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Busway option to close 710 freeway gap would cost five times early estimate

A new study puts a price tag on five options to close the 710 freeway gap - from $105 million to re-design existing surface streets to as much as $5.5 billion for a five mile freeway tunnel.

A middle of the road option - adding an extensive network of buses, feeder lines and shelters, would cost $241 million, according to Caltrans - many times more than the $50 million estimated in a 2012 preliminary report.

Metro spokesman Paul Gonzales said the agency had no comment on why the cost estimates for bus service went up, nor why traffic management options went down in price by $15 million.

Measure R, the county's half-cent sales tax to fund transportation projects, raised $780 million for closing the 710 Freeway gap, which is more than enough for improving traffic flow on current streets and adding bus service - but not nearly enough for a freeway tunnel or a new light rail line, which the report said would cost $2.5 billion.

The fifth option is to build nothing.

An estimated 110,000 vehicles currently make the trek between the two freeways on surface streets every day and the 1,200-page report looked at the environmental impacts of each of the options.

This is the latest step in the decades-long saga over how to close the 4.5-mile gap between the 21o and 710 freeways.

In 1933, state transportation officials envisioned a highway extending from Long Beach to Pasadena. And in 1959, the 710 Freeway was designed, but its construction stopped at Valley Blvd. in Alhambra. The cities of the San Gabriel Valley and beyond have been at odds over how to connect the freeways ever since.

Opposition to a surface freeway by South Pasadena, La Canada-Flintridge, Glendale and Los Angeles killed that option.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which oversees transit and highways within Los Angeles County, has whittled 42 options down to the five which were studied in the report released Friday.

If chosen, the 5-mile freeway tunnel, bored underneath South Pasadena and Alhambra, would be California's longest traffic tunnel, twice as long as Boston's Big Dig tunnel.

Depending on its size and method of construction, it would cost $3 billion to $5.5 billion. Another source of money would have to be found to pay for the billions that exceed what was raised by Measure R, Gonzales said.

The agency will start receiving public comment on the report March 12. At least two meetings will be held:

  • Saturday, April 11 at East Los Angeles College, Roscoe Ingalls Auditorium, map viewing 10 to 11 a.m., public hearing 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Tuesday, April 14 at Pasadena Convention Center, map viewing 5 to 6 p.m., public hearing 6 to 9 p.m.

The public comment period closes July 6. Metro staff must research and respond to the comments and will recommend a preferred alternative to the Metro governing board.
The Board will then decide which action to pursue. That decision is not likely to be finalized until 2016, Gonzales said.

The report is available online, and in four languages at 22 city and county public libraries throughout the San Gabriel Valley.