Thursday, April 22, 2010

It's Earth Day, So What Better Time To Push Along the 710 Freeway Tunnel?

A news site I enjoy reading is Glendale's Sunroom Desk. The reporting there is always incisive, and coming as it does from a city that has taken the lead in fighting the 710 Freeway Tunnel, often has some great insights into this important San Gabriel Valley issue.

Yesterday's edition of Sunroom Desk pointed out something that I thought needed bringing up here. It is Earth Day after all, that one 24 hour period set aside each year for us to contemplate what exactly we are doing to this place. And wouldn't you know it, Metro has designated today as the one to move along the "710 Freeway Tunnel process" just one more step forward.

Here is what SD pointed out for us:

Item 55 on the April 22, 2010 MTA Board meeting agenda includes a motion by MTA Directors John Easana and Gloria Molina to remove all zones except Zone 3 for 710 Tunnel consideration, in a bid to move that option forward in the study stage.

As we discussed earlier this week in the "Houses and Tunnels" post, we are well into the "process" phase of the 710 Tunnel. A kind of bureaucratic strip tease of options, scoping, reviews, rereviews, budgeting, consulting, testing, and whatever else they do, all with the purpose of cozening this project forward to the point where everything will be in place and, to use the popular term of the day, "shovel ready." At which time those driving the process will attempt to bum rush the public into accepting what to many potentially affected SGV cities appears to be nothing less than an environmental disaster.

And, of course, it wouldn't be a true "process" if the Green issues weren't paid at least a little bit of lip service. Which, thanks to the keen eyes at Sunroom Desk, is one of the many things we can find in Item 55 to the April 22, 2010 MTA board meeting agenda.

Over the years, outreach and consensus building have been crucial components in the transportation process. In addition, Metro has expanded its bus and rail transit services, as well as other motorized and non-motorized transportation options, and invested in signal synchronization and transportation demand management programs to provide a more balanced multi-modal system throughout the County. While much has been accomplished, in terms of identifying and addressing potential challenges associated with highway improvements and tunnel concepts for Route 710, the next steps need to reflect the current transportation planning context as well as new and emerging environmental challenges such as reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

The themes of that finely crafted bureaucratic boilerplate switch so radically the reader runs the very real risk of whiplash just by reading it. So on the one hand Metro congratulates itself by making public transportation changes that will theoretically get people out of their cars and into buses (thus helping to save the world from global warming), but on the other hand they seem to be doing all they can to move forward a tunnel project that will dump vast amounts of new auto and truck traffic onto the 710, turning our little slice of God's green earth into the equivalent of a global warming magnifying glass.

But I suppose that is all besides the point. The contradiction, though unfortunate from a marketing perspective, is actually all one and the same. The real drivers here are real estate development and commerce. And be it the 710 Tunnel or the Gold Line, strip away the greenwash and all you'll see is the money.


  1. All balanced on that fine point of policy, Greenhouse Gas emissions, used as an excuse to pile more development on top of development. Which has become the bureaucratic exercise of the century from the Feds on down.

    That's why we're now getting the populist response to this, "Hooked on Growth" at

    Time to tackle the real dysfunction at its core. "Growth" is the equivalent of leveraging debt, it comes back at you later and bankrupts everyone.

  2. "Sacramento Solutions" always seem to have that live for today aspect to them. Whatever pays off the quickest for those invested parties who sustain the careers of legislators with campaign cash and percs seems to work best for them.

  3. Happy Earth Day everyone! What better a time to focus on all the things that are (and are not) being done for our planet than today?

  4. Scott Wilson, founder of North East Trees:
    "Every day is Earth Day!"

  5. Actually, the reason there is a heavy push on the 710 project is because the 710 is a direct highway feeder from the port at long beach. The port at long beach is one of the busiest ports in the US, and therefore, a linchpin in the US economy. Reducing expenses to ship things out of the port benefits the US as a whole, as transportation costs are factored into all the goods that ship out of long beach to your eventual doorstep. It makes trade more efficient, etc etc.

    Originally the 710 was supposed to go through San Marino, but you can imagine why that didn't happen. (and was never spoken of again once they managed to move it away from their city). If you look at the freeways, and you look at it from the perspective of truck traffic from the long beach port to points north, you can see what the whole point is.

    I'm sure most people here realize that's what's the (endless) motivation is behind the 710 project. I doubt they will ever stop, unless the port of long beach no longer has significance.

    I always thought they would have skirted to the west of South Pasadena, and gone up Figueroa. Or cut through further west to connect to the 2. Although the terrain map shows that to be a little hairy.

    I also wondered if a better way to solve the problem might be to have dedicated toll truck lanes from the 710 to the 5. Although I'm sure anyone who uses the 5 (which is horribly gridlocked all the time) would hate that idea.

    I personally would hate to see South Pasadena with a freeway through it. On the other hand, I feel like recommending a different route is kind of like saying "don't put the trash dump in my yard, put it over there at my neighbor's yard. I don't like him much anyway."

    But then, if the only solution is no freeway at all, isn't this the whole problem with how our government operates today? The losing side knows the best strategy is to just say no to anything, and the result is that nothing gets done.

    But perhaps nothing should get done? Hmm. It's an issue.

  6. Metropolitan Takeover AuthorityApril 22, 2010 at 9:25 AM

    I agree with Ms Barlow. I visited the Sunroom, then to get an overview I used yahoo maps and put "freeways Southern California".

    This is not a small tunnel, it appears to be a great distance to connect the two ends of freeway tendrils shown on the map and a lot of homeowners, businesses and things will be displaced. I can understand the resistance to this project, does anyone know how long the tunnel is supposed to be?

  7. I think some of the push behind this tunnel might have something to do with the demands those who sell their products to the United States are making. They want their goods to get to the US heartland as quickly as possible, and having them bottled up and delayed in gridlocked Los Angeles must seem inefficient to them. Since these are also the same countried that lend us so much money to us so that we can continue to live in the fool's paradise the U.S. is today, I'm sure their opinion carries a lot of weight in Washington and Sacramento.

  8. What happened to the Alameda Corridor? Wasn't that supposed to be the answer?

  9. Buy American. If consumers stopped buying foreign made products, the need for an expanded transportation network from the port would be a mute point. Keep our dollars in this country.

  10. Makes sense. The overseas manufacturers want to maximize their profits here. They're business people. What do they care about a big increase of traffic on the 210? Metro and the rest of the enablers would bend over backwards to please them I'm sure.

  11. Well, don't we ship our goods out of long beach too? Wouldn't decrease costs for exporting our own goods be important?

    Also, does anyone know if that is a fuel corridor? i.e. we need it as an oil route? Although, I think maybe the gulf is our primary oil lifeline.

    It is an interesting point that improving traffic infrastructure from the port may make imports more cost competitive.

    Perhaps we should just improve freeway access TO the port. :)

  12. The far sighted human race has destroyed the habitat of most animals, the oceans, and the forests. Five billion in number soon to reach 10 billion the habitat of man will soon resemble a waste land. What a legacy for our children.

  13. C'mon people! What could be more important than getting brightly colored plastic doodads to WalMart in time? So what if this tunnel backs up the 210 from here to San Bernardino? It's the new America. Shut up and shop.

  14. Why not move the goods out of port by train, like they used to. I think it is really the new/old wave of the future. Buy stock now.

  15. gotta get me some doodadsApril 22, 2010 at 11:33 AM

    How are the 710 pushers going to green up the cancer and emphysema rates that are on record as being higher at the mouths of the tunnels?

  16. What happened to sending port goods to Palmdale by rail to a big distribution center to be built there? Is that too old school?

    Don't look now but the 210/5 freeways are too impacted to accept freightliners. Or will commuters be forced to gold line it just to get back and forth to work?

  17. Amen 11:29. The sensible solution. Didn't Barlow write an article about that?

  18. 11:33 - they'll say it cuts down on VMT (vehicle miles traveled).

  19. gotta get me some doodadsApril 22, 2010 at 11:41 AM

    11:38, you mean a new kind of population control? Willingly cause life threatening illnesses for anybody who lives/works by the tunnel openings?

  20. This will be a long process. It will include a big fight. One of the biggest and most inhumane fights we will all watch will be eminent domain take over as they force homes and business' out to build this cement nightmare.
    Then we will watch the great California politicians with big cigars and big smiles and huge pockets take pride in the real estate and development money they got out of it all and run. I watched this tragedy in other states.

    Do we really want to watch this with our neighbors? Even worse, do we really want to live in massive over crowding and gross stand-still freeway truck traffic?

    "We the people must take a stand." This really is letting the insane out of the asylum..

  21. So this bureaucratic strip tease( great phrase Tattler) involves plans to relocate how many people from their homes and jobs - and no doubt there will be tons more who are on the boundaries of the project who will suffer from all of the de/con/struction.

  22. Hear hear 11:48. And can we please mention the mind that conceived of a huge underground project in land that will, inevitably, have a cataclysmic earthquake at some time in it's future. An incapable-of-mitigation gigantic earthquake. The consulting engineers will be paid enough to believe and say that the tunnel will survive intact even if nothing else does. That's going to be a very interesting part of the hearings - why there's no danger.

  23. On my blog, Friday July 3, 2009
    "Growth and Regional Intermodal Transportation"

    Use the Google search bar in the blog to find articles with key words. Or I have a blog article list link, too.

  24. Doesn't CALTRANS own the right of ways? Isn't that what all those vacant houses represent? Isn't it a matter of dropping one of those earth eating/drilling monsters into a hole and letting it head north to the 210?

    Do we know what this part of the county is supposed to look like in 20 years? Clearly it isn't going to be lovely craftsman bungalows against a backdrop of the San Gabriels.

  25. 12:01, imagine row after row of the lovely Stuart Apartments, located at Sierra Madre Villa Station, cardboard boxes shellacked into place, filling the land until the actual hillsides, which will be full of millionaires' mansions right up to Mt. Wilson.

  26. 12:08 - sounds like industrial age England.

  27. I'm reminded of a friend's home in Pico Rivera in a neighborhood of large homes on big lots built in the 1960's - now hemmed in by a milk processing plant, the 91 Freeway, industrial buildings and strip malls. When the homes were built they were surrounded by open space. Wonder what the life cycle of a neighborhood is...

  28. I've heard that along with the tunnel there will also be a widening of the 210 as well.

  29. Given the health hazards the tunnel will bring, which of these planning organizations will cover the costs for the treatments for those unlucky enough to have bought homes in a place that will raise their risks of cancer & emphysema . It'll be fun to see the lawyers work on that language
    "The first party (Metro) has got nothing to do with the health of the second party (regular citizens)...."

  30. Hey, the Board is delaying the decision.
    They need more time to ponder.
    Board delays decision over finishing 710 Freeway

  31. It's the Earth Day thing. Metro didn't want it going down in history that they did this thing
    on a day of such importance to school children everywhere.

  32. still read the papersApril 22, 2010 at 3:29 PM

    From the PSN article:
    "Last year, the California Department of Transportation conducted exploratory drilling in five zones and determined through a geological study that building a freeway tunnel 200 feet below ground in any of the zones was feasible. The study took into account seismic activity, soil conditions and the presence of hazardous materials"

    I don't know about you, but "determined through a geological study" does nothing to inspire confidence in me. We have been through too many studies and too many expert testimonies to accept this as a satisfactory answer.

  33. La Conchita always comes to mind when I hear about safety approvals from geological studies. That housing development got the OK from every planning/council body it came before.

  34. Nimbys gotta contribute tooApril 22, 2010 at 4:40 PM

    How about South Pasadena Shouldering their fair share of the burden.

    If South Pas wasn't mostly lily white the 710 would have been completed above ground years ago.

    The gap is an unfair burden to the entire SGV and the extra miles driven because of it are an environmental nightmare.

  35. You know what the opposite of NIMBYs are, right?


    You Build Or We Sue.

    Which is something done by AIMMs.

    Arnold Is My Mommy.

  36. South Pas activists have done what all the citizens should have done.
    Hope they keep on being successful. They have a nice town and a right to protect it.

  37. They have all kinds of nice names for people who fight to preserve their communities, 5:02.

  38. Well,

    someone correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the reason that the current stub doesn't stop at Huntington Drive, because San Marino helped axe that?

    I mean, all that 710 traffic would love to run up and down that big wide corridor, I'm sure. Looks like that's probably the original line of the first 710 idea. Just guessing though.

  39. Great Idea! Widen the 210 to move the bottleneck eastward and northward. How about structuring it so that 12 lanes go west 4:00 AM to 12:PM and east 1:00 PM to 11:PM? Lets move the bottleneck to Burbank and points North and to Riverside and points East. Freeway Vendors can walk the freeway parking lot selling all sorts of things. So the Tunnel is actually a new business opportunity!. I LOVE IT!!!

  40. Al Gore has pocketed over $500,000,000.00 with his global warming lies and an entire generation of school children have be brainwashed.

  41. Build the dam thing!

  42. probably pointless butApril 22, 2010 at 7:52 PM

    7:26, and all those responsible scientists from Cal Tech and places like that who agree that the climate is changing - they've been brainwashed too, huh?
    And since you bring up money, want to take a guess at how much has been spent to brainwash the public into seeing global warming as a hoax?

  43. Pointless, you've missed the point. How exactly is building the 710 Tunnel going to make anything better?

  44. know the Port issuesApril 22, 2010 at 9:20 PM

    @ 9:08
    Trucking industry gets the contracts instead of rail, subsidized by taxpayer construction of the tunnel.

    If the tunnel doesn't get built, then it forces the completion of the Alameda Corridor freight rail as well as development of northern rail lines and dry ports for the containerized cargo. That means the rail industry has to foot the bill and then product costs go up along with the freight charges. Not good if consumers are pinching pennies.

    Rail lines use efficient engines, so far less petrol gets used for the cheapo truck hauls that pollute like crazy. So fuel pricing may become a factor in this situation as well, besides the construction costs of the tunnel that can't be sold to a savvy public.

    At least I hope we're savvy.

  45. probably pointless butApril 22, 2010 at 9:26 PM

    9:08, the point I was making was a response to the remark about brainwashing school kids, not an argument for the 710 tunnel.
    I am opposed to the tunnel, but that does not translate into ignoring science. We have a problem - we just need better solutions. Clean fuel cars are a good start - so's light rail.

  46. Fair enough, 9:26. But light rail is being used as the excuse for development run amuck here in the San Gabriel Valley. Go read up on SB 375. Just about as stunning a perversion of what might have once been a good idea you will ever see.

  47. @9:20 - thanks for the info. Just pulled this down from acta's website:

    The Alameda Corridor is located in southern Los Angeles County, California, running from the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles 20 miles north to downtown Los Angeles, primarily along and adjacent to Alameda Street. The project extends through or borders the cities of Vernon, Huntington Park, South Gate, Lynwood, Compton, Carson, Los Angeles, and the County of Los Angeles.
    The project's origin can be traced to October 1981, when the Ports Advisory Committee (PAC) was created by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG). This committee was established in response to growing concerns about the ability of the ground transportation system to accommodate increasing levels of traffic in the port area. PAC members included local elected officials, as well as representatives of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the U.S. Navy, Army Corps of Engineers, affected railroads, trucking industry, and the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission (LACTC).
    The first phase of the PAC's study, completed in 1982, dealt with the problems of highway access to the ports. In this phase, the PAC addressed a number of problem areas and recommended a cost-effective set of highway improvements, including the widening of certain streets. The second phase, a study of rail access, was completed in 1984. Additional highway improvements were recommended, but the focus of the second phase was concern over the impact of projected train traffic on communities north of the ports. Three routing alternatives were evaluated and the results of the analysis indicated that consolidating all trains on an up-graded Southern Pacific San Pedro Branch right-of-way would be the most cost-effective alternative.
    To pursue this objective, in February 1985 SCAG created the Alameda Corridor Task Force (ACTF), whose membership was similar to that of PAC, with the addition of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and each of the cities along the corridor. The need for the project was further confirmed by the Consolidated Rail Corridor Strategic Plan published by the two ports in November 1988. The ACTF concluded that a Joint Powers Authority should be created to have design and construction responsibility for the Alameda Corridor, and the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority (ACTA) was created in August of 1989.

  48. Great information 8:41. Thanks very much.
    Now what the hell happened to derail this good rail plan?