CITY HALL — Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian today will try to block a proposed tunnel extension of the Long Beach (710) Freeway from moving into the environmental study phase.
The decades-long controversy surrounding the proposed "gap closure" of the Foothill (210) and Long Beach (710) freeways was reinvigorated last year when the California Department of Transportation and Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority released draft results of a $6-million route feasibility study.
The report showed tunneling was feasible within five potential zones — including connections to the 210 and Glendale (2) freeways — but it did not address any environmental concerns, such as traffic and pollution.
The MTA's Board of Directors — of which Najarian is chairman — today will consider approving the more in-depth environmental studies needed to move the proposal forward and will likely hear public comments on both sides of the issue.
The motion for the studies was brought by Duarte City Councilman and MTA Board member John Fasana, who has said the tunnel would create a "vital connection" for San Gabriel Valley residents.
But Najarian said Fasana's motion was premature, and is instead pushing an amendment that would first study all available solutions to the traffic congestion, including a tunnel, light rail and freight corridor improvements, and compare the cost benefits.
"I'm confident that when we look at all this additional information, even the most biased person in favor of the tunnel will see, 'Hey, we can solve these traffic issues at less cost much quicker with less environmental impact than a tunnel,'" Najarian said.
It's the latest chapter in an ongoing fight between the San Gabriel Valley communities, which have long pleaded for relief from traffic congestion, and several foothill communities that say the connector will add more polluting big rigs to local freeways.
The Glendale City Council last year voted to officially oppose the tunnel. La Cañada Flintridge and South Pasadena have already committed significant resources to the fight, filing a unsuccessful legal challenge against the use of $780 million in earmarked Measure R funds for tunnel studies or construction.
La Cañada Mayor Don Voss said he planned to speak in favor of Najarian's motion at the MTA meeting. The mayors of Pasadena and South Pasadena have also indicated support.
"So far, what's happened is that an option was selected — the tunnel — and the process has been to back into the justification," he said. "And that is backward."