By Steve Scauzillo, August 13, 2015
This 2008 staff file photo shows where the proposed 710 Freeway tunnel extension would start at Valley Boulevard.
In a detailed critique, the South Coast Air Quality Management
District said the draft environmental impact report for the proposed 710
Freeway extension failed to estimate emissions of carbon monoxide and
airborne particulates and that the tunnel project would raise the cancer
risk to unacceptable levels.
The eight-page letter from Ian
MacMillan, the anti-smog district’s planning and rules manager, says the
lack of basic air quality analysis renders the draft EIR useless to the
agency or those deciding on a tunnel or other transit options.
“Decision-makers would not be able to use the EIR/EIS as written
to determine if the project will adversely affect air quality in the
local area,” the district concluded.
One part of the EIR places
the cancer risk of the project at 149 chances per million people
exposed to pollutants, well above the district’s standard threshold of
10 chances per million. Yet, the report concludes that the cancer risks
are “less than significant” based on faulty data.
The agency has
requested that Caltrans and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan
Transportation Authority or Metro, which paid $40 million for the study
released in March, revise the air quality portion of the document.
It also suggested that Caltrans and Metro contact the four-county
air district to begin meetings on permit applications, something
apparently not yet done. Any air pollution controls on the exhaust will
require a permit from the district.
No analysis of a localized
impact, also known as a hot spots study, was ever done, MacMillan wrote.
For example, if the 4.5-mile gap from Alhambra to Pasadena is built
underground as a tunnel, the study needed to determine the
concentrations of nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide at portals and
near ventilation stacks.
The letter points out that Caltrans is aware of hot spots studies
since it is common practice among many government agencies and was
conducted for the I-710 Corridor project EIR, just south of the 710
North extension project.
“This lack of analysis is especially
concerning as the tunnel alternatives will focus all of the vehicle
emissions along the entire tunnel to the portal and ventilation stack
areas,” MacMillan wrote.
A letter from Alhambra supports the tunnel alternative as not only the best way to move traffic but to improve air quality.
Alhambra comments that a tunnel project would reduce the higher
cancer risks currently experienced by residents of Alhambra and nearby
communities from traffic gridlock at the 710 terminus on Valley
Boulevard and along arterial streets.
Building a tunnel would
reduce smog and air pollutants in Alhambra and Monterey Park and for
“residents along local streets and arterials in the southern communities
and along the I-10 who suffer a disproportionate impact from the
pass-through traffic and associated emissions,” according to the
Alhambra letter to Caltrans dated Aug. 5 and signed by Leland C. Dolley,
special counselor for the city.
South Pasadena Councilwoman Marina Khubesrian said the district
letter reaches many of the same conclusions as South Pasadena and other
cities opposed to the freeway tunnel. She wants to see the air quality
“It would be the height of arrogance to not take the concerns of the AQMD seriously,” she said.