An 11.2-mile "Big Dug Tunnel" through Cleveland National Forest was the apparent last standing solution to clogged rush hour (and several other hours') traffic between Orange and Riverside counties.
But that has now been thoroughly pooh-poohed by local politicians, and a joint transportation commission empowered to explore the project may pull the plug later this month.
The stunning discounting of the tunnel is revealed in this past Sunday's edition of the Riverside Press Enterprise.
As Dug Begley's article "Big Tunnel From Corona to Irvine: A Big Black Hole" shows, the main reason for putting the proposed tunnel on a shelf is quite apparent:
It's the economy, stupid.
Talking heads from the I.E. and OC say no proposed tunnel fits any present revenue model, which is the biggest reason cited for giving up for now.
At a cost of $8.6 billion, it's simply too expensive, they said, especially since officials can't start collecting tolls until after they spend 10 years building it. The proposed 11.2-mile tunnel also faces technical and environmental issues that could slow or stop construction.
A joint Riverside County-Orange County commission formed to develop a new route between the counties could pull the plug on the tunnel proposal later this month.
That money is cited by the bigwigs as the main tunnel cock blocker (with the technological hurdles associated with drilling through a mountain a close second) upsets Laguna Beach clean-water advocate Roger von Bütow.
The environmental damage of such a project is barely acknowledged, but von Bütow is even more perplexed that our leaders are ignoring an obvious (and looming) threat.
"No discussion of physical or fiscal risk assessments," he writes to his email list [bolds, italics and capital letters are his]. "No discussion of the cataclysmic impact if it fails while either under or post-construction, these two decision-making entities ignore the seismic history of the area. The fact that expert seismologists assert it's not IF but a matter of WHEN vis-a-vis "The Big One," a 7.0 or greater earthquake, never appears to enter their empty bureaucratic heads."
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He argues that millions of dollars would be wasted for construction and cleanup with the inevitable shaker, "and God knows how many dead or injured. And the injury, negligence or wrongful death lawsuits: remember this is California, we practically invented litigation for these type of avoidable catastrophes."
So, in a way, he's on the same page as those empty-headed bureaucrats: it is the economy, stupid. Von Bütow and the politicos are just looking at different stacks of wasted taxpayer green: one to build the thing, the other to clean up the thing after Ma Nature gets the shivers.
Public transportation, anyone? Anyone? Hello? Is this thing on?
Ah, well, those Jetsons' space buggies should be ready any day now.