Lengthy Process to Redirect 710 Tunnel Funds to Cities Moving Ahead

Published : Monday, December 17, 2018 | 6:37 AM

Late last month, State Senator Anthony J. Portantino and California Secretary of Transportation Brian Annis announced that the 710 Freeway Extension corridor project was dead and freed up hundreds of millions of dollars for local transportation projects.

The recent demise of the 710 Freeway expansion project has freed up hundreds of millions of dollars for local transportation improvement projects, including some major ones in and around Pasadena. But officials say there are still many months worth of paperwork ahead before shovels start to swing.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors voted earlier this month to reallocate about $550 million previously dedicated to the defunct 710 Freeway tunnel project to dozens of “Mobility Improvement Projects” in the cities surrounding the former project area, from Alhambra to Pasadena.

Nearly $150 million of those funds are currently earmarked for projects in Pasadena and South Pasadena. Now begins months of discussion, planning, study, and environmental review, according to Metro and Pasadena officials.

County officials also have their work cut out for them before crews can hit the streets, Metro spokesman Brian Haas said.

“Metro staff will return to the Board in the next six months — possibly multiple times — with an update on the SR 710 North Mobility Improvement Projects recommended for funding,” he said. “In the interim, staff will continue to meet and work with project sponsors to qualify more eligible projects for funding.”

The Metro Board of Directors has requested a meeting between all prospective project sponsors in January, “to share the evaluation and selection process and to ensure neighboring local jurisdictions are not adversely impacted by projects proposed by individual cities,” Haas said.

“No funds can be expended on the MIPs prior to the completion of the SR 710 North environmental process,” he added. “Recent Board action authorized the programming of funds for the initial list of MIPs to start next fiscal year, July 1, 2019, pending no legal challenges to the SR 710 North Project and the availability of funds each future fiscal year.”

If all goes as planned, Caltrans will complete its environmental review of the overall plan by Spring, he said.

In Pasadena, a $100 million grade separation project to move the Metro Gold Line Tracks either above or below California Boulevard is planned. South Pasadena is slated to receive about $48 million for local street improvements.

The first step to get the ball rolling on the Pasadena grade separation project will be establishing a memorandum of understanding between the city and Metro, Pasadena Department of Transportation Director Fred Dock said.

“It is still in the initial stages, although we anticipate a project agreement will likely be involved similar to the MOUs that are the basis for Call for Projects funds disbursed by Metro,” he said. The Call for Projects program is the normal competitive process through which local governments apply for discretionary transportation funds dispersed by Metro.

“The MOU will set out the process and identify the financial terms that Metro will impose,” Dock said.

“Project agreement typically take 6 to 12 months,” he added. “The City Council has to take a formal action to approve the MOU, and then Metro signs and the project can start.”

The grade separation project will require an environmental review process, as well, according to Dock.

“The project will need extensive feasibility and design studies,” he said. “Property acquisition will be involved, since room to build the grade separation while keeping the Gold Line operating will be needed. Public meetings during the design process are likely and would be keyed to project design milestones.”

Dock said it’s too early in the process to speculate on any kind specific schedule.

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