Potential project is dropped from funding list should a sales tax measure pass.
By Sara Cardine, August 28, 2015
In this file photo from July 2013, a "No on 710 extension" advocate
passes supporters of the proposed 710 freeway extension in Alhambra
earlier this month. The San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments has
removed the 710 Freeway tunnel from a list of projects to receive
funding should a transportation tax be passed by L.A. County voters in
The San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments recently removed the
710 Freeway tunnel from a list of projects first in line for funding
should a new transportation sales tax should be passed by L.A. County
voters in 2016.
Local officials who support the tunnel view the Aug. 20 decision as a
small sacrifice made for the greater good, while tunnel opponents
believe it could signify a growing dissent and controversy surrounding
the proposed $5.6-billion tunnel project.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority
is working on a ballot measure that would ask Los Angeles County voters
to approve a half-cent sales tax in November 2016. This levy would run
concurrently with an existing 30-year half-cent hike, Measure R,
narrowly passed by voters in 2008.
Although the exact life span
of what’s casually called “Measure R2” is still uncertain, Move L.A. —
the nonprofit business-labor-environmental coalition that worked with
former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to pass Measure R — estimates it could collect approximately $90 billion over a 45-year period.
Metro staff assumes 50% of the revenue generated by the measure’s
passage would be used for transit operations and facility repairs.
Hoping to garner regional support for R2, Metro is asking L.A.
COGs to identify how subregions might spend their portion of the
remaining half of the revenues.
The San Gabriel COG was asked to prioritize $3.3 billion in
transportation capital projects in a mobility matrix that would also
help establish subregional goals, according to council documents.
Alhambra COG representative and tunnel advocate Barbara Messina said
Monday the pro-tunnel contingent volunteered to remove the 710 project
from the list, at the cost of $105 million in potential future tax
revenues, to avoid controversy.
“We felt we didn’t want to jeopardize that (Measure R2) election and
have the 710 be a part of it,” Messina said, explaining the decision
followed a talk with current L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti. “I knew he felt uncomfortable with the 710 tunnel being on that ballot.”
The decision also followed a July 23 recommendation from the
council’s transportation committee that the panel reduce the amount of
funding earmarked for highway efficiency projects in favor of transit
and active transportation plans.
And, because pro-tunnelers are planning other means of paying the
multibillion-dollar price tag, namely public-private partnerships,
Messina said it didn’t seem worth it to argue for the 710 tunnel’s
inclusion in the matrix.
“We weren’t going to be dependent on that money anyway, so it made
sense for us to take it off the matrix of the COG as our priority
project,” she added.
But those who oppose the tunnel, including La Cañada, Glendale and
Pasadena city officials, for the for the congestion and health risks
they believe it will bring, view the removal of the project as an
indicator that the tunnel is controversial enough to doom Measure R2 to
La Cañada Mayor Pro Tem Jon Curtis said he believes the controversy
has been stirred by recent criticisms leveled by agencies such as the
South Coast Air Quality Management District against the draft
environmental impact report released for Metro’s 710 Freeway extension
“I think it’s a recognition there are some significant issues and concerns that have not been addressed,” Curtis said Wednesday.
La Cañada Councilwoman Terry Walker, who represents the city on the
SGV-COG, said while she wasn’t in attendance for the Aug. 20 meeting,
she believes the case against the tunnel in the wake of the draft EIR
release seems to be growing.
“Sometimes a small group can have a big voice,” Walker said. “We have a lot of valid facts behind us.”
Walker and fellow anti-tunneler and La Cañada resident Jan Soo Hoo
warned that just because the tunnel was taken off the mobility matrix
doesn’t mean it’s gone.
“It’s so important the public not read this as a sign the tunnel is
dead,” Soo Hoo said. “They’re not sacrificing the tunnel at all.”