The San Marino City Council had reaffirmed its support of the proposed 710 tunnel option in 2012, a resolution that was initially approved in 2006. As new information has been released and a new council formed, San Marino City Council Member Steve Talt requested that the group take another look at why they support the extension of the 710 Freeway.
“I have never seen an express rationale as to why,” Talt said.
The resolution basically states that the city of San Marino supports the completion of the Interstate 710 Freeway; supports the findings of the 710 Tunnel Technical Feasibility Assessment Report; opposes the Huntington Drive offramp option as part of the tunnel project; and supports efforts to advance to the next stage of assessment.
That next stage of assessment was the draft Environmental Impact Report, which was released in January, 2015. It addressed all five options – the no-build alternative; the transportation system management/transportation demand management (TSM/TDM) alternative; bus rapid transit (BRT) alternative; light rail transit (LRT) alternative; and freeway tunnel alternative.
Elements of each option would be part of every alternative. For example, the tunnel would include TSM/TDM improvements such as expanded bus services and bicycle facility improvements.
The city had five concerns, specifically on the TSM/TDM alternative, which they submitted in response to the draft EIR.
Angled parking in San Marino is part of the characteristic of the city, and is something that should not be changed.
The parking analysis completed as part of the study was flawed. Many businesses depend on street parking for customers, and the removal of these spots would be “detrimental” to the businesses.
The angled parking helps maintain a lower speed limit in San Marino. Changing it would require the speed limit to be raised.
All four of San Marino’s public schools are located on Huntington Drive. The city does not believe that increasing traffic capacity or volume would be in the best interest of the students.
The city does not believe small changes to intersections or widened lanes on Huntington Drive are necessary.
“Many of our collector streets are residential and are subject to significant cut-through traffic. It is my belief that this traffic will only be significantly reduced through the freeway tunnel option,” the response concludes.
“Along the way, this project has experienced a delay of over 50 years, and the delay will continue,” said Bill Bogaard, former mayor of Pasadena
Bogaard has kept up with the 710 discussion since his term expired in May, 2015. Thousands of public comments were submitted in response to the draft EIR, and an answer is required for every single comment.
The principle issue, Bogaard said, is the huge cost of the tunnel. Right now, it’s estimated to cost $5.6 billion, but tunnel projects in the past have all experienced cost overruns, he said.
“I think the tunnel does not meet the needs of our region because the EIR indicates local traffic will not be reduced and air pollution would be increased,” Bogaard said.
From San Marino’s perspective, local traffic would not really be improved. Freeway traffic on the 210 is already congested much of the day, and it would be much worse, Bogaard added.
San Marino resident Raymond Quan, who has attended all the Metro meetings and has researched the 710 extensively, said he had some problems with the claim that there will be a decrease in traffic. The draft EIR states the tunnel will reduce the percentage of cut-through traffic by half when the freeway capacity is increased. This only relates to the double bore style tunnel with no toll.
No toll is not realistic, Quan said. The dual bore tunnel with a toll will cut through traffic by 43 percent, according to the study. As tolls go up, he said, less people will be using the connected freeway, and more traffic will be added to the local streets.
None of this accounts for the local traffic either, which is 86 percent of all traffic within the city.
“When they say traffic will get better, where is the evidence?” Quan said.
In comparing the estimated traffic for the double bore tunnel in 2035 directly with a no-build option, there is almost no difference. In fact, traffic on the freeways only gets worse, and the traffic on surface streets shows very minor improvements in some areas, but overall, it seems to worsen as well.
Additionally, the South Coast Air Quality Management District had critiqued the draft EIR for failing to estimate emissions of carbon monoxide and airborne particulates for the tunnel option. The project would also raise the cancer risk to “unacceptable” levels.
The cost benefit analysis is “extremely flawed” too, Quan said. Despite the $1 billion cost per mile for the 405 freeway tunnel in the Sepulveda Pass, the Department of Transportation has estimated the cost for this project as half a billion dollars per mile. The most profit would come from the single bore tunnel rather than the dual bore tunnel, he added.
The city council – and the traffic advisory commission – had a joint meeting on Wednesday, March 9, where they briefly discussed the 710. Right now, the city is waiting for the public comment responses as well as what Los Angeles County has to say.