MTA to Consider Moving Forward with 710 to 210 Tunnel

Another day, another fight over freeway expansion in Los Angeles.

Advocates and opponents are gearing up once again for battle over a plan to dig a tunnel to complete the connection between the 710 and 210 freeways.

Following years of opposition to a surface route, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority board will consider Thursday whether to continue pursuing the idea of digging a 4 to 5 mile connector tunnel.

The 710 currently runs north from the Port of Long Beach to an abrupt end in suburban Alhambra, where rush-hour traffic pours onto streets.

Last year, the California Department of Transportation performed exploratory drilling to determine if constructing a tunnel 200 feet underground was feasible. Now, planners are recommending that the MTA consider further environmental study of the project.

Freeway supporter Barbara Messina, a member of the City Council in Alhambra, said it's time to complete the project because the gap is hurting the effectiveness of the regional freeway system.
"This gap was never intended to be permanent," she said. "It's just a sin that this has been stalled this long."
Tunnel advocates are floating the idea of inviting private investors to put up billions of dollars to build it, and charge drivers a toll.

But opponents to the project believe it will only increase traffic, waste tax payer dollars, and invokes images of Boston's infamous Big Dig project.
"It's construction on a massive scale, bigger than the Big Dig and will cost upward of $10 billion," said Ara Najarian, MTA board chairman. "It'll encourage people to get into their single-occupant vehicle and drive around L.A. when what we need are smart solutions and sustainable modes of transit."
Further study would be funded by some of the $780 million set aside by a Los Angeles County transportation sales tax measure approved by voters in 2008 to deal with the problem.

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