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, March 26, 2016

710 Freeway tunnel cost part of a bill to be heard by the state Legislature


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.

 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 opponents.

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.

“Metro 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.

He 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 Michael Antonovich.

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.