Tunnels? Really?

I don’t know about the rest of you, but it seems like the Metro ends about two miles short of every place I need to go, which means that I end up driving everywhere, and it sucks.

I know it’s no big news that I hate the traffic here; I mean, everyone hates the traffic here. But what are we going to do about it? It takes so long to expand our freeways, by the time a new lane is added, it’s barely enough to keep up with the increased volume of cars.

So how about . . . tunnels?

For decades, underground highways in Southern California were a frustrated commuter’s fantasy ó too costly, too hard to build and, given the wealth of land, not necessary.

But Los Angeles is in its 18th year as the nation’s most congested metropolis, freeways have little or no space for new lanes and traffic experts are running out of time-shaving options.

So civic leaders are joining engineers to consider burrowing the longest highway tunnels in America.

Think it sounds expensive? It is.

Three massive projects are under study in Southern California, each dwarfing any of the nation’s 337 underground roadways, including the 2.6-mile tunnel in Boston’s infamous “Big Dig,” the most costly public works project in U.S. history:

Congress recently approved $2.4 million to study a five-mile, $2-billion tunnel that would help link the Long Beach and Foothill freeways in Pasadena and South Pasadena, and keep 100,000 cars a day off city streets.

For Orange and Riverside counties, Congress set aside $16 million to study a 12-mile tunnel that would connect fast-growing commuter towns in the Inland Empire to jobs on the coastal plain. Buried beneath Cleveland National Forest and projected to cost from $3.5 billion to $5 billion, it would be the second-longest in the world ó after a 15.2-mile project in Norway.

A complex of tunnels and surface highways under study by the city of Palmdale would slice 23 miles directly though the San Gabriel Mountains from the Antelope Valley to Glendale, cutting the commute in half. It could cost $3.1 billion or more.

I’m not worried about earthquakes causing big problems. If they can build these things in Japan, I’m sure they know what they’re doing . . . but that’s an awful lot of money. Maybe it would make more sense to build more public transportation infrastructure, so the trains will take more people to more destinations, which could ease congestion, and get polluting cars off the road.

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7 Replies to “Tunnels? Really?”

  1. I wholeheartedly agree with your last sentence. Fuel shortages are but one aspect of a larger problem: too many people using extremely inefficient modes of transportation, and lack of political and civic will to actually do anything about it. Even if everyone switched to hybrid vehicles, there would still be a huge amount of waste in the average daily commute. You don’t need to expend that much energy to move your body. It’s much more efficient, environmentally and socially friendly to walk, skate, ride a bike, carpool, board a bus, or take a train to where you need to go. Save the car for the weekend in the mountains or the beach. Politicians and community groups really need to emphasize a tiered approach to getting around, and then lobby for the infrastructure to support it. Lots of people in L.A. interior drive 2-4 miles to work. That’s absurd, even if only from the point of view of wear and tear on your car.

  2. At least there’s a good side: once gasoline becomes super-pricey, and there are fewer cars on the roads, these big tunnels will be excellent spots for impromptu laser tag fields, renegade parties, and hiding spots for massive zombie hordes. hoorah!

  3. The tunnel proposals even extend down south into the OC, but I doubt they will ever see the light of day.

    If they do, they will probably only handle cars and the politicians will cut any light rail or other mass transit type system out of it to cut costs. Just look at what happened to CenterLine.

  4. im not sure the blanket statement that no one likes to ride trains or buses true, in fact i know many people who have a mass transit love affair. why cant they just invest $ into building tunnels that house highly efficient trains?

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