Traffic congestion, safety hazards and air and noise pollution topped a list of concerns put forth by community members Saturday at a public outreach meeting on the proposed Long Beach (710) freeway gap-closure project.
The meeting, which drew about two dozen people to Glendale Community College, was the last of six hosted by Metro over two weeks. The goal was to bring residents of Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, Pasadena, South Pasadena and northeast Los Angeles — communities that would be impacted by the 710 project — up to speed on the history of growth and mass transportation in the region, as well as to develop discussion themes for future meetings, said Metro spokesperson Helen Ortiz Gilstrap.
Attendees were led through a brain-storming session during which they identified daily transportation concerns and possible solutions.
The project would connect the Long Beach (710) and Foothill (210) freeways, possibly by a 4.5-mile long underground tunnel, between Alhambra and Pasadena.
Metro began a second series of meetings to detail the environmental studies, known as CEQA/NEPA, on March 1 at Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena. A third series will aim to gather public input for “scoping” purposes, required as part of the environmental review process approved last spring by the MTA.
Metro’s community meetings met with criticism from opponents, who characterized them as a waste of time and money. Los Angeles County transportation officials plan to push for the project despite resistance from the cities of La Cañada Flintridge, Pasadena, Glendale and others, critics said.
“We have learned from the geotechnical meetings that it is just their attempt at outreach, which falls extremely short,” said Susan Bolan, a La Crescenta resident and a member of the No 710 Action Committee. “We haven’t even officially entered scoping, and we see this as a touchy-feely, we-are-going-to-tell-you-how-it-is sort of thing. We are not taking them seriously, but we want to be here representing our point of view.”
“Scoping” helps define the scope of a pending environmental review by including public comment on the project involved, according to Metro documents.
All options remain on the table, including not closing the 710 gap at all, Gilstrap and other Metro officials emphasized. Community input will play a critical role in determining whether and how the project will proceed. Those who cannot attend the meetings in person are being asked to contribute via webcasts and virtual meetings, accessible through the Metro website.
The estimated cost of the proposed gap-closure tunnel has varied widely — between $1 billion and $12 billion. The money would come from Measure R, a county tax approved by voters in 2008 that is expected to generate $44 billion.
Glendale Mayor and Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors member Ara Najarian in December requested a cost estimate on the entire project before proceeding with the costly environmental studies, which carry a price tag of about $90 million.
Metro responded in late February, placing the cost at $3 billion. Najarian described that figure as a low-ball estimate that did not take into account the mechanical, electrical and plumbing costs, among others.
“A better per-mile comparison should be the Big Dig in Boston, which was a completed project,” Najarian said. “That is one that was sold to the public at about $3 or $4 billion, and it ended up being, with all the finance costs, about $22 billion. If we are going to compare tunnels, let’s compare one that has been built already, rather than one that is a pie-in-the-sky.”
El Sereno resident Tom Williams criticized the estimate as failing to take into account the full length of the proposed tunnel.
“[The $3 billion estimate] is fallacious, number one,” Williams said. “They give the total project length as 3.98 miles, whereas before it has always been 4.5.”
Opponents said they would continue to voice their opposition and encourage Metro to examine alternative traffic solutions.
Remaining second-series 710 meetings include:
Thursday, March 3, 6 to 8 p.m., Alhambra Civic Center, 101 S. First St., Alhambra
Tuesday, March 8, 6 to 8 p.m., Glendale Community College, 1500 N. Verdugo Road, Glendale
Wednesday, March 9, 6 to 8 p.m., South Pasadena High School, 1401 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena
Thursday, March 27, 6 to 8 p.m., Los Angeles Christian Presbyterian Church, 2241 N. Eastern Ave., Los Angeles