The agency will focus on small infrastructure improvements instead.
By Elijah Chiland, May 25, 2017
The Metro Board of Directors closed out another chapter in the long saga of the never-finished 710 freeway Thursday, nixing a plan to extend the route north via an underground tunnel.
In a unanimous vote, the board approved a motion submitted last week by chairman John Fasana calling on the agency to pursue an alternative to the tunnel that focuses instead on smaller infrastructure improvements in the area.
Fasana previously supported building the tunnel, but said Thursday it was simply too costly for Metro to finance. In the works for well over a decade, the project, Fasana suggested, needed a resolution. “I think we’ve reached a point where a decision needs to be made,” he said.
With the board’s vote, Metro will now pursue the so-called “Transportation System Management/Transportation Demand Management” alternative—one of five options proposed by Metro in a 2013 study that analyzed possibilities for closing the 710 freeway gap.
Original plans for the route had it stretching between Long Beach and the 210 freeway, rather than abruptly ending just north of Interstate 10 at Valley Boulevard, as it does today.
Other possible alternatives to the tunnel included a light rail line and a rapid bus system, but those projects would have also commanded relatively high price tags.
Instead, Metro will pursue bringing smaller changes to the communities the tunnel would have linked. Those include more frequent bus service, widening certain streets, and better traffic signal synchronization.
The infrastructure improvements will be paid for with $780 million in funding set aside for the 710 project through Measure R.
Fasana’s original motion called for the bulk of those funds to go toward “mobility improvement projects” in the San Gabriel Valley, but was later amended to include communities like El Sereno and unincorporated East LA that have been affected by the project.
As board members at the meeting expressed their support for the proposal, it became clear that the vote was in part a referendum on the future of transportation in Los Angeles.
Director and Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian called the tunnel “outdated,” while Mayor Eric Garcetti said that freeway projects like this one were no longer a viable solution to LA’s traffic woes.
Fasana agreed, suggesting Metro will have its work cut out for it going forward. “The highway system we have today is what we’ll have 100 years from now,” he said. “We have to live with the [system] we have.”