No Funding to Pay for Tunnel
By Dr. Bill Sherman, July 14, 2016
The Metro Board meeting of June 23 was very interesting and important for the No 710 Tunnel advocates.
The Board was to consider the wording and provisions of the Proposed Transportation Ballot Measure for the November 6, 2016 election. This has been called Measure R-2, but will probably be renamed measure M. This measure will raise the Sales Tax in Los Angeles County by ½ percent to 9 ½ % with no ending date. The Measure must be passed by 2/3 of the voters in Los Angeles County.
The Anti Tunnel People had threatened to oppose the Measure if the Tunnel was in the provision or the language could be manipulated to pay for a tunnel. The Board heard us and included the clause: “No Net Revenues generated from the Sales Tax shall be expended on the State Route 710 Gap Closure Project”. This is almost an iron clad promise to not fund the Tunnel with Measure M monies.
The wording in the proposed ballot measure is the third recent decision from governmental bodies that seemingly are anti-Tunnel. The San Gabriel Council of Governments (COG) in March had the opportunity to send to the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) a list of projects they wished to include in the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). This is a plan that sets out potential projects for the next 20 years. The COG which is composed of 31 cities in the San Gabriel Valley decided to not place the tunnel on their list of possible projects. The SCAG in April, when the RTP was finalized, did not name the tunnel as a project in their plan.
These three boards all seem to be backing off on their support for the Tunnel. They are saying that there are more important transportation needs in Southern California than the Tunnel.
Pro Tunnel factions in the past have said that Measure R passed in 2008 mandated the construction of the Tunnel. This is not true, but the pro-tunnel people claim it. If Measure M is passed anti Tunnel groups can then say that the Tunnel has been rejected by the residents of Los Angeles County.
The evaluation of the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) is stalled in Metro’s hands. After it was released in July of 2015 there were 2500 comments sent in covering 8000 separate topics. Metro has said that they will not finish reviewing or responding on these comments until the fall of 2017. After the review is completed a “preferred alternative” will be selected and sent to the Metro Board for an up or down vote. The DEIR has cost 70 Million dollars to date and the cost continues to rise. The original budget was 40 million.
It is not to say though that the DEIR was worthless. The study told us to expect 180,000 vehicles a day entering and exiting the portals from the two tunnel variation. The DEIR was called inadequate by the United States Environmental Protection Agency because it did not give data on air quality at the portals. The Health Risks were not assessed either. The traffic on the 210 and the 134 will be made worse. There will be little improvement in Alhambra and South Pasadena in traffic congestion.
The Study does not address serious concerns about tunneling across major earthquake faults and creating a break in the water tables between the San Gabriel Valley and Los Angeles. There will be a toll to use the tunnel, at least $5/trip or more for passenger vehicles. The cost was placed at 5.6 Billion, but this is much too low. There has been some opinions from responsible parties that the money for construction will never be found. There have been community proposals for utilization of the areas at the existing North and South stubs of the 710. These are promising.
It is the anti- tunnel people’s hope that the tunnel will be killed by the Metro Board or other responsible parties before the preferred alternative is selected. At the end of the day the decision to kill the tunnel will be a political one. Let us hope our elected officials will have the courage to end this boondoggle once and for all.