates that traffic will increase by 25% and the tunnel will open with a Level of Service classification of “F”, meaning failure or gridlock. Metro’s own forecasts project an increase by over 40% of vehicles on local streets. Clearly, this massive development would present issues of enormous costs, health consequences due to poor air quality, traffic congestion, noise, and 10 years of disruption due to construction as well as introduce risk from earthquake, fire, flood, and terrorist attacks in the tunnel. Quality of life would change dramatically for all the communities surrounding this area, especially the small towns that would be in the crosshairs of “big city” developers who want to bring “progress” to the area.
Who is For and Who Opposes?
Completion of the SR-710 Extension is being moved forward by Caltrans, MTA, the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments (SGVCOG), the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), and the Cities of Alhambra, El Monte, Duarte and more. It is opposed by the Cities of South Pasadena, Sierra Madre, Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge and by countless community groups in Pasadena, El Sereno, Hermon, Mt. Washington, Glassell Park, Highland Park, Eagle Rock, La Crescenta, and Sunland-Tujunga. In addition, the Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution against portal construction in Zones 1 & 2, reflecting its opposition to building the tunnel within the boundary of the City of Los Angeles. Metro and Caltrans have disregarded this resolution in their current plan.
The SR-710 Extension, whether by surface route or tunnel, will primarily benefit freight-transport vehicles that cross through these communities. Per a report conducted by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), there are currently 34,000 vehicles that leave the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach every day; 70% are trucks carrying cargo to locations outside the City. By 2020, it is estimated that the number will climb to 92,000 or more. Forty percent of those trucks could choose to take the new tunnel but considerably more would if the Ports remained open 24 hours a day. By 2030, shipment by containers is expected to triple and miles driven by trucks will almost double from the year 2005 levels.
Traffic congestion is a problem in Los Angeles County but there are many other alternatives to building more freeways. One potential 21st century solution being successfully implemented throughout the United States is the development of intermodal-distribution logistic centers. These “inland ports” use rail lines to move goods from sea ports to outlying areas where the cargo is then loaded on trucks for distribution across the country. This would dramatically reduce the number of container trucks on our local streets and highways. And—for the same price as building large tunnels, the State can do 1,000 neighborhood upgrades at $5 million each, with much shorter timelines. Updating the existing transportation system through “multi-mode, low build” projects, will create jobs for local workers and reduce long-term disruption in our communities. It’s the smarter, more responsible way to go.
Please join us and say NO to the extension of the 710 Freeway. NO ONE’S back yard!
Compiled by Susan Bolan, La Crescenta and Jan SooHoo, La Cañada Flintridge
Members of the No 710 Action Committee, firstname.lastname@example.org Updated 1-9-14
SR-710 - What Could Happen in a Tunnel?Posted by CV Ga
Tanker Truck Fire at I-5 & SR-2 Tunnel Connector,
July 2013Gasoline poured into the street and ignited. Repairs cost $16 million. Tunnel reopened January 2014
Photo Source: scpr.org
Roadway tunnels are inherently dangerous. Check out these images from tunnel disasters around the world.
Concerns from the Beginning
From 1947 through the 1990s, communities opposing the extension of the 710 freeway were focused on preserving the character of their neighborhoods and solving their transportation issues through other projects. Carving up the beautiful historic homes and small town businesses to send more vehicles through the area just doesn’t make sense. These communities already have more than one freeway. Why add more?
Feasibility of Using a Bored Tunnel
In 2002, after years of litigation with the City of South Pasadena and others, Caltrans and Metro shifted their plans and began to explore the feasibility of using a bored tunnel to extend the freeway. This concept raised new concerns for the communities: huge costs, concentrated pollution emissions, but more importantly, safety. Los Angeles is well known for its high incidence of earthquakes and other natural disasters. The public now had to consider the danger of being inside a 5-mile long tunnel during a substantial earthquake, rising flood waters, or a natural or man-made fire.
Dangers Come from within a Tunnel
Modern roadway tunnels are built with safety features incorporated into their design. Some earth movement is expected and planned for so that the passageway is able to “flex” with a shifting environment. The amount of “flexing” that a tunnel is able to do without damage, depends on many factors. An earthquake will not collapse a well-built tunnel. The greatest risk comes from cars, trucks, and busses filled with passengers and gasoline, shaking inside the tunnel, deep underground.
Tunnel Safety Measures
Every large tunnel built for vehicles has 24 hour monitoring of events inside, typically two, stationed control rooms, one at either end of the tunnel that are responsible for systems maintenance, observation of problems, and collection of tolls. Emergency escape exits and phones are located at intervals along the route. Most of these require a person to be “able-bodied” to use. Emergency response time can vary greatly depending on the severity of the problem, level of communication between jurisdictions, and specific training of first responders.
The Longest Roadway Tunnel in the United States
Los Angeles does not currently have any long, road tunnels. There are some short tunnels intermittently on area freeways where the freeway meets a rise in elevation, such as the SR-110 freeway near Dodgers Stadium or like the long underpasses at the connection of the I-5 and SR-2. The closest modern, roadway tunnel, the Caldecott Tunnel near Oakland California, consists of three tunnels, just about 4,000 feet long. If the 710 Extension iss built underground, it would have two 57-foot diameter tunnels, each 4.9 miles long, the longest road tunnels in the United States. Even the Central Artery Tunnel in Boston, also known as the Big Dig, is only 3.5 miles long. Ours will be an even Bigger Dig.
Big Rig Accident on I-5 Freeway
Locally, in 2007, an accident involving five big rigs in a small 550-foot long underpass tunnel on the I-5 freeway, just north of the SR-14 connector, resulted in a fireball so hot that the vehicles burned down to their cores and concrete exploded off the walls. The Los Angeles Times reported, that “fire, police and Caltrans officials spent the day trying to assess damage to the concrete but were hampered by a continuing blaze in the tunnel's center, and heavy smoke and high concentrations of carbon dioxide [monoxide], particularly on the tunnel's north, or uphill, end. They could not get very far past the mouths of the tunnel.” Sadly, 3 people lost their lives and 10 others were treated at area hospitals. It was estimated that 10 to 20 people were able to flee the short tunnel on foot. This accident is a very small example of the type of emergency that can happen in a roadway tunnel. A longer tunnel with a higher number of trucks carrying cargo, would increase the potential for fire and death exponentially.
Mont Blanc Tunnel, Margarine and Flour Fire
The Mont Blanc Tunnel between France and Italy became the focus of an investigation in 1999, when a truck carrying margarine and flour caught fire midway through the 7-mile tunnel. Apparently the driver did not notice the smoke coming from his vehicle for about a mile as opposing cars waved at him. When he finally stopped to inspect, the truck ignited, sending smoke and dangerous levels of carbon monoxide throughout the area. The drivers in the vehicles behind the truck became trapped, unable to turn around, as the smoke was drawn uphill from the grade and overcame them. The truck’s cargo of margarine volatized and fed the fire that burned at about 1800OF for 53 hours. A total of 38 people died within 15 minutes of the incident; one first responder died later. Prior to that day, it was believed that food cargo posed no transport risk; it was considered combustible but not flammable under normal conditions. However, investigators who examined this accident began to consider that even innocuous food goods and road pavement materials could become flammable when heated by fuels and other flammables, causing them to emit dangerous chemicals when burned in a contained space.
St. Gotthard Tunnel Fire, Smoke Caused Fatalities
Roadway tunnels all around the world have a disturbing history of fatalities. A tunnel full of vehicles contains 15 gallons of gas on average per vehicle. Add to that, some trucks and busses have larger 150-gallon tanks with potentially flammable cargo and plastic that becomes flammable when heated. One accident can cause a chain reaction of explosions to all of those tanks. In 2001, the 10-mile St. Gotthard Tunnel in Göschenen Switzerland had a blazing inferno that killed 11 people. The accident was a collision between a truck and an empty minibus that caused gasoline to pour onto the floor of the tunnel. The result was a blaze so hot that it melted the vehicles causing them to be fused together. It was determined that the fatalities were caused by smoke and gas inhalation and that the ventilation system had not been working properly or was not adequate for such conditions. This tunnel suffered three major accidents in three years.
Caldecott Tunnel, Gasoline Fire
The Caldecott Tunnel as previously mentioned, had a fire in 1982 that caused 7 deaths. A gasoline tanker crashed into a stopped car and gas spilled into the gutter and ignited. Smoke travelled uphill, choking the victims who didn’t have a chance to get out the emergency exits. The ventilation system was not even on at the time although it would have been totally inadequate under these circumstances. The same tunnel in 2010, had to close during an intense rainstorm due to flooding. A drainage pipe had filled with debris from runoff and storm water backed up in the tunnel.
Big Dig Tunnel, Shoddy Construction
Sometimes the danger in a tunnel comes from an unexpected cause. The Central Artery Tunnel in Boston, the Big Dig, was damaged when ceiling tiles cascaded to the ground below because an inadequate glue was used to secure the 4,600-pound panels. One woman lost her life when a tile fell directly on her while riding as a passenger in a vehicle, also injuring the driver, her husband. The project manager, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff as well as others, were accused of cutting corners and doing shoddy work. There was also a great deal of investigation on whether the glue manufacturer or the installer were to blame for the tiles falling. The tunnel fully reopened 11 months later.
Flood Water Hazards, Diversion of Traffic
Flooding is a concern for Los Angeles area residents as it is common throughout the rainy season. At a public outreach meeting conducted by Caltrans during the 2010 Geotechnical Study, a question was asked about how flood waters would be managed in heavy downpours in and around the tunnel. Earlier in the week, television news coverage showed that the southern end of the 710 was evacuated due to rising waters. The response by Doug Failing, Executive Director of Highway Programs at Metro, was that the 710 freeway is supposed to flood to keep water out of the area neighborhoods. He stated that it was designed that way. However, one might argue that building a tunnel at the end of a freeway that is designed to flood, could create an inescapable hazard. There are no exit ramps in a tunnel. In addition, unlike the average freeway, when an entire tunnel section does close down for weather, maintenance, or accidents, the resulting overspill of cars and heavy cargo trucks into the local communities is devastating.
Soft Target for Terrorists
As we look to Los Angeles in the future, we must consider that a large tunnel could become the ultimate target for terrorists, as was the case in London in 2005. In a roadway tunnel, since tolls are collected electronically and there are no stops for inspection, it would be easy to trigger an explosion with just a flare and a can of gasoline. An act such as this would yield catastrophic loss of life and property.
Let’s be sure that the supposed benefits of this project far surpass the tremendous risks.
Compiled by Susan Bolan, La Crescenta Resident
SR-710, Decades of Opposition - A Timeline
Posted by CV Gal, January 16, 2014
The War Against the 710
Excellent article featuring long-time freeway fighters, Claire Bogaard & Joanne Nuckols http://www.pasadenamonthly.com/articles/war-against-710-2014-01-06
South Pasadena passed the first resolution against extending the Freeway
Master Plan of Freeways was adopted showing the plan for Route 7, now the I-710 and SR-710
Caltrans bought houses in El Sereno, South Pasadena, Pasadena and Alhambra to build the surface route
Section from Long Beach to El Sereno (Los Angeles) opened
1973 - 1998
Injunction granted to prevent Caltrans from buying additional properties and proceeding with the project
Second injunction granted (still in place)
2002 - 2003
Bored tunnel proposed and presented as an option
2003 - 2004
Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) rescinded their approval for the surface project. Following the FHWA, the State of California also rescinded their approval.
First Route 710 Feasibility Assessment. Determined that more effective study was needed.
2007 - 2009
Second Route 710 Tunnel Technical Feasibility Study. Only geotechnical testing conducted. Five zones studied. $7 million spent.
Final Geotechnical Report presented in March. Conclusion: All zones are viable options for tunneling. No zones eliminated. Surface route not eliminated. MTA Board voted $11.5 million contract to InfraConsult to pursue Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) for 6 projects, including the SR-710 Extension. MTA Board voted to include the SR-710 “Gap Closure” in the Mayor’s 30/10 Initiative (America Fast Forward), 12 fast-tracked projects to be completed in 10 years. MTA Board voted to move to the next steps of the project, to include Scoping (evaluation), Alternative Analysis, and environmental studies. InfraConsult completes Public-Private Partnership report, outlining concept to bundle three highway projects together to attract investors - I-710 Freight Corridor, SR-710 North Tunnel, and the High Desert Corridor.
Scoping process begins. Metro holds a series of community outreach sessions. Study area defined. Work begins on Purpose & Needs statement that does not include port or goods movement considerations. Gloria Molina reveals in a Metro Board meeting the plan to use the original Meridian route in Zone 3 in spite of the supposed “route neutral” study that was conducted. In March, Metro sends out Press Release and Executive Director of Highway Programs, Doug Failing, does interview for “Everything Long Beach” where the 710 North "Gap Closure" is described as necessary to complete the natural goods corridor that was begun several decades ago. Stakeholders submit comments for initial DEIR and Scoping closes April 14. Study area expanded to include La Cañada Flintridge and Glendale. Metro Board Chair, Ara Najarian, points out the vast differences in tunnel estimation costs. Requests a full cost-benefit analysis. Meetings begin with No 710 Action Committee representatives, Metro and InfraConsult to discuss a base-case scenario. CH2MHill awarded $37,300,000 contract for EIR/EIS.
Metro and InfraConsult disclose that their tunnel cost estimates are based solely on the Alaskan Way Tunnel bid amount per linear foot, not a completed project such as the Big Dig that had cost overruns of over $12 billion ($24 billion if you consider full final costs.) It is also revealed that a cost amount over $8 billion would be too high for most investors. SCAG adopts Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) in April, that names the SR-710 as a tunnel in the amount of $5.636 billion with tolls included in revenue projections. Stakeholder cities ask to have the language revised and the project moved out of the constrained plan. Project enters Alternatives Analysis phase. Metro creates three types of committees for outreach purposes – Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), Stakeholders Outreach Advisory Committee (SOAC), and Community Liaison Councils (CLC). TAC presented in April with chart of 42 alternatives and the 11 selected choices at one session, prior to any CLC or SOAC meetings being held. Stakeholders very unhappy about the process. Metro holds a series of Open Houses in May with Technical Team from CH2MHill and Aecom and the Outreach Team from Metro and MBI. It is demonstrated that a tunnel is being designed along the Meridian route from north of Valley in El Sereno, despite the City of LA Resolution against it and to Del Mar Blvd in Pasadena. The tunnel could also have a grade of up to 4% despite Metro's claim that it wouldn't exceed the standard of 2-2.5%. InfraConsult's PPP report is received and filed by the Metro Board in July. Glendale City Councilmember, Ara Najarian dismissed from Metrolink Board by new MTA Chair Michael Antonovich. Further TAC and SOAC meetings reveal a renewed consideration for a route in Zone 2 near Glassell Park and brand new routes in the northwest corner of Zone 3. Resident groups in West Pasadena, Garvanza, Highland Park, and Eagle Rock bring new energy to the cause by showing up to the CLC meetings in high numbers, placing posters around town, writing letters, signing petitions, and connecting with each other through social media. InfraConsult/HDR Engineering Executive Michael Schneider and Metro's Executive Director of Highway Programs, Doug Failing solicit investor interest by making presentations to transportation groups. The SR-710 is shown in the slides as a bored tunnel, not a potential light rail or bus rapid transit system which may reveal a bias in the Alternatives Analysis selection process and a premature marketing plan. Duarte City Council and City Selection Committee member, John Fasana asks member representatives to vote against Ara Najarian for his re-confirmation to the MTA Board, based on his outspoken views on the 710. This has never been done before.
Caltrans releases the final SR 710 Alternatives Analysis Report to the public on January 18, five days before the scheduled Open House meetings. The stakeholders are outraged that there is so little time to review the report prior to the public meetings. The agency listed on the report is Metro, not Caltrans which sparks discussion about who the lead agency truly is. Ara Najarian asks for clarification from the Metro Board on the MOU between the two agencies and is told that revealing this information would violate attorney-client privilege. The No 710 Action Committee marches in the South Pasadena, Festival of Balloons parade, July 4. The City of Alhambra hosts a “710 Day” on July 10 which is attended primarily by Alhambra City employees. Ara Najarian remains on the MTA Board and is reinstated to the MetroLink Board by new Chair, Diane Dubois. In October, Metro Board votes to add the SR-710 to the list of “Accelerated Funding” projects.
Cost, Tolls, Length, Safety
Over the last two decades, public officials and government sources have quoted project cost ranges between $1 to $14 billion to build the tunnel. The current figure being used by the MTA is $5.425 billion and SCAG is $5.636 billion. The $780 million in Measure R funds may be allocated for the environmental process but the project is being planned as a public-private partnership with tolls. Measure J on the ballot in November 2012 would have extended the half cent sales tax from 2039 to 2069 and could have been used to accelerate the project. It did not pass and transportation leaders are discussing changing the percent needed by voters from two-thirds to 55% for funding of transportation projects.
From $5 to $15 one-way to be collected by a private company through congestion pricing transponders. Tolls are calculated based on project cost. Metro/InfraConsult project 180,000 vehicles per day will use the tunnel, 4X the current number of 44,000, with a 35% diversion rate of 63,000 for those who will exit the freeway to avoid the toll.
The project will be 6.3 miles long with the tunnel measuring 4.9 miles. If completed, it will be the longest road tunnel ever built in the U.S. Road tunnels have a history of danger from fire, flood, earthquake, collapse, and terror attack. Threat from these dangers cannot be truly mitigated.
No 710 Action Committee
Updated by Susan Bolan 1/14/14