Saturday, January 24, 2009

710 Tunnel: The Big Lie On Air Quality

Apparently we weren't the only ones discussing the Joe Mathews piece on building the I-710 Freeway Extension. See yesterday's post for the Tattler take. And Damien Newton, whose article "'New America Foundation' Columnist Calls for 710 Expansion" is now up on the L.A. Streetsblog site, also laid into both Joe and the organization he is a part of ...

If you're wondering how a representative of a group that claims to 'invest in new thinkers and new ideas to address the next generation of challenges facing the United States,' can push a massive road expansion project when progressive thinkers understand that highway expansion has failed as a long-term answer to congestion, you're not alone. And let's be clear, if Mathews is serious about this project being a part of the president's stimulus plan, then he's talking about the widening plan that would devastate downtown South Pasadena to say nothing of the environmental damage as a welcome mat for truckers.

A key point here is the environmental impact one. Despite the sales pitch, the 710 expansion is mostly about providing inland access for the massive truck traffic coming out of the Port of Los Angeles. As America became more and more addicted to imports from the cheap labor states of Asia, truck traffic from Long Beach increased exponentially. To the point where the 710 corridor has become recognized as one of the most polluted in the U.S. And, of course, if the 710 tunnel is built that traffic will route onto the 210, blessing our neck of the San Gabriel Valley with the same kinds of air quality devastation seen in cities such as Bell, Paramount, and Compton.

Which, of course, is why the usual suspects have been trotted out in an attempt to explain it all away. This from something called the State Route 710 Tunnel Technical Study ...

In 2006, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (METRO) commissioned a Tunnel Feasibility Assessment Study, which concluded that constructing an underground tunnel to connect the SR-710 is feasible. Because a tunnel connection would relieve regional and local congestion, and improve air quality, it gained the support of METRO, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG).

I don't know about you, but personally I think it's safe to assume that any conclusion this bunch comes up with is pretty much the opposite of what is popularly known as 'truth.'

The air quality claim of the 710 Tunnel Technical Study is little more than propaganda designed to help sell what is locally an immensely unpopular project. And people are speaking out. An article in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune (10/30/07 - "Researcher: Tunnel could lead to more pollution") discussed the findings of Rob McConnell, the deputy director of the USC-UCLA Children's Environmental Health Center.

Rob McConnell ... told officials that heavy stop-and-go traffic inside the tunnel could raise pollution levels levels significantly within South Pasadena. It could also potentially pose health risks to people living, working, and attending schools near the freeway, he said ... Children who lived within 550 yards of a freeway for the first 10 years of their lives grow up to have lower lung capacity than their peers who live a mile away, the USC study showed . McConnell said previous USC-UCLA studies have shown children living within a block of a freeway have an 89 percent chance of developing asthma than those not living near major traffic arteries ... plans for the 710 tunnel show the proposed freeway "is going to cut quite close to various schools," he said.

A report put together by Friends of the Earth called Road To Ruin, which lists its 27 worst highway projects in the country, had this to say about how the 710 tunnel would impact our air quality (pgs. 10, 11):

Though SR 710 supporters claim that the highway would improve air quality, the South Coast Air Quality Management District criticized Caltrans' use of an obsolete air pollution emission model, and the EPA has criticized numerous flaws in Caltrans' analysis of SR 710's impact on air quality and communities. A federal district court based its 1999 injunction against the project partly on flaws in Caltrans' emissions analysis ... SR 710 is projected to double the number of vehicle trips through the corridor - to 200,000 per day - and many of those vehicles would be diesel trucks. The Air Quality Management District's 2002 Multiple Air Toxics Exposure Study found that air pollution-related cancer risk was elevated across the Los Angeles Basin; that cars, trucks and other vehicles were primary sources of some carcinogenic air pollutants; and that the highest risk often occurred near major roads.

One more thought. Do you recall SCAG's claim that high-density housing would somehow help obviate the traffic congestion that bedevils our part of the world? Well, here is its ancillary. More car and truck traffic will help improve air quality. 

Even George Orwell would be amazed by these guys.


  1. As a child I used to hold my breath when we would drive through a tunnel on the Pasadena Freeway. It was a game. Now you will need to hold your breath to save your life.

  2. This doesn't sound "green".
    Call algore Buchanan and complain.

  3. It's amazing the kinds of crap we're fed by these people. They must be really concerned about us.

  4. Who are you going to trust more, SCAG or AQMD?
    Caltrans or USC-UCLA?
    Great information, Sir Eric.
    Hopefully, with a community organizer in the White House, community movements will be respected more. We just have to hope that the South Pasadena community activists have not been exhausted. Those of us who have been in community struggles know how difficult it can be to persevere.

  5. The arrogance of these people is astonishing.

  6. Its about the money, isn't it?

  7. It's always about the money. Hundreds of millions of our tax dollars working against us.