Son Of The TriTunnel Express
The Orange County Register, in an article by Ellyn Pak on Friday, reports that drilling in the Cleveland National Forest shows that it may be practical to bore a tunnel under the mountains between Orange County and Riverside County to carry water from the Inland Empire to the near-coastal cities. It goes on to say that such further tests could determine if constructing a tunnel for vehicles is feasible.
WHAT'S THAT, AGAIN?
If this sounds vaguely familiar, just think back a few years when the triple tunnel boondoggle called the Tri-Tunnel Express was being foisted off on us as a way to resolve Orange County's air transportation problems. Yep, that's right - a series of tunnels to solve the congestion at John Wayne Airport!
WE'VE HEARD THIS ALL BEFORE!
In it's final iteration before the web site was folded up and all mention of that fiasco ceased, it was proposing to drill three, count 'em, three 12 mile-long tunnels a couple thousand feet below the peak of Saddleback Mountain in which cars and trucks would matriculate between Orange and Riverside counties to a mythical new commercial airport at the old March Air Force Base. Then came the big "OOPS!" - someone forgot to ask Riverside County if they actually wanted a commercial airport at March! When that idea bombed the so-called planners of that project were scurrying around, trying to figure a way to make a sharp left turn mid-mountain to take the traffic to Ontario. That one didn't fly, either. (can't resist the pun)
GASOLINE AND ELECTRICITY DON'T MIX
One of the really fun parts of the Tri-Tunnel Express was the combination of elements in that project. It was planned to shuttle the aforementioned vehicular traffic through tunnels that also carried gasoline pipelines and a electrical transmission lines - through a mountain that has four active earthquake faults running through it! As I said a few years ago when it was first proposed, this is a sure recipe for disaster. A little shaking and slipping along the fault lines rupturing those gas lines and exposing the fuel to the handy ignition source along side and we'd be seeing Saddleback Peak launched toward Catalina Island!
WATER ON THE SIDE
Water lines - a way to actually make such a project feasible - were added late in the game. Hence, the evolution of this new scheme.
SAME GUYS, SAME BAD IDEAS
Adding to the joy of the old Tri-Tunnel Express scheme is the fact that the guys who were lining up to manage it are the same guys who gave us the 73 Toll Road, a project that's hemorrhaging money like the proverbial stuck pig.
The Register article talks about the 10-12 foot "water tunnel" costing between $680 million and $770 million and would take more than seven years to build. The Tri-Tunnel Express - in which each of the three tunnels was to be three times the size of this new proposal - was initially projected to cost around $3 billion, but that grew to $6 billion within a few months. That was a few years ago, so I wouldn't be surprised if the numbers were over $10 billion now. Don't expect this new project to be less than a billion - maybe two - by the time, if ever, the first shovel hits the dirt.
I'LL HAVE THE DOUBLE STACK, PLEASE
All this horsing around with pie-in-the-sky "solutions" is a huge waste of time and intellectual resources. We should be moving forward RIGHT NOW with plans to double-stack the existing right-of-way on the 91 Freeway and get serious about making Ortega Highway the high-speed traffic mover it should be. Expanding those roadways is faster, cheaper and much more practical than any tunnel project will ever be.