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Protestors question regional impact and safety of proposed 710 tunnel

Local residents and lawmakers protested Saturday in Pasadena closing the 710 Freeway gap between the 10 and 210 freeways with a tunnel. While council members from Alhambra, San Gabriel, Monterey Park, Rosemead, and San Marino support the tunnel alternative, the No 710 Action Committee organized the morning rally to discuss the potentially negative impacts a tunnel could have on the environment and public safety.

Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard emphasized that a tunnel would impact more than just cities along the proposed tunnel routes. “This is not an acute local issue. This is a regional issue,” Bogaard said. “Eric Garcetti voted ‘No’ on the tunnel when he was on the L.A. City Council.”

A tunnel is one of five alternatives on Metro's list of ways to close the freeway gap. Others include transit services and ride sharing, a light-rail line, rapid bus route, and "no-build" alternatives. South Pasadena Mayor Dr. Richard Schneider — who rode to the rally on a bike — advocated for a transit alternative, arguing that better transit management would improve signal and intersection programs and promote the use of carpool and transit services. 

The protest was spurred by a July 13 accident during which an oil tanker overturned and caught fire inside a tunnel interchange on the 5 and 2 freeways. The accident caused major structural damage to the tunnel and lanes on the 5 Freeway had to be closed for cleanup. Members of the No 710 Action Committee used the accident as an example of the possible dangers of a tunnel, and according to La Crescenta resident and No 710 Action Committee spokesperson Susan Bolan, the accident “completely influenced” her thinking.

Metro has not officially ruled out banning trucks in the tunnel but according to their SR-710 FAQ series, trucks comprise only three percent of the vehicles north of the 10 Freeway. 

Alhambra council members hosted "710 Day" on July 10 to declare their support for the 710 tunnel alternative. Although an environmental study of the extension alternatives is not due until Spring 2014, Alhambra council members believe that the tunnel is the safest and most environmentally friendly option for completing the 710.

“For me, it’s very important because it’s an environmental issue. If you read the news, Southern California, Los Angeles specifically, is the number one city in the country, in the entire nation, if you rank it in terms of contamination,” Councilman Luis Ayala said during a June 10 City Council meeting. "This is something that is going to impact most likely our generation, if we see this through. Our kids now living near this freeway are the ones being impacted the most.”

But La Canada Flintridge Mayor Laura Olhasso argued Saturday that a larger regional solution is needed. "I have a lot of sympathy for the residents of Alhambra," Olhasso said. "They need a solution, they really do. But their solution can't be one that means more congestion, more noise, more air pollution to all the other communities in the area."

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10 thoughts on “Protestors question regional impact and safety of proposed 710 tunnel”

  1. Sources please. Otherwise you’re pulling these numbers and assertions from thin air – I haven’t seen reliable estimates saying passenger cars may pay $15 tolls; the construction company hasn’t been chosen yet; financing hasn’t been settled on but it will likely be a municipal bond floated to the bonds market like a lot of other major infrastructure projects.
    Not only that, but please address counter arguments reasonably expected. For example, the Mont Blanc tunnel was built in the 1950s and not upgraded until the fire. It is now open with upgrades, new policies and procedures, and technologies intended to prevent such a fire. Address the relative safety of a tunnel if Metro follows suit and ensures the tunnel meets and exceeds those standards.

    Is a vehicle tunnel a waste of money? I think so. Will it fix congestion through Alhambra? Very unlikely, as Metro/Caltrans has acknowledged. But that doesn’t give me or anyone else carte blanche to spread misinformation or unfounded fear about the impacts of a project that has so many unknown and unquantifiable factors. Share what you have that comes from reliable sources you cite, but understand that you undermine your arguments when you don’t.

    1. http://www.no710.com/_resources/5-financial_charette/financial-charrette…




      The following I had to copy and paste. This is a memo from profession engineer Walter Kulash. I hope it is readable. If not I will attempt another way to attach.


      DATE: April 15 2013
      FROM: Walter Kulash. P.E.
      PROJECT: 710 Gap closure

      RE: Tunnel costs, benefits and tolls

      Interpreting Cost and Toll Revenue Data

      I can further support your (and city elected officials’ and staff’s) assertions that the tunnel project for the 710 gap closure is unreasonably expensive and not worth doing through two approaches, based largely on information provided by SCAG or from the project EIR/EIS:
      1. Toll rate projection, showing that, if operated as a toll tunnel, tolls per trip would have to be outrageously high,
      2. Benefit-to-cost comparison, showing that regardless of how funded, the project benefit would not come close to paying for project cost, thereby rendering it as a poor investment of public funds.

      The following two sections outline a preliminary estimate of the magnitude of these two measures.

      Toll Rate Projection

      Table 1 shows that under “optimistic” (i.e., favorable to tunnel project) cost assumptions, a project funded by tolls would require a toll, per trip of $8.99. Assuming more likely costs, a toll of $18.82 per trip would be required. Thus for the daily pair of trips made by a typical commuter, the daily toll expenditure would range from $17.98 (under “Optimistic” project cost) to $37.64 (more likely project cost).

      The absurdity of tolls of these levels can be illustrated in a number of ways:
      • The annual toll expense for a daily commuter would be over $9,000 under likely assumptions of project cost.
      • The toll charge for one trip through the tunnel would be the most expensive urban toll charge worldwide.
      • If not spent on servicing the toll debt, the equivalent payment ($497 million annually) would instead support over 7,000 jobs in the region.

      Table 1
      Tolls Needed to Support Cost of Building and Operating Tunnel

      Project Cost “More Likely”
      Project Cost
      1 Project Cost $5.6 billion $8.5 billion
      2 Bond terms 3.0 %, 40 years 3.5 %, 40 years
      3 Bond coverage ratio 1.15 1.25
      4 Annual debt service $279 million $497 million
      5 Toll collection adm & maint $4 million $9 million
      6 Tunnel oper & maint $10 million $17 million
      7 Total annual cost $293 million $523 million
      8 Daily trips (if no toll) 170,000 170,000
      9 Percent diversion 40 50
      10 Daily toll trips 102,000 85,000
      11 Annualization factor 320 310
      12 Annual trips 32.6 million 26.4 million
      13 Cost per trip, one way $8.99 $18.82
      14 Daily commute cost $ 17.98 $37.64

      Line 1. Selected from published estimates
      Lines 2,3. Typical revenue bond terms, major US toll projects
      Line 4. Terms and coverage applied to project cost
      Line 5. Assuming electronic toll collection
      Line 6. Typical costs, ventilated, lit and patrolled tunnels
      Line 9. Percent of trips made on free (no toll) road which would divert to other routes if
      tolls were applied. In the absence of a toll and revenue study for the 710 tunnel,
      rates shown are typical of major toll project throughout the US.

      Benefit/Cost Comparison

      The costs of the tunnel project far outweigh its benefits, resulting in a benefit to cost ratio (“B/C ratio”) of only 0.47 to 0.84 (Table 2). These ratios (0.47 or 0.84) signify that the tunnel project returns only 47 cents (“likely” cost) or 84 cents (“optimistic” cost), respectively, on each dollar invested.

      In contrast, typical major highway improvements designed in response to actual needs yield B/C ratios in the 3.0 to 5.0 range. Some particularly high-value improvements, such as traffic signal system upgrades and arterial street spot capacity and safety projects, yield B/C ratios of over 10.0

      Table 2
      Benefit Cost Ratios for the Tunnel Project

      Cost Estimate More Likely
      Cost Estimate
      1 Daily delay savings ($ million) 1.097 1.097
      2 Daily cost of additional travel ($ million) 0.308 0.308
      3 Net daily benefit ($ million) 0.789 0.789
      4 Annualization factor (equivalent days per year) 310 310
      5 Annual benefit ($ million) 245 245
      6 Annual cost ($ million) 293 523
      7 Benefit/Cost (B/C) ratio 0.84 0.47

      Line 1. Daily delay savings from I-710 Corridor Project EIR/EIS, average of Alterative 6A
      and 6B, valued at $18.00 hourly
      Line 2. Daily additional travel from I-710 Corridor Project EIR/EIS, average of Alterative 6A
      and 6B, valued at $0.55 per vehicle mile of travel.
      Line 3. Net daily benefit is delay savings less cost of additional travel.
      Line 6. Annual cost from Table 1

      1. Vicki, that Cost and Revenue Data interpretation has so much revelation, perhaps we can hire more engineers to save our ailing city and state budgets!

        While that report does indeed give estimated calculations, the devil is in the details. How accurate are the daily trips from a long-term perspective? While the costs are expensive, what’s the OPPORTUNITY COST? How can you measure that? By the hours of wasted lives sitting in traffic? Ridership figures on the Metro line have also been underestimated before by “engineers”. Now our Metro light rail usage has been continuously growing just about every year! How much do you think it cost our society when we continue to have babies, our population grows, and our community cannot expand its infrastructure because we only look at dollar expenses. What we really should look at is the millions of dollars of lost productivity from all the people who waste their lives in traffic, and the economic opportunities never realized by bottle-necked old freeways. You’ll never see those numbers because progress is only valued and measured AFTER the hard work is finished…

        I support closing the gap!

  2. Vicki, the proposal is regional by nature, but this is definitely a NIMBY issue with local opposition, and with regional ramifications. So what is your alternative solution? Many of those things you point out are still being addressed by Metro. The “back-it-up” approach you seem so fond of is nothing but selective data based on the political perspective of the person talking. Same old-game! And it continues on and on. Just keep in mind though, something WILL BE BUILT with this 710-issue. Doing nothing will not be an option, and our ongoing current traffic situation will prove that…

  3. First it was NO to the surface freeway, now it’s NO to the tunnel, what’s next? This is pure NIMBYism because the NIMBYs themselves have no answer to the growing needs of our society, just the desire to keep things the same in a changing world. Heck, if we threw in light rail they would probably say no to that too!

    1. Tom, you are wrong. We advocate for safe, clean, and cost effective transportation, light rail (LRT) being one of them. This is not a NIMBY issue. This is a regional issue. The tunnel is not meant for commuters in order to make their travel easier. The tunnel is meant for moving goods from the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. All information that we have comes from Metro’s own site. Metro grades their projects like we got grades in school, A being the best and F being the worst. Metro’s own studies say this project will open at a Level F. This tunnel will have a toll of up to $15.00 per trip. It will be be constructed by a private foreign company. That company will need to be paid back, hence the tolls. The tolls will not go back into the system to maintain the tunnel. The tunnel will have no exits. You may only enter in one end and come out at the other end. This means that if you live or work somewhere between Pasadena and El Sereno you will either have to avoid the tunnel or go past your destination and double back. Opinion and fact are different animals. Opinions hold no value unless you have something to back it up. All information is gathered for easy viewing at no710.com.

  4. Sbolan, you are so correct. ALL vehicles carry flammable fuel. Readers, don’t forget that fire consumes oxygen. Suffocation is a reality and even the inhalation of flames. There have been enough fatal tunnel fires to be able to say that it is not safe. If you are young and healthy and can run at least five miles to get out of the tunnel (with oxygen depleted and noxious fumes), then maybe you might make it out. The elderly, handicapped, young mothers with babies and young children in tow will not make it out alive. No oxygen, fire, smoke, and noxious fumes will consume most of those in the tunnel.

  5. I would like to add that I explained to Alfred Dicioco about road tunnels having a long history of danger. I wrote a piece about this on no710.com. At these Metro meetings, Project Manager Yoga Chandran has stated that trucks carrying fuel will not be allowed in the freeway tunnels in compliance with State law. That is good. However, as I pointed out at the meetings, ALL trucks/cars carry fuel. When vehicles with full gas tanks collide on area freeways, the resulting fires can be deadly. When the same vehicles collide in a tunnel, the consequences can be catastrophic due to the confined space. In the Caldecott Tunnel in Northern California, much like the 5/2 Freeway fire, fuel poured out of a tanker truck into the gutters and drains within the tunnel and caught fire. Seven people lost their lives. But diesel fuel and gasoline aren’t the only dangers to drivers in tunnels. In the Monte Blanc Tunnel between France and Italy, a truck carrying flour and margarine caught fire and the fire burned so hot that it caused the concrete and asphalt to catch fire, causing major structural damage. Thirty-nine people died within 15 minutes, many of them didn’t even make it out of their vehicles. So when Metro says they can make this tunnel safe and that the emergency plan is to walk out of the 4.9 mile tunnels, 100 to 200 feet underground with a 4% grade, OR WAIT FOR ASSISTANCE (I swear they said this), I have to question whether they know what they are doing. They are in over their heads and putting us at risk. Please support ANY other alternative than this expensive and dangerous tunnel plan.

    1. Sbolan, you are so correct. ALL vehicles carry flammable fuel. Readers, don’t forget that fire consumes oxygen. Suffocation is a reality and even the inhalation of flames. There have been enough fatal tunnel fires to be able to say that it is not safe. If you are young and healthy and can run at least five miles to get out of the tunnel (with oxygen depleted and noxious fumes), then maybe you might make it out. The elderly, handicapped, young mothers with babies and young children in tow will not make it out alive. No oxygen, fire, smoke, and noxious fumes will consume most of those in the tunnel.

  6. Metro’s claim that trucks compose only 3% of the vehicles on the 710 north of the 10 is misleading and revolves around semantics. Their definition of trucks in this case is a truck hauling a cargo container taken directly from a ship and loaded onto the truck. They call everything else a “local delivery”. This category includes all the trucks that have picked up their cargo at warehouses and other distribution points and they may be headed for any destination in the county or the country for that matter. Take a look around next time you are on the 5 or the 210 for that matter. Most of the trucks that clog our freeways and threaten our safety daily are what Metro would categorize as “local deliveries”. I don’t know about you, but these are the trucks that I am concerned about.