This winter, test borings are expected to begin for one of the most audacious tunnel projects ever proposed. One concept calls for a set of three tunnelsâ€”two for cars and one for both trucks and high-speed light railâ€”that would stretch for 12 miles, burrowing beneath the Santa Ana mountain range, and carrying up to 70,000 cars a day between Californiaâ€™s Riverside and Orange counties. The route would run in the same general direction as the 91 freeway, which is one of the most congested thoroughfares in the country. Once completed, it would be the longest traffic tunnel in North America, ahead of Bostonâ€™s comparatively puny 3.5-mile Big Dig.
The tunnel proposal, currently called the Irvine-Corona Expressway, has been making the rounds for seven years. It was first studied officially by the Riverside County Transportation Commission in June 2004, and its future now depends on those test borings. If the ground soil and bedrock contain too much water, tunneling could be deemed overly difficult. For opponents of the project, water content is the least of the expresswayâ€™s problems. For example, the massive tunnels would cross multiple fault lines, but none of them are active. ...
If the borings hold up, and the project survives an extensive chain of reviews, construction could last until 2023, with a price tag of at least $5.8 billion.
The Big Dig ended up costing five times its original estimate, so don't be surprised if this new Expressway ends up clocking in around $30 billion.
Am I against the project? I'm neutral. Serious steps need to be taken to mitigate Los Angeles' traffic problems, but I'm not sure this sort of project is the most cost-effective. I'm very much in favor of building new freeways, but why not also put some effort into encouraging the region's illegal aliens to return to their homelands? That alone would reduce the number of vehicles on the roads by 25% (not to mention reducing congestion in the schools, emergency rooms, etc.). Vegetables might get more expensive, but $5.8 billion is a lot of lettuce.