Meeting discusses alternatives studied as part of SR 710 study

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.

9 replies

  1. The study of “congestion relief” was obviously done wrong.

    Light rail doesn’t reduce car congestion — it allows peopld to speed past the congestion.

    It is obviously more effective at providing *actual transportation* than the various highway and freway alternatives, which will just fill up with more cars which will then crawl in stop-and-go traffic.

    As for trucks? They should be moving inland on the rail lines, which already exist!

  2. This is a good project. Am looking forward to seeing the final numbers and what the project will look like. The math isn’t too hard. $800 million from Measure R, probably another $300 million from the sale of land from Caltrans, and tolls for 50 years. This tunnel is not about connecting Pasadena to Alhambra. It’s about connecting the entire system from north to south. Pasadena to Long Beach and Orange County for example. Keep it going.

  3. Providing a route for trucks from the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach to move cargo inland is very important to Southern CA economy. With Panama enlarging the Panama Canal along with many east coast ports doing the same, The Port of LA and Long Beach could lose a lot of business. The 710 gap needs to be completed!

  4. What’s crazy is that Metro is only factoring in car congestion/flow.

    Is speeding traffic though really what these communities want and need? It seems not, based off of the LA Times article showing at least 4-5 cities standing against the freeway and scores of residents from low-income and wealthy parts of the SGV all saying “heck no”.

    This will only INCREASE auto traffic.

    The external costs to cities of having to deal with increased environmental air pollution and healthcare costs of having a freeway where there currently is one don’t seem to be as important. The 710 is a project that few seem to support; why is it still being considered??

  5. According to Wikipedia: “The modern US 6 in California is a short, two-lane, north–south surface highway from Bishop to the Nevada state line.” If the MTA can reduce congestion that far away, more power to them! 🙂

  6. The Pasadena Star notes that the tunnel estimated cost is $3.3 Billion. How likely is it that the MTA will be able to raise that amount of money? And, how long would it take to build a 4.5-mile to 6 miles tunnel?

    “The tunnel option would reduce volumes on some congested freeways, including the 6, 110, 2 and 210 east of the 134.” Just wondering where is the 6 ?

  7. This may sound crazy but what if Metro took the total projected cost, or the current funds available for this project and simply spent it all to create a bicycle infrastructure network in Pasadena, South Pasadena, Alhambra– that way local trips (which can constitute a significant percentage of traffic) would be made by bike more often and the current streets (Fair Oaks, Huntington) could accommodate the commuters (and a number of cyclists) as they travel through “the gap”. I wouldn’t be surprised if reconfiguring the streets of Pasadena, South Pasadena, and Alhambra to be more bike and transit friendly could increase capacity during commute hours (the only time that matters for engineers and planners as this is when demand is highest).