Delay Imperils 710 Freeway Funds

By DAVID GREENBERG
Staff Reporter

A firm hired to determine the best traffic congestion relief plan for the Long Beach (710) Freeway won't complete its work until late March, putting in jeopardy as much as $1.6 billion in federal grant money and possibly delaying project completion until 2016.

The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners has been scrambling to find alternatives since it was informed by Orange-based Parsons Brinkerhoff Quade & Douglas Inc. that its study on the I-710 corridor would not be finished by an Oct. 15 deadline.

As a result, commissioners are negotiating with the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority (ACTA) to complete the study so it will be in Congressional hands by Nov. 1, qualifying the project for the latest round of federal transportation funding voted on only in massive lump sums every six years.

The commissioners and others involved in planning the project are seeking $3.8 billion to expand a 19-mile stretch of freeway from the Port of Long Beach to the Pomona (60) Freeway originally scheduled for completion in 2010.

"If we don't hit the target (date) that would be a disaster for us," said ACTA board member and Harbor Commissioner Roy Hearrean, who is spearheading the plan to bring on ACTA. "We can't afford to wait six more years. The (710) is already over capacity now. What Parsons is doing is intentionally delaying this project to increase their billing."

David Levinsohn, Parsons' vice president and project manage referred questions to Joan Wood, the project manager for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is funding the study. Wood said the firm is moving as originally scheduled.

"As far as I know our project is on schedule," she said, adding that she knew nothing of Hearrean's plans.

The MTA is part of the I-710 Oversight Policy Committee charged with overseeing the study. Other members are the City of Long Beach, Port of Long Beach, the 27-community Gateway Cities Council of Governments, the Southern California Association of Governments and Caltrans.

Hearrean said Parsons has already billed $3.6 million for work that includes narrowing the list of road expansion options to five, from the original 12.

The options under strongest consideration are a four-lane "upper deck" for trucks, two at-grade truck lanes in each direction and adding a mixed-flow lane in each direction.

The Gateway Cities COG, which will administer funds for the project, is scheduled to meet sometime early next month to vote on whether ACTA should take over the study.

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