In a strongly worded letter to the California Department of Transportation and the California Transportation Commission, Assembly Member Anthony Portantino demanded that transportation leaders â€œput the brakesâ€ on the 710 freeway extension:
â€œI strongly urge you to cease all activity relating to the advancement of the SR 710 extension. The SR 710 Study process has been mired in controversy since its inception. I have personally witnessed actions and activities by proponents of a tunnel option, which have been questionable at best, but more accurately, would be portrayed as biased and tainted,â€ said Portantino. Representatives of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) have routinely misrepresented important information while hiding the true cost and benefit of this project from the public.Â A 710 tunnel option would be a project of historic magnitude and tremendous cost to the taxpayers of California. There cannot be even a hint of impropriety or manipulation involved in such a project. Because local planners have ignored the direction of the federal government, their own state traffic protocols, and basic common sense, it is time for leaders to step in and make the bold decision to put an end to this project.â€
For over a decade, Portantino has been one of the most vocal critics of the 710 tunnel and been on the receiving end of misinformation from 710 planners promoting the project. He has testified before the California Transportation Commission and the Metropolitan Transportation Administration expressing concerns over the process, cost and impact that a 710 extension would have on California. He currently represents the 44th Assembly District which encompasses the majority of the 710 study area.
â€œThe recent state audit highlighted the complete lack of trust that I have for the folks shepherding the 710 corridor and this historically massive project. If these folks canâ€™t be trusted to fix a roof, how can we trust them to build a $15 billion dollar tunnel,â€ commented Portantino.
At the heart of Portantinoâ€™s criticism is the refusal of tunnel proponents to come clean with the true cost and true benefit of the project before moving forward.
â€œLocal leaders were told back in 2006 that this project would not move forward until it was determined to be financially feasible. But every time planners start to answer the question of cost vs. benefit, those reports are changed; cut short or the work is deleted. In my opinion, itâ€™s a willful omission of facts that would contradict the necessity and viability of this project and it has to stop,â€ explained Portantino.
In his letter, Portantino details how the project itself contradicts Caltrans very own traffic protocols and fails to comply with the direction of the Federal Highway Administration.
â€œWhen you have a project of this magnitude, with this many unanswered questions, manipulations and false information, one has to wonder why decision makers arenâ€™t immediately putting a halt to this insanity. Itâ€™s a fraud being perpetrated upon the taxpayers of California at the expense of taxpayers and the quality of life of those neighborhoods in Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley which will be devastated by a project that is unwelcome and disastrous,â€ concluded the Assemblymember.
As a Councilmember and Mayor of La CaÃ±ada Flintridge, Portantino asked the City to take a formal position opposing the 710 freeway in 1999. He has been a guest speaker at many â€œno on 710â€ meetings and a staunch defender of the communities in Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley that would be adversely affected by the construction and completion of a 710 extension. Portantino has been a central figure in bringing more sunshine and accountability to the legislature.