The two Democratic members of Congress whose districts would be most affected by a proposed extension of the Long Beach (710) Freeway have opposing views of the controversial study of a tunnel connecting the freeway to Pasadena.
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park) wants regional transportation planners to complete a three-year study of the tunnel and other options for filling the so-called “710 gap.” She wrote a letter to Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials on Sept. 27 urging them to consider “all options for solving the 710 gap problem.”
Her letter came a week after Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) lambasted the MTA over the proposed tunnel extending the 710 Freeway. He called for the agency to spike the study of the roadway, citing likely cost overruns and opposition from affected communities.
To a degree, the letters reflect the politics of the districts Chu and Schiff serve. Cities in Schiff's district, including La Cañada, South Pasadena and Glendale, oppose an extension, and Pasadena residents have become increasingly active in fighting a 710 extension.
Cities such as Alhambra and San Marino favor an extension.
Next year, however, district lines change. Should Chu win reelection, she will add Pasadena to her San Gabriel Valley district.
In her letter, Chu said dropping the tunnel from the study now would be a mistake.
“Denying the completion of the environmental review process runs counter to the need for an objective cost-benefit analysis of the 710 Freeway gap completion,” she said. “This would also be an affront to the voters of Los Angeles County, who voted to make $780 million available through Measure R to explore solutions to the 710 gap.”
Schiff's letter stated that estimates of the project have ranged from $1.5 billion to $5.6 billion, but he projected that the final price tag would be higher still.
Opposition to the tunnel has grown over the last two months. The Los Angeles City Council voted to oppose the proposal, and a state audit criticized the California Department of Transportation for its management of 500 properties it acquired to build a 710 Freeway extension.
But the MTA plans to keep the tunnel in the study, which is slated for completion in 2014.
MTA Chairman and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich said through a spokesman that the study should examine all the remaining alternatives, including the tunnel, light rail, new bus routes and street improvements.
“We think it's prudent to wait for the study to be complete, to look at the information the study provides and make decisions accordingly,” said Tony Bell, a spokesman for Antonovich.
Follow Daniel Siegal on Twitter: @ValleySunDan