The State Route 710 project’s technical advisory committee met this morning at Metro headquaters in downtown Los Angeles. The topic of discussion: the performance of the alternatives under review for the Alternatives Analysis phase of the study to improve mobility in the western San Gabriel Valley and surrounding area.
A set of five alternative concepts were publicly recommended for further study last week, refined from the previous set of 12. The other seven alternatives are not being considered further because they do not perform as well and/or were more environmentally damaging.
The five remaining alternatives are:
1. A freeway tunnel that would run directly between the 710 terminus in Alhambra and the 210 freeway in Pasadena.
2. A bus rapid transit project (BRT) with refinements between downtown East Los Angeles and Pasadena and neighboring areas.
3. A north-south light rail line (LRT) with refinements between East Los Angeles and Pasadena.
4. A “Transportation System Management/Transportation System Demand (TSM/TDM)” alternative, which is focused on low build and low impact strategies that enhance transit service and existing intersections.
5. No Build alternative.
Through outreach efforts, conceptual engineering and other technical studies, Metro says these will be further refined by Metro consultants as part of the ongoing alternatives analysis phase of the study. Work on the draft environmental impact statement/report will begin by 2013 is likely to take one year.
And this is important: staff is also looking at hybrid approaches that could combine road and transit improvements. The bottom line, staff emphasizes, is that they’re trying to take as broad an approach as possible to help speed travel in the study area.
The State Route 710 project was among many highway projects approved by county voters as part of the Measure R half-cent sales tax increase in 2008. The project was allocated $780 million in Measure R funding, although some of the projects under study could cost considerably more money.
The study team also explained some of their findings in terms of how well the alternatives addressed the need for the project:
•The freeway alternatives studied performed better in terms of providing congestion relief for both freeways and local streets.
•The highway alternatives studied — none are still on the table — had limited to moderate improvement in providing congestion relief in the study area.
•The transit alternatives studied had moderate ridership and minimal impact in terms of providing congestion relief.
•The TSM/TDM alternative provided slightly less improvement in providing congestion relief than highway alternatives.
As for the tunnel option, preliminary estimates showed that a tunnel with no toll that carried about 6,000 vehicles an hour in the peak direction would reduce surface street traffic in the area. The tunnel option would reduce volumes on some congested freeways, including the 6, 110, 2 and 210 east of the 134. The modeling analysis indicated increased volumes on other freeways, including the 10 east of the 710, the 134 west of its junction with the 210 and the 210 west of its junction with the 134.
The audience had some questions. One significant one from the committee was about analyzing a tunnel alternative without factoring in the impact of tolls on traffic volumes.
The technical team noted that the impact of a tunnel with tolls will be studied during the next phase of the project during the draft environmental impact study. In the meantime, the study team was able to get a handle on the range of possible traffic by considering both the no build option (which would result in zero tunnel traffic) and a toll-free tunnel (which would result in the most possible tunnel traffic). The team believes a toll would result in traffic levels somewhere between no build and tunnel with no toll options.
Another question was about the increase in traffic associated with a tunnel. The technical response was that the overall benefit would be positive, particularly for the surface streets in the study area, but not every road would see an overall benefit.