By Steve Scauzillo, March 25, 2016
The plan to build a $3.15 billion tunnel connecting two segments of the
710 Freeway will get consideration by the state Legislature with a bill
sponsored by state Sen. Carol Liu.
With the $40 million environmental analysis yet to be approved, the
fight over the extension of the 710 Freeway will spill over into the
state Legislature in April, when a bill by a local senator brings the
cost and benefits center stage.
State Sen. Carol Liu, D-La Cañada
Flintridge, wants to force the hand of Metro and Caltrans, the two lead
agencies on the 710 completion, by incorporating the 5 Commentsinto the project’s Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement.
By changing the status of the June 2015 cost-benefit analysis
from a simple addendum to a technical study within the EIR/EIS, it would
bring to light hundreds of comments on the cost study made by residents
during last year’s public hearings and make them part of the public
record. In addition, it would require Caltrans and the Los Angeles
County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) to respond in
writing to the report, which was labeled faulty by dozens of project
Without the bill, Metro and Caltrans could ignore the
cost-benefit aspects of the tunneling alternative, said Liu in a
prepared statement. “It is possible they will not respond to public
comments on it, which were substantial,” she wrote.
Metro’s board on Thursday voted to oppose the measure, calling it unnecessary.
and Caltrans are committed to responding to comments on the CBA
(cost-benefit analysis report). Metro is committed to an open and
transparent process in its decision making and we believe the CBA has a
role in the fund decision making process,” wrote Metro in a staff report
to the board.
Joining Metro in opposition to Senate Bill 1018 is
the city of San Marino, a proponent of the freeway tunnel. Metro and
Caltrans are proposing to build a 6.3-mile single tunnel, costing $3.15
billion, containing two traffic lanes in each direction 250 feet under
El Sereno/Los Angeles, South Pasadena and Pasadena. A twin tunnel
proposal would have more traffic lanes but would raise the cost to $5.65
billion, according to the EIR/EIS. Either tunnel option would “close
the gap” from the end of the 710 Freeway near Valley Boulevard to west
Pasadena north of Del Mar Avenue at the 134/210 freeway interchange.
Metro also said it opposes SB 1018 because it could set a
precedent requiring all future environmental impact reports to contain a
cost-benefit analysis, “which is currently optional.” The Metro
analysis says precedent-setting would raise the cost of environmental
documents for future Metro projects. “The choice to do a CBA should be
at the discretion of the agencies leading the process,” Metro concluded.
Anthony Portantino, a former state Assemblyman from La Cañada Flintridge and tunnel opponent, had asked the California Transportation Commission to produce the cost-benefit analysis for three years. When 5 Comments
was released, it favored the single tunnel, saying the tunnel would
trim up to seven minutes off a commute during peak hours and almost 14
minutes the rest of the time. By converting time into money, the benefit
works out to about $1.6 billion over 20 years for 2 million people
living in the San Gabriel Valley and parts of Los Angeles and the east
San Fernando Valley, the report concluded.
Portantino and the cities of Pasadena, La Cañada Flintridge, South
Pasadena and other called the CBA flawed and inaccurate. Portantino said
Caltrans estimated the cost of tunneling at $500,000 per mile for the
710 tunnel but $1 million per mile for the Sepulveda Pass tunnel project
connecting west Los Angeles with the San Fernando Valley.
said the real cost of the 710 tunnel would be closer to $20 billion,
something he said Metro is trying to hide by not being required to
comment on the cost-benefit analysis study (CBA).
“Fundamentally, accurate costs is one of the most important
components of good public policy, which is why they continue to not want
to disclose information related to the cost. Because they know the
house of cards will fall once the real information is revealed,” said
Portantino, who is running to replace Liu in the 25th senatorial
district in the June Primary. His foremost opponent is Supervisor
The bill is scheduled to be heard in the
Senate Environmental Quality Committee on April 6. After that, it most
likely will be before the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee,
said Suzanne Reed, a Liu aide.