Activists say cost-benefit analysis of 710 alternatives shows bias of project engineers.
By Sara Cardine, June 24, 2015
This file photo from Thursday, January 28, 2010, shows the terminus of the 710 Freeway at Valley Blvd. in Alhambra.
For months, elected officials and local activists have asked the
Metropolitan Transportation Authority for a cost-benefit analysis of
five project alternatives being put forth as potential solutions to
addressing a 4.5-mile gap in the 710 Freeway between Alhambra and
Now, less than a week after Metro released the
long-anticipated document, those who oppose a multibillion-dollar
underground tunnel as a means of connecting the freeway’s end points
claim the evaluation reveals a pro-tunnel bias and excludes several very
“It does not instill the
confidence in either impartiality or competence I was hoping for,” said
former Assemblyman Anthony Portantino,
who along with Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian and former La Cañada
Flintridge City Councilman Don Voss, among others, urged Metro to issue
the document alongside its draft environmental impact report of the
alternatives, released on March 6.
Instead, Metro and California
Department of Transportation officials issued the cost-benefit analysis
Friday, announcing that the deadline by which the public could comment
on the DEIR itself would be extended from July 6 to Aug. 5 to
accommodate additional input.
The nearly 50-page document
attempts to monetize the costs of each alternative, comparing them with a
valuation of the benefits each would deliver, in terms of capital
expenditures, travel time benefits, emissions, safety effects and job
growth associated with the implementation and maintenance of the
projects in a 20-year period.
According to the analysis, a
4.2-mile single-bore tunnel, including various toll and truck use
scenarios, would cost from $1.95 billion to nearly $2 billion, but could
provide nearly $3.6 billion in benefits to the region. It’s dual-bore
counterpart, costing up to nearly $3.4 billion, might potentially
produce a value of up to $3.73 billion to communities served by the 710
Comparatively, the report states bus infrastructure
upgrades would cost $510 million but could add a value of $879 million,
while light rail improvements between East Los Angeles and Pasadena
would cost up to $2.2 billion, but provide $1.29 billion in estimated
Among all options, the single-bore tunnel would have
the highest net present value — between $1.48 billion and $1.59 billion —
according to the report. Reached Wednesday while traveling in Armenia,
Najarian stated in a text message his disappointment with the document’s
“To say that the tunnel provides the greatest benefit
without stating that it is the most costly, by far, borders on
misrepresentation,” Najarian stated, referring to previous tunnel
estimates from Metro as high as $5.6 billion. “I will be bringing this
dereliction of basic duties owed to the taxpayers of the county to the
highest authorities who have jurisdiction over this matter — enough is
Sharing his reactions to the analysis, Voss said
inclusion of the estimated “employment benefits” associated with each
option creates potentially misleading discrepancies in their net values.
When employment benefits are removed, he stated, a combination of
traffic management and bus improvement provides more “bang for the buck”
than any tunnel scenario.
La Cañada resident Jan Soo Hoo, a 710
activist opposed to the tunnel option, said the model used by engineers
contracted by Metro and Caltrans reveals many limitations, while failing
to factor in costs and benefits of critical importance to stakeholders,
including reliability, resiliency and the potential hazardous long-term
health impacts to adults and children.
“If a bus or light rail
breaks down, another can be put into service, but if a tunnel shuts
down, there is no replacement. And while emissions are monetized, health
impacts are not,” Soo Hoo said of the report. “It’s an engineer’s model
with an engineer’s perspective — we’re getting what they wanted us to