To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Saturday, September 12, 2015

EPA calls 710 tunnel project report ‘inadequate’


By Steve Scauzillo, September 12, 2015

An environmental review of the completion of the so-called 710 Freeway gap between El Sereno/Alhambra and Pasadena has been called “inadequate” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The federal environmental agency said the 26,000-page document released by Caltrans in March does not assess whether a 6.3-mile tunnel extension would help or hinder air quality in the region, the smoggiest in the nation.

Specifically, in an Aug. 27 letter to Caltrans, the agency said more study is needed to determine if concentrated emission points, known as hot spots, would occur near the entrances to the proposed tunnel at the 10 Freeway near Valley Boulevard and at the 210/134 freeways interchanges in Pasadena.

The EPA said Caltrans has failed to provide to the public a thorough analysis of air emissions at the tunnel entrances or portals, something that can be studied and should be released to the public, wrote Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s regional administrator in a letter addressed to Carrie Bowen, director of Caltrans District 7, obtained by this newspaper.

Blumenfeld recommended Caltrans perform a separate, “focused supplemental” environmental impact study just on the tunnel emissions. The EPA said depending on the results, a design change in the tunnel project may be necessary in order to eliminate impacts on air quality.

Capturing car and truck emissions and using emission scrubbers before releasing the toxic and/or smog-forming gases and particles through ventilation stacks could “reduce some of the project’s impact,” he wrote.

One of the main emissions would be soot, scientifically known as PM2.5, tiny particles that can escape the body’s defenses and lodge in the lungs. PM2.5 causes lung disease and premature death, according to studies sanctioned by the EPA and anti-smog agencies.

The south coast region does not meet the federal standards for ozone for PM2.5, the EPA stated. A dual-bore tunnel carrying 180,000 vehicles a day could add to the problem.

Almost 10 years ago, Caltrans and Metro abandoned plans for a surface route and instead have proposed either a single-bore tunnel, with two lanes of traffic in each direction, or double-bore, twin tunnels with four lanes in each direction, as well as the other non-freeway alternatives such as a light-rail line, a dedicated busway, or transportation demand fixes. The Caltrans Environmental Impact Report concluded building a freeway tunnel would provide the greatest amount of traffic relief and the fewest impacts of the five alternatives studied.

The EPA letter said a 7.5-mile light-rail from East Los Angeles to Pasadena has the potential to disrupt the community, namely East Los Angeles, along the aerial portions. The EPA would like to see more analysis of those impacts related to tunneling for a light-rail system and said this portion of the report had “insufficient information.”

EPA comments followed those from the South Coast Air Quality Management District, which called the air pollution estimates into question and said the tunnel project would raise cancer risks to unacceptable levels.