Metro’s board of directors today withdrew critical support and funding needed to build an approximately six-mile-long highway tunnel to close the 710 Freeway gap between El Sereno and Pasadena.
Instead, the transit agency board voted in favor of funding a variety of street and traffic improvements rather than chipping in to help Caltrans build the controversial tunnel, a project expected to cost more than $3 billion.
“In the past, I have supported the tunnel option,” said Metro Board Chair John Fasana in a statement. “But the tunnel is not fundable and there are mobility and congestion issues right now that need to be addressed. Our goal is to use this money to bring relief to the neighborhoods as quickly as possible and we believe this is a good alternative to do just that.”
This action also defers any other costly alternatives – including light rail and rapid bus transit lines – from future consideration by the Board “until the community agrees on the value of such an investment and funds are identified to support it,” said an agency statement. The light rail and bus rapid transit options are off the table for now because the were “not expected to produce the needed traffic improvements.”
It’s unlikely, according to people interviewed by L.A. Times reports, that Caltrans would go ahead with the tunnels without the Metro funding. Many officials and residents of Northeast L.A. and South Pasadena had opposed the project while representatives and residents of Alhambra and other cities had lobbied in favor.
Today’s vote is the first time the Metro board has ever voted against extending the 710 Freeway, which terminates on the border of El Sereno and Alhambra, since the project was first proposed more than half a century ago, reports the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.
“The Metro Board made the right decision to drop the 710 tunnel option and instead focus on funding alternative transportation options that can bring traffic relief now,” said Congressman Adam Schiff in a statement. “These alternatives are more cost effective, and are far less disruptive to the affected neighborhoods.”
The board voted to redirect $105 million in bond funds to fund other transportation and safety projects in the area. However, it’s not exactly clear what those alternative projects will
“Fair and reasonable funding was required to ensure that disadvantaged communities of East Los Angeles, City Terrace, and El Sereno get the desperately needed traffic relief they deserve as demonstrated by the Environmental Impact Review,” said L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis in a statement.
Some of those projects would include expanding bus rapid transit, street light synchronization, improved freeway on/off ramps, and incentives to encourage carpooling and other program, she said.
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