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Metro Board could dash plans for a 710 freeway tunnel next week

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Board Chair John Fasana wants smaller street improvements instead

710 freeway sign Ken Lund | creative commons

In a blow to advocates of a 710 freeway tunnel, a Metro committee yesterday approved a motion calling on the agency’s Board of Directors to support an alternative to the project that would facilitate street improvements and better connections to public transit in the area, rather than building the multi-billion tunnel.

The Metro Board’s Ad Hoc Congestion, Highways and Roads Committee approved the motion, introduced by Board Chair John Fasana, in a contentious 3-2 vote, as The Source reports. It will be considered by the full Board at its next meeting on Thursday, May 25.

The question of how to compensate for a never-built extension of the 710 freeway has been debated for years. In 2013, a Metro study presented five options for closing the gap between the freeway’s current terminus just above the 10 freeway to the 210 in Pasadena.

Only one of those plans—the tunnel—would create a new path for drivers. The others, which include a light rail system and a rapid bus line, are focused on expanding options for commuters in the area.

Fasana’s motion favors the so-called “Transportation System Management/Transportation Demand Management” alternative, which focuses on smaller-scale improvements that could help relieve congestion in the area. Those include more frequent bus service, widening certain streets, and better traffic signal synchronization.

Fasana notes in the motion that the agency lacks the money needed to construct the tunnel (costs are projected to be over $3 billion), while light rail and rapid bus options “may not produce the expected traffic impact mitigation.”

When LA County voters approved Measure R in 2008, $780 million was set aside for the 710 project. Fasana’s motion calls for $105 million of those funds to be dedicated to the TSM/TDM plan, while the remaining money would be used for “mobility improvement projects” in the San Gabriel Valley.

This isn’t the only threat to the tunnel’s possible construction. In February, Assemblymember Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, announced a bill that would effectively prohibit building the costly project.