Najarian wants to know what tunnel would cost

Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian said he is planning to call for an immediate cost analysis of the controversial 710 Freeway underground tunnel, arguing regional officials may be poised to waste billions of dollars on the proposed project.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is backing a proposal to build an underground tunnel connecting the 710 Freeway, which now ends in Alhambra, to the Pasadena (210) Freeway. Najarian and other officials in Glendale, Pasadena, South Pasadena and La Cañada Flintridge strongly oppose the connection, while a majority of MTA board members favor it.

Najarian, who serves on the MTA board of directors, said there is no credible figure for a project with an estimated price tag of $3 billion to $11.8 billion.

"The ultimate question is whether we can ever afford that tunnel," he said.

His motion, which would be considered next week, would require a cost analysis to be completed by February.

Najarian said supporters of the tunnel are not likely to back his request because an estimate "would be very detrimental to the project."

"They are going to want to kill it and kill me, probably, because it raises the question of the cost estimate," he said.

Nat Read, chairman of the 710 Freeway Coalition, a group of labor and business groups that favor the project, said the cost will be estimated in a $59-million environmental study approved in September.

"The environmental study will answer that very question," Read said. "You have to do a study to get an answer."

Najarian has tried to slow the project before, and the cities of South Pasadena and La Cañada unsuccessfully sued to block the highway extension.

But a majority of MTA board members back the project as the best way to connect major metropolitan thoroughfares.

La Cañada Flintridge City Councilman Gregory Brown said he hadn't seen Najarian's motion, but supports the goal.

"We've long been concerned that an overly rosy financial picture was being painted by proponents," Brown said.

Jan Soohoo, a La Cañada resident who has worked to block the tunnel, said MTA and state transportation officials have never offered a credible price tag.

"They just have no answers for us. It is the most insane approach to spending money that I've ever seen in my life," Soohoo said. "I'm thrilled [Najarian] is pushing this idea."

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