[Editor’s Note: The original version of this story reported that Mayor Terry Tornek said Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti was in full support of the 710 Tunnel. In fact, that is incorrect. What Mayor Tornek actually said was that Mayor Garcetti “would not kill it.”]
Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek said Monday night that the city must urgently prepare a measure to repeal the 2001 initiative ordinance which promotes completion of the 710 Freeway while simultaneously readying for an “ambush” in November by forces in favor of building the tunnel extension.
The new repeal measure requires immediate action, said Mayor Tornek, because it will need to be ready in July to qualify for the November ballot.
It would repeal Measure A, the 2001 ordinance that positioned the City as squarely in favor of completing the “missing link” gap in the 710 Freeway connecting its current terminus at Valley Boulevard in Alhambra with the 210 Foothill Freeway in Pasadena.
“It’s my conclusion that soon after the November elections the City is going to get ambushed,” said Tornek, “and we will be confronted with a full court press to build that project. And we have got to be prepared to make a concentrated effort to prevent that from happening.
“So,” he continued, firing a shot across the bow of the 21 cities in favor of the project, “In order for us to be ready when this hits the fan after November, and I am sure it will, we must repeal Measure A … because Measure A restricts our ability to actively oppose the completion of the freeway. And that measure can only be repealed by a vote of the people.”
The final Environmental Impact Report for the project has not yet been released, but said Tornek, “the EIR…is being stalled, so that it doesn’t impede the vote on Measure R.” (Measure R is a new sales tax to fund public transportation.) Any suggestions we have made with Metro, with various boards, transportation officials in general, have generally been dismissed, because they don’t want to engage. We have been trying to get them to kill the project based on the tremendous evidence that has emerged over the course of the EIR and the comments thereto.”
Tornek offered few details at Monday’s City Council meeting since his announcement was not on the agenda, but when asked by Councilmember Margaret McAustin about support for the tunnel option from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Mayor Tornek said that he had met with Mayor Garcetti twice recently and that Mayor Garcetti would not kill the 710 Tunnel and has remained publicly neutral.
Following the meeting, Mayor Tornek seemed eager to discuss his opposition to the 710 Tunnel project.
Asked about a recent apparent offensive to push through the tunnel option, he said, “This is not sudden, it has been building for a long time. I think they will wait until after November, and then come after us.”
“It’s five billion dollars,” he continued. “Five billion! For five miles. It’s … crazy!,” he said, emphatically. “The ‘Big Dig’ in Boston was only $2 billion dollars,” he continued. “This would be huge boring machines, bigger than the ones used to build the Metro tunnels in LA. The City of Seattle tried to do a similar project and the drill broke after just 1000 feet. They started it up again, and it broke again. It’s crazy.” (Seattle’s $80 million “Big Bertha” drilling machine began work on a viaduct tunneling project in July of 2013, and broke in December. The project was halted twice, and as of May 13, 2016, it has dug only 1,995 feet of the planned 9,270-foot long tunnel route.)
“There are no exits for the tunnel planned, either,” said Tornek. “If there’s a problem in there, you’re cooked. Literally.”
Meanwhile, the battle over closing the gap between Alhambra and Pasadena has been raging for more than 30 years. Along with 21 cities, 13 elected leaders and two school districts are also in favor of the project.
In 2001, the City of Pasadena voted 58.3% to 41.7% to approve Measure A, which made approval of the completion of the 710 Project official city policy. The vote cannot be changed by a ordinance or a vote of the City Council. It must be approved by the residents of the city in an election.
Last June, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) issued a report that favored the freeway tunnel plan, which would begin at the existing southern stub of SR 710 in Alhambra, just north of I?10, and connect to the existing northern stub of SR 710, south of the I?210/SR 134 interchange in Pasadena.
According to the report, the Freeway Tunnel Alternative would have two design variations—a dual bore tunnel and a single bore tunnel. According to the 2015 report, the dual bore tunnel design variation is approximately 6.3 miles long, with 4.2 miles of bored tunnel, 0.7 miles of cut-and-cover tunnel, and 1.4 miles of at-grade segments.
“The dualbore tunnel variation would consist of two side-by-side tunnels (the east tunnel would convey northbound traffic; the west tunnel would convey southbound traffic). Each tunnel would have two levels with traffic traveling, in the same direction, the report stated. “Each tunnel would consist of two lanes of traffic on each level, traveling in one direction, for a total of four lanes in each tunnel. Each bored tunnel would have an outside diameter of approximately 58.5 feet and would be located approximately 120 to 250 feet below the ground surface.”
The SR-710 North Extension (tunnel(s) would connect the lower I-710 Freeway with the already heavily congested I-210 Freeway which will lead to gridlock conditions for everyone,” said the website, www.No710.com. However, 710Coalition.com states that “57,000 cars will be removed from local streets each day.”
Mayor Tornek will agendize the new 710 discussion when Council returns from its spring recess in June.