To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

 Ask not what L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa can do for his country


By Doug McIntyre, February 5, 2013

Reluctantly, I must say no. My duty is clear.

While I am flattered and humbled by the speculation that has included my name as a possible coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, I am firmly committed to remaining with the L.A. Daily News.

"Wait one second, McIntyre," I hear you say. "When did Mitch Kupchak, Jim Buss or anyone in Lakerland offer you a job coaching Kobe and the boys?"

The answer is never.

And for that reason the Purple and Gold will have to muddle along without me. I have a hard and fast rule to always turn down jobs I haven't been offered.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has the same rule.

"I am flattered and humbled by the speculation that has included my name for a possible Cabinet secretary position, but I am firmly committed to remaining in L.A. and finishing my term," Villaraigosa said.

Of course, that commitment to "remain in L.A." had to wait until after the mayor returned from South Korea where he took in the Special Olympics.

By tossing his hat out of the ring, our mayor will force President Obama to soldier through the next four years without Antonio Villaraigosa heading the Department of Transportation.

"I have said many times that I will be focused on my job as mayor of Los Angeles until 11:59 and 59 seconds on June 30th, 2013," the mayor said

Of course, he also said, "When the president asks something, you say yes or yes, sir" which tells me the president didn't ask.

While I'm at it, I should also announce I won't be the next surgeon general, I won't be running for a Senate seat in New Jersey like Geraldo Rivera, and under no circumstances will I be the baby daddy for any of the Kardashian girls' children.

One week ago in this newspaper I predicted Mayor Villaraigosa would be tapped by President Obama to fill the vacancy created by the soon-to-depart Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.
I also had money on the 49ers.

This was a no-brainer. The mayor was a major cheerleader for Team Obama in 2012 and had a legitimate claim on the victor's spoils. But President Obama has proven himself to be a very pragmatic politician.

After the double disasters his second-term Cabinet shuffle has already produced; Susan Rice getting knocked out of the coveted secretary of state gig before she was even nominated and defense secretary wannabe Chuck Hagel all but drooling on himself during a preliminary Senate confirmation hearing, the president couldn't roll the bones on Tony.

Can you imagine Antonio "Ringing in the New Year with Charlie Sheen" Villaraigosa sitting before an open microphone on live television for hours of off-the-cuff questions and answers?

Neither could the president.
elfishly, I'm sorry it didn't happen. Villaraigosa in the Cabinet would have given me fodder for four more years of columns.

Oh, well. I guess L.A. will have Antonio Villaraigosa to kick around a little longer.

Rose Bowl renovation was undervalued from the start, early review finds 


By Brenda Gazzar, February 5, 2013

PASADENA - Project team officials undervalued the Rose Bowl renovation by about $50 million from the outset while certain decisions left the Rose Bowl Operating Co. open to increased risk, an independent preliminary review has found.
The early review was conducted by Heery International, Inc. to examine unanticipated costs and glean future lessons. Since the original plan to renovate the historic stadium was approved in Oct. 2010, its estimated price-tag has ballooned from $152 million to about $195 million.

"Deficiencies in the original project budget ... caused what should have been recognized as an approximately $200 million project from the outset to be undervalued as an approximately $150 million project," the RBOC report, dated Jan. 3, stated.

Daniel Adams, Heery's project director, said the majority of the budget gap is not the result of cost overruns but "deficiencies in the original project budget," according to the RBOC report.

"What the report establishes is a combination of incorrect estimating, timelines that were too aggressive, and a very complex project caused us to have a budget that was inadequate," Councilman Victor Gordo, who is RBOC president, said.

"If there is a silver lining, it's two things. We're getting a very good product, and #2, these aren't overruns. This was always a more expensive project. It simply wasn't recognized how complex a project we were undertaking under very tight timelines that we all adopted."

The early review also found that there are enough controls and procedures in place to ensure a project of "sound quality." It also found the RBOC is paying fair market value for the work's planned scope.

The original project budget was deficient in that it did not allow for adequate contingency funds to account for incomplete construction documents, renovations to a 90-year-old historic facility and phased construction of an occupied stadium, according to the report.

In addition, the budget did not account for maintaining a Jan. 1, 2014 completion date even after portions of the project were delayed.

The RBOC took on additional risk when it it separately contracted with the architect, structural engineer, mechanical engineer and used multiple prime contractors rather than contracting with a single architect with overall design responsibility and a single contractor, the report stated.

Heery officials recommended that more rigorous construction reviews be conducted before actual labor, that the project team develop a pre-construction process and procedures manual, and that two cost estimates be obtained for all design evaluations before bidding.

"There is no question that these recommendations will be helpful... in order to have a smoother project going forward," Gordo said.

They also recommended "a more in-depth review" of the project.

No decision has yet been made on the latter recommendation, Gordo said.

You're getting stuck in traffic less


By Steve Hargreaves, February 5, 2013


It may not always seem that way, but you're spending less time snarled in traffic jams.

From 2006 to 2010, the number of hours that the average commuter spends caught in congestion each year dropped nearly 13%, according to researchers at Texas A&M's Transportation Institute.

Most of the decline traces back to less driving during the recession -- out of work people tend to go out less. But even though the recession has ended and jobs have begun to trickle back, there's been no real uptick in congestion. It was flat from 2008 to 2010, and rose just 1% in 2011.

Individual traffic jams can still get extremely nasty. A Transportation Institute report released

Tuesday ranking America's most congested cities -- Washington, D.C., tops the list -- found that the time required for any specific trip is growing harder to predict. A journey that takes 30 minutes in light traffic can take nearly three hours in Washington when the roads get clogged, the reports' authors found.

Still, their data shows that the total number of hours U.S. travelers spent caught in traffic peaked in 2006, at just under 6 billion. It's stayed below that mark ever since.

Researchers say better road design, faster clearing of accidents, and wider use of technology such as GPS all play a role.

The relative speediness isn't just a convenience. Traffic jams cost real money -- an average of $818 per year for each person on the road, according to the Transportation Institute's latest estimates. Some of that money is lost on wasted gas, but mostly it's the value of lost time spent in traffic jams.

The Transportation Institute ballparks the total economic cost of congestion at $121 billion in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available. That's up $1 billion from the year before.
Keeping the roads clear: Accidents are one of the main causes of traffic tie ups, so reducing crashes is one of the best ways to keep cars moving.

Limiting the interaction between turning cars and through traffic helps, said Tim Lomax, a senior researcher at the Transportation Institute. That can be done by installing turning lanes separated by curbs, combining driveways and other entry points to roadways, and building dedicated service roads alongside major highways for local traffic only.

GPS and traffic apps are also helping, as well as electronic tolling, which cuts down on toll backups.
Related: Latest road trip technology

About 10% of cars currently on the road have GPS systems that provide real-time traffic information, said Jim Bak, a spokesman for Inrix, a provider of traffic software and data. By 2015, that number is expected to be 50%, said Bak.

"There technology and the tools are there," he said. "You don't just have to sit there and be a lemming on your commute."

To accelerate adoption, he said the country needs greater bandwidth on its cellular, satellite and wireless networks so cars can more easily communicate live traffic conditions to one another.
Inrix is also working with automakers to share data across car systems when planning routes. If the software sees the traction control or windshield wipers running on cars in a given region, it might route other cars a different way to avoid the bad weather.

Rerouting cars is tricky, though. Not all the traffic can be redirected -- especially if there are few choices for a new route -- without simply creating a new traffic jam in a different spot.

To overcome this, directions app Waze is experimenting with an incentive system for drivers. It's looking at offering drivers, say, a discount on gas if they're willing to take a different route. In return, the gas stations would get a discount on advertising space.

"There's no money for new roads, no money for new bridges," said Waze spokesman Michal Habdank. "All you can do is connect people."
Speeding them through tolls also helps.

In the 15 mostly Northeast states that use the electronic toll payment system E-ZPass, 75% of all tolls are now paid using the device, said P.J. Wilkins, executive director of E-ZPass Group, the coalition of states using the technology.

In New Jersey, the system has cut wait times at toll plazas by 85%, Wilkins said. He thinks it's likely that all human toll collectors will eventually be phased out. If a driver doesn't have E-ZPass, a camera will take a photo of their license plate and they'll get a bill in the mail.

Reducing lines at toll plazas had another, unexpected benefit: The drop in pollution from all those idling cars led to an 11% reduction in premature births for mothers living within 2 kilometers of toll plazas, according to a 2009 paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

 That's a benefit even better than $818 a year. To top of page

Rendering of new Gold Line Foothill Extension bridge over Santa Anita Avenue in Arcadia


 By Steve Hymon, February 5, 2013

The bridge will be at the site of the old at-grade crossing just north of REI and south of In-n-Out. Rendering: Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority.

 The bridge will be at the site of the old at-grade crossing just north of REI and south of In-N-Out. Rendering: Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority.

Serious work on the bridge over Santa Anita Avenue will begin in April — and already there is a lot of work up and down the 11.5-mile alignment for the Gold Line extension between eastern Pasadena and the Azusa/Glendora border. The bridge over Santa Anita means that the Gold Line will be able to travel between the existing Del Mar station in Old Pasadena and the new Arcadia station entirely grade-separated with no street crossings. It should be a quick ride.

Here’s the latest update from the project from Habib Balian, the CEO of the Foothill Extension Construction Authority, the agency building the line that Metro will operate once it’s built:
The Construction Authority and Foothill Transit Contractors briefed Arcadia Mayor Bob Harbicht last Friday on the construction activities taking place at the Colorado Bridge, and other upcoming activities in the city. The Colorado Bridge is one of more than twenty bridges being constructed as part of the overall project, and the first of three to be built in the city of Arcadia. As part of the briefing, we discussed the residential and business community outreach effort being conducted around these activities, which will require long-term street and lane closures. Important to our efforts is promotion of local businesses affected by construction.

The Pasadena Star News published a story about the briefing and the upcoming work in Arcadia and how it will impact businesses on Santa Anita Avenue. The article (below) highlights the new grade-separated crossing to be built over Santa Anita Avenue; construction will begin following completion of the Colorado Boulevard bridge in April. FTC has been actively working with the local businesses for the last year to prepare for the Santa Anita lane closures, including finding the best way to maintain access to their businesses.

In addition, work continues to start in many areas of the corridor. Yesterday, the first of two dozen at-grade crossings went into construction. Highland Avenue, in Duarte, closed for four weeks to build the crossing. Crews began demolition, and will begin installing underground utilities and equipment next.

As construction impacts streets throughout the corridor, the Construction Authority is emailing notices to those that have signed up to receive them. If you have not done so already, we encourage you to sign up at www.foothillextension.org.
One note from yours truly, who earlier today consumed a Double-Double for lunch: for those quoted in the story concerned they won’t be able to access the In-N-Out on Santa Anita, there are a couple other In-N-Outs nearby: the one at Walnut and Craig in Pasadena and another at Huntington and Atlantic in Alhambra, which is also conveniently near stops for several Metro bus lines — the 78, 79, 176, 260, 378, 485 and 762. As the Star News story notes, the In-N-Out on Santa Anita will be open during construction although traffic will que up on Colorado instead of Santa Anita.
710 Coalition Video by Joe Cano--Updated Video

February 5, 2013

Like Johhny Carson's sidekick Ed M. used to say 'Hey Now!'
 Everybody, grab your partner & trip the light fantastic!!
Short version of video:
  Long version of video:
SR-710 Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) Meeting 

  From Sylvia Plummer:  Just got word that the TAC meeting will now take place next week.

Draft Meeting Agenda: 

Wednesday, February 13

1pm - 3pm

CALTRANS - District 7
100 S. Main Street
Conference Room 1.040A (1st Floor)
Los Angeles, CA   90012


Reserve parking by emailing:  captain_rian_gray@dot.ca.gov
--  State you would like to reserve parking
--  Give your name, meeting you are attending, with date and time
--  Captain Gray will email you back with a confirmation

The public may attend this meeting. It is not clear whether questions from the public will be permitted at this meeting.  
However, at a pervious TAC meeting, the public was permitted to ask a few questions.

I am trying to arrange a few carpools for this meeting, so if you are interested in attending let me know. 
Also give me your address, telephone number and if you want to drive.

Moderate Michael Rubio takes on California's environmental law


By Torey Van Oot, Monday, January 28, 2013

 (See comments at the end of the article.)


Sen. Michael Rubio, right, wants to change a landmark 1970 state law.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/01/28/5144984/moderate-michael-rubio-takes-on.html#storylink=cpy
State Sen. Michael Rubio says he first wondered if something were wrong with California's environmental review law during his days as a Kern County supervisor, when he saw it used to slow wind and solar projects he considered green by their very nature.

Now, just more than two years into his Senate term representing a large swath of the southern Central Valley, he is taking on fellow Democrats on the issue, moving to rewrite the California Environmental Quality Act, one of the most complicated and controversial policy issues under the dome.

Making changes to "modernize" the law, a process he compares to updating an outdated iPhone app, is in Rubio's view "the most important issue facing California today."

He is quick to praise the law, signed in 1970 by Republican Gov. Ronald Reagan, for bringing "tremendous good" to the environment and the state. But he said he was "shocked" to see projects that could improve the environment and public health "delayed significantly by misuses and abuses of a wonderful statute."

Since joining the Senate in 2011, Rubio has gained a reputation as one of the upper house's more moderate Democrats. The move on CEQA puts him at odds with many of his colleagues, as well as interest groups representing a key Democratic constituency: environmentalists.

It also endears him to a California business and agriculture lobby that has been pushing for regulatory changes for years.

With his party holding a bare supermajority that allows Democrats to take virtually any action without Republican support, once-in-a-while defectors such as Rubio gain leverage, both in the caucus and among business interests that can give candidates a fundraising boost.

"Someone like him, a moderate Latino Democrat representing a moderate district, has a much more elevated platform than he had before the Democrats won the two-thirds supermajority," said Ben Tulchin, a Democratic pollster. "If he becomes the go-to person for those groups, for industry in Sacramento, he's built a donor base and a profile that he couldn't have had before."

Rubio, 35, says both his upbringing and a desire to vote in ways that stay true to his moderate district influence his positions in the Legislature. He has split from his party on key votes before, including voting no on legislative Democrats' budget in June 2012.

"I was raised by a gun-slinging, spur-rearing Reaganite of a mother and they were very deep-rooted Republicans and conservatives," he said of his parents. "I guess that's where you could say I get my conservative bent."

Years of complaints

The offensive on CEQA is the culmination of years of complaints from developers and other critics who say the law is being misused to block projects for reasons other than environmental harm. Arguments that such lawsuits, and even the threat of litigation, are problematic and hurt economic development gained traction in the down economy, prompting lawmakers to approve exemptions for projects including a new football stadium in Los Angeles.
Many of the law's supporters, however, say it doesn't need to be changed significantly. They point out that the percentage of projects sued under CEQA is small – about 1 percent by one analysis – and argue the law continues to provide important protections.

Efforts by Rubio and his allies to put forward CEQA legislation at the end of last year's session met with resistance. Thirty-four Democratic legislators signed a letter urging leaders to shut down what they saw as "an end-of-session power play" to gut the law. Some of the state's major environmental groups also chimed in.

Rubio shelved plans to push a bill after Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg signaled it would not move forward that year. "We always have to read the dynamics of the building," he said at the time.

Just five months later, Rubio believes those dynamics have changed.

Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown called in his State of the State address for revising the law. Steinberg gave Rubio the gavel of the Environmental Quality Committee and has pledged to make reviewing possible updates to the law a priority this session. The two have held a series of meeting with people involved in the issue and are working to hash out language on which they can agree.

Rubio and his backers, including some of the state's major business coalitions and CEQA attorney and Democratic donor Tina Thomas, say they are committed to protecting the essence of the 42-year-old law, while finding fixes he says would limit uncertainty for those wishing to pursue responsible development.

Chief among their goals is limiting lawsuits over aspects of a proposal that have already met certain planning or environmental standards.

While Steinberg didn't agree with Rubio's approach on CEQA last year, he said he admired his colleague's willingness to stick his neck out on the issue. He said he expects Rubio to become a "force and an excellent policymaker as the years progress."

"He's the kind of guy who's not afraid to get right back up when he gets knocked down, and he'll get knocked down a few times," Steinberg said. "He's not afraid to take on hard stuff."

Planned on FBI career

Rubio said a career in politics wasn't his goal as he was growing up in and around Shafter, a town of 17,000 in Kern County. A dream to become an FBI agent sent Rubio, the son of a farmworker and a school secretary, across the country to study criminology at the University of New Haven in Connecticut.
He said he ultimately shed the "apolitical" views he held growing up, deciding in college he was a Democrat after a deal President Bill Clinton brokered with then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich allowed him to collect additional student aid and stay in school.

After graduating and serving a stint in the Peace Corps, Rubio returned to the Central Valley to work for a program focused on helping poor children. He started getting involved in local politics.
He signed on as an aide to former Democratic Sen. Dean Florez, then a member of the Assembly, in 2000. Florez said Rubio got the job by approaching him at a local parade.
Motivated by his competitive streak and a sense there were "wrongs that needed to be righted," Rubio ran for office himself in 2004.

"A supervisor at the time said, 'If you don't like the way I'm doing this, you can run against me,' " Rubio said. "I was 24 at the time, just about to be 25, and I said, 'You're on.' "

He toppled that supervisor, defeating Democrat Pete Parra, a major name in Central Valley politics, by 23 points to become the board's youngest-ever member. The leather shoes he wore thin as he knocked on 15,872 doors – twice each – during the campaign are mounted on his district office wall, a gift from Florez.

"I think he has public service in his DNA," Florez said. "I think he wants to serve people. He comes from a really, really poor area, like I did. You see so many people not being served."
Allies say the freshman senator's work ethic and demeanor raise their prospects for success this session.

"When Michael Rubio has a goal, he sets his sights on what it takes to achieve that goal," said Silicon Valley Leadership Group President Carl Guardino, a member of the CEQA Working Group coalition who trains for endurance races with the senator.

Even with Rubio's drive and Steinberg's involvement, however, any proposal to change CEQA is likely to face significant opposition in the Legislature. The seats on the key committee Rubio chairs have been filled with some of the chamber's most vocal environmentalists, a decision Steinberg says was intentional. Democrats outside the committee are also skeptical.

"I don't think that the so-called CEQA reform is the most urgent issue facing the state of California right now," said Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa. "It's just not."

Kathryn Phillips, lead lobbyist for the Sierra Club of California, said she sees the potential for a compromise bill that would tackle some "low-hanging fruit" to make CEQA work better. But she characterized the types of changes sought by Rubio and his backers as misguided attempts by developers and other interests to use a down economy as an excuse "to go after something they haven't liked for some time."

"It's getting him a lot of exposure, but I wish he would focus on something else that would be more productive," she said.

Rubio has already explored at least one run beyond the Senate. Considered a contender for a swing congressional district in the last election, he decided to drop his candidacy after the younger of his two daughters was diagnosed with Down syndrome.

For now, Rubio says he is focused on winning re-election to the state Senate in 2014. But he hasn't closed the door on a congressional or statewide run in 2018 or beyond. His allies don't shy from expressing support for his future political endeavors.

"If he were a stock," Guardino said, "I would highly recommend people buy as many shares as they could."


  CEQA serves a real-time purpose. I grew up in the San Gabriel Valley where we had 100+ smoggy days a year, with many a smog alert...and my non-smoking mother just passed away with interstitial lung disease most probably caused by pollutants during this time period. Agreed that (as with most legislation) it may not be perfect all of the time, but I hope that when the changes are reviewed to this very important work, we don't escalate the needs of business above the impacts to people.

Some of those wind and solar projects in Kern County were blocked by construction unions.

Unions use CEQA extensively to block projects throughout the state until the owners give them labor agreements. For energy projects, a law firm called Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo works for the unions.

Adams Broadwell objected to draft EIRs for Recurrent Energy solar projects in Kern County on behalf of California Union for Reliable Energy (CURE).Senator Rubio has managed to avoid talking about unions as a major obstacle to CEQA reform. 

 Thank you; so many here were quick to embrace the "act of change", without any knowledge of what it might even entail. Many of our laws need to be updated/revised, but many times the end result winds up being worse than what it replaced, and quite frankly while I support agriculture, especially local agriculture, I'm especially leary of someone from the central valley ag group. For all we know he could introduce a bill that makes conversion of land near impossible, but gives copious subsidies to steal water from one area and transport it to another (because Ag has never done anything like this)...

Plenty of environmental consulting firms out there working the system. Adds costs, delays projects, impacts jobs and in the end does little to either improve the environment or protect endangered species. It's just another hoop that every civil engineering project has to jump through.

Why The 5.5 Billion Hours Americans Spend In Commuter Traffic Justifies More Infrastructure Spending


By Rebecca Leber, February 5, 2013



 The 5.5 billion hours Americans sat in traffic in 2011 cost the country a whopping $121 billion, according to an Urban Mobility Report from Texas A&M. Not surprisingly, the most congested cities are also some of the most populated, including Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco-Oakland, New York-Newark, Boston, Houston,

Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia and Seattle:



Consumers bear much of the cost in time and gas, with the wasted fuel totaling 2.9 billion gallons — enough to fill the New Orleans Superdome four times over. The total costs are up $1 billion from the year before, which translates to $818 per U.S. commuter. Commuters must shoulder the cost of time wasted, too, since many need to allot a full hour for a trip that should take 20 minutes.
There are massive pollution costs to this much traffic as well: Traffic congestion adds 56 billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere, or 380 pounds per commuter.
The obvious fix is more funding for infrastructure, and the researchers recommend prioritizing public transit. In the most congested cities, an increasing number of Americans rely on public transit. However, Republicans have repeatedly sought to cut mass transit funding, while public investment has plunged since the recession. The nation’s growing infrastructure deficit currently stands at $1.6 trillion.

Three Government Committees Reject Current Plans to Widen 710 Between Long Beach and East LA 


By Brian Addison, February 5, 2013

Environmental groups developed their own alternatives to the massive proposed widening of the I-710 between Long Beach and East Los Angeles. "Community Alternative 7" is clearly the preferred alternative of community advocates, but if Metro/Caltrans feel they just have to build something really big, there's an alternative for that. Read all about them at in this report prepared by the Coalition for Environmental Health and Justice

Long Beach City Council I-710 Oversight Committee,  Gateway Council of Governments and The Project Committee all reject current environmental documents for 710 widening between Long Beach and East Los Angeles.

Following thousands of comments from leaders within community health and environmental coalitions, the State-led project to expand the 710 Freeway from eight lanes to 14 lanes for 17 miles from Long Beach to the 60 Freeway in East Los Angeles was delayed. The Project Committee, am advisory committee to Metro, Caltrans and the Southern California Association of Governments, halted the project with an astounding “no” on the proposed routes.  Meanwhile, the Long Beach City Council I-710 Oversight Committee recommended that Caltrans and Metro recirculate the draft EIR, allowing for more public comment.

The proposal presented last week had problems beyond just concerns over induced traffic demand and air quality. It required moving power lines to line the banks of the Los Angeles River, interfering with service provider facilities including Shelter Partnerships, Bell Shelters, the Long Beach Multi-Service Center, and Seasons at Compton senior housing. The Gateway Cities Council of Governments (GCOG) understood this, and called for the EIR to go back out for public comment, another 90 days for the public to read, criticize and weigh-in, at a January 29th meeting.
At that meeting, two of the most exceptionally flawed alternatives–known as 5A and 6A–were recommended to be removed from the table by GCOG consultant Jerry Wood, stating that “south of the 405, we don’t need 10 general purpose lanes.”

While community and environmental advocates are desperately fighting against the proposed widening plan, they aren’t just naysayers. Aided by a group of environmental groups, they’ve developed their own alternative.
 Community organizers were forthright in their desires at the public meetings. Despite praising state officials for abandoning two harmful alternatives, still asked that the Oversight Committee consider their “Community Alternative 7″ within the upcoming EIR in addition to the other alternatives, mainly the no build, 6C (zero emission freight corridor with 10 lanes) and 6D (zero emission freight corridor with 8 lanes).

Community Alternative 7–developed by a slew of organizations including the East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, Communities for a Better Environment, Legal Aid Foundation of L.A., Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma, Natural Resources Defense Council, Long Beach Community Action Partnership, Coalition for Clean Air, and Physicians for Social Responsibility–proffers a committed zero-emissions design that includes a public transit element, biking/pedestrian elements, river improvements, and a public-private partnership for an employer-operated freight system which avoids the 710 expanding.

Their proposal was met with a yes (though not from CalTrans or the Southern California Association
of Governments), as a follow-up meeting on February 1 by the committee took the recommendation to include Alternative 7. With more than 120 people in attendance, chants of “¡Sí Se Pudo!” could be heard following the support of Alternative 7 from agencies ranging from Bell to Paramount, Port of Long Beach to South Gate.

7th District Councilmember James Johnson proposed a $10 million pilot project in the Port to test a
zero-emissions catenary system, where overhead electrical wires power trucks–but ultimately failed in getting a second, in which a representative from Metro was quick to point out the process required for enacting early action projects.

Of course, the action by this committee doesn’t automatically guarantee a recirculation of the draft EIR; that is ultimately left to a vote by CalTrans and Metro.

¡Sí Se Pudo! — or we hope.

 Battery-powered intercity trains possible, says government study

Research for Department for Transport reveals trains could travel 600 miles on single charge if fossil fuel prices trigger demand


By Peter Walker, February 3, 2013

Research indicated battery-powered trains could travel up to 600 miles on a single charge if fuel costs and environmental issues required it.  

If for some an intercity express will always resemble an oversized toy then this is perhaps just one stage further towards an extravagant childhood dream: a battery-powered train capable of travelling 600 miles on a single charge.

Such a technology is now possible, if not immediately likely to pull into a local station, according to government-commissioned research. The study was ordered by the Department for Transport with the significantly more serious purpose of examining ways trains could run on difficult-to-electrify lines if fossil fuel prices and environmental worries make diesel power too expensive.

The experts, working on behalf of the Transport Research Laboratory, looked into two options, the first of which would see a relatively small battery – still weighing up to two tonnes – with a shorter range, which would be mechanically swapped at stations.

The other notion was seen as more feasible: a single, eight-tonne battery, which could propel a train service for around 600 miles at a time, using a super capacitor or flywheel for the varying power requirements of the route.

Using digital models of real, if shorter, rail trips – Stratford-upon-Avon to Birmingham, for example – the experts were able to model how such a train could run. The conclusion – battery power is "a feasible option for providing electric traction on parts of the rail network where full route electrification is not viable".

The big caveat, one known all too well by owners of electric cars, is the lifespan of the hugely expensive battery, with the eight-tonne rail version anticipated to cost around £0.5m a piece. While a diesel train would cost around £160,000 a year to run on a daily 600-mile service, the battery version would be more than £240,000 a year, of which £150,000 alone would be set aside for battery replacement.

Diesel prices would need to more than double for battery-only trains to become viable, said John Molyneux from the rail arm of the Lloyd's Register group, who led the report.

"I don't think we'll see these trains in my lifetime," he said. "But they may eventually come, out of necessity rather than of choice. It would be because of fuel prices and the environment."

Battery technology could improve, but less quickly than some people thought, he said: "It's all relative. Lithium ion has been around for 20-odd years and there isn't much that's better than that. And it's still got its problems. With any next-generation batteries you're still limited by electro-chemistry, which is a big limitation. You can't get much better than we have now."

However, one more immediate use of the technology could be smaller batteries to propel trains through short sections of difficult-to-electrify routes.

"The problem with electrification is things like tunnels, bridges and stations," he said. "They're the killers because you've got to break the overhead and you can't have a continuous run.
"One thing we looked into was whether we could supply enough power on a small battery just to get you through the critical bits. Like an electric-electric hybrid. But there's got to be an awful lot of will driving even that."

Battery-Powered Trains Feasibility Study for Energy and Propulsion on Trains pdf:  http://www.trl.co.uk/downloads/bc/20110302_Battery_Powered_Trains_Report_PPR551.pdf

Anaheim Releases Questionable Emails


By Adam Elmahrek, February 5, 2013

Anaheim Email Chain

 Kempton Memo about Voice of OC story to OCTA Board
Anaheim officials Monday released an email chain that has raised questions at City Hall over whether local officials planned to misrepresent information to a federal agency in order to obtain transportation grant funding.

The emails were released following a Voice of OC article published last Friday that quoted Mayor Tom Tait and other City Hall sources saying that on its face the email was “very disturbing.”

The Feb. 2008 email chain shows Anaheim Public Works Director Natalie Meeks planning to ask for funds for one phase of the then planned monorail project but actually use the money for something else. The project has since been changed to a proposal for a less expensive streetcar system.

According to Tait, who has questioned the cost of the proposed streetcar system, there were two explanations for the email chain. One explanation has it being little more than confused wording, but another indicates a plan to deceive federal officials, Tait said.

City spokeswoman Ruth Ruiz said Monday that it is the former.

The email chain was first requested as part of a California Public Records Act request filed Dec. 13 at City Hall by politics blogger Cynthia Ward. City officials had for weeks postponed releasing the email to Ward, saying in multiple extension notification letters that city officials were still processing her request.

It's also part of a larger controversy involving City Attorney Cristina Talley, who was asked to resign just days before controversy erupted around the email. Talley had ruled that the correspondence, produced from a city official's personal email account, had to be made public.
City Hall sources have not indicated that Talley's directive regarding the email chain was a factor in her ouster.

Anaheim officials have a recent history of violating the Public Records Act when it comes to emails. In late 2011, managers in the city's Planning Department ordered a purge of emails after a Voice of OC request for communications among planning staff and members of the City Council.

In her email to Curt Pringle, then mayor of Anaheim and a director of the Orange County Transportation Authority, Meeks wrote that OCTA officials are insisting that $4.8 million in requested funding be restricted to environmental work and an early phase of the monorail project known as alternatives analysis, which is essentially a study of how various transit projects would improve mobility in the city.

City officials, however, were worried about securing support from the Disneyland Resort, the emails show, and the resort would participate in the project only if officials could secure funding for other work, known as preliminary engineering.

The problem is entering the preliminary engineering phase without “certain approvals” would disqualify the project from federal funding, an email from Meeks to Pringle states.

After a conversation with OCTA Deputy CEO Darrell Johnson, Meeks proposed a solution that involved “some creative semantics,” according to the correspondence.

“The $5 million will give us enough money to basically do PE [preliminary engineering], we just can't call it that,” Meeks wrote in a Feb. 14 email to Pringle. “We will need to craft our language carefully with any agreement with Disney, but I think we can meet everyone's needs and stay eligible for federal funding.”

Pringle replied, “Sounds good — thanks.”

City and OCTA officials are hoping that the transit project, which would connect the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center to Disneyland with stops at the Platinum Triangle and convention center, will qualify for funding under the Federal Transit Authority's New Starts program, which provides transportation funds for local projects.

Local officials plan to obtain at least half the funding for the $319-million streetcar project from the New Starts program.

The New Starts program requires FTA's approval to move into the preliminary engineering phase, according to an FTA fact sheet.

Meeks was not made available for comment. Ruiz said, however, that city and FTA officials at that time had different wording for the same project phase. “The city was using preliminary engineering to describe early studies of the fixed guideway project, whereas New Starts used the same term for a different phase of the analysis,” Ruiz said.

Johnson, who will be CEO of OCTA effective at the end of this month, said there was no wrongdoing despite what some have said the emails might indicate.

“Insinuating that anything was done improperly in my opinion is entirely false,” he said.

Current OCTA CEO Will Kempton also sent a memo to board directors late Monday, saying that the Voice of OC article contained an accusation that was “entirely without merit and completely false.”

Johnson said he wouldn't speculate on what Meeks was saying in her email. But he did say that Anaheim officials, along with officials in other county cities, are inexperienced with these types of FTA-funded projects and that the agency's terminology can be confusing.

He pointed to the agreement and the completed alternatives analysis report, which Anaheim City Council appoved last October, as evidence that city officials had not misspent the money. But he acknowledged that an audit of the grant expenditures had not been done.

In September 2008, OCTA's board approved a $5.9-million funding agreement with Anaheim for “detailed planning, alternatives analysis, conceptual engineering, and state and federal environmental engineering,” according to a meeting agenda.

“The conversation in this email doesn't seem to be consistent with what we actually did,” Johnson said.

Johnson added that FTA officials have been closely involved with the project's early phases. “You can't do these projects without working closely with them. They're there all the time,” he said.
Preliminary engineering was not part of that agreement, Johnson said.

On Oct. 23, Tait and former Councilwoman Lorri Galloway were on the losing end of a 3-2 vote to move the streetcar project forward. Among other things, Tait questioned whether alternatives had been fully explored.

OCTA board members last week approved $1.5 million in additional funding for the alternatives analysis, because the project, first planned as a monorail system, was changed to include study of the streetcar, according to a staff report. The addition of the streetcar option required more funds, the report states.

At that meeting, some board directors questioned the nearly $100 million per mile the project would cost.

How Virtual Traffic Lights Could Cut Down on Congestion


By Eric Jaffe, February 5, 2013

 How Virtual Traffic Lights Could Cut Down on Congestion


Every new glimpse at the future of urban transport seems to be missing something pretty big. A car without, you know, human drivers. A trains of cars commuting on the highway with human drivers who aren't, you know, actually driving. The next peek ahead, according to computer scientist Ozan Tonguz of Carnegie Mellon University, gets rid of all the traffic lights.

At least the physical ones. Tonguz and colleagues are designing a road-efficiency system, based on emerging-vehicle-to-vehicle technology, called Virtual Traffic Lights. The idea is to shift traffic control from fixed street signals to the moving cars themselves. The result, says Tonguz, is an optimized traffic flow that should greatly reduce city congestion.

"To do this means that we can improve the life quality of New Yorkers, people in L.A., Boston, Atlanta, and other major cities tremendously," he says. "If you really want to take major stride in solving traffic congestion problems, for the life of me I don't know how else traffic congestion can be mitigated."

The basic world of Virtual Traffic Lights operates like this: as you approach an intersection, your car transmits data, such as location and speed, to other nearby cars. The virtual system processes this information for all the cars in the area, with the help of a lead car that changes every cycle, and determines your individual traffic signal. Instead of seeing a red or green light hanging in the intersection, you see it on your windshield and stop or go accordingly.

The first advantage to Virtual Traffic Lights is that every intersection with a car now automatically has a traffic light. That may not seem like much, but fewer intersections are equipped with signals than many people realize. In New York City, for instance, only about 24 percent of intersections have a four-way signal. As traffic lights become ubiquitous, road safety should dramatically improve.

The second benefit is a much better traffic flow. The algorithm that governs the virtual system can be written for total efficiency. If the system recognizes that no cars are coming from another direction, it can extend a green signal indefinitely. Likewise, at heavy intersections, it can give preference to the longest line of cars. Using similar technology to Google's driverless car, the system can also recognize the presence of pedestrians and bicyclists, and orchestrate traffic to suit their needs.

"This technology essentially buys you universal traffic control at every intersection," says Tonguz. "It makes traffic lights smart in the sense that it takes into consideration how many vehicles are there in each approach and in that way adjusts the cycle duration."

In recent simulations the system has performed quite well. The flow of cars in Porto — the second-largest city in Portugal, with 16 percent signal coverage at intersections — improved by 60 percent during a rush-hour scenario of one test [PDF]. The Virtual Traffic Lights system has even beaten congestion pricing models "hands down," Tonguz says.

Tonguz drew inspiration for the virtual system from nature. His idea was to capture the basic rules of self-organization practiced by biological species and engineer cars to cooperate in a similar manner. If a "colony of vehicles" can act more like a colony of ants, he says, "the lump sum behavior will be much better than we have right now."

The basic technology for Virtual Traffic Lights is already here. Car-to-car conversations can operate over Dedicated Short Range Communication at 5.9 Gigahertz — a radio system being tested and refined by the federal government. Tonguz expects D.S.R.C. to become mandatory for new cars soon, and he's working on a prototype to retrofit older models. (His work is being sponsored by the Department of Transportation, and Tonguz says he's also received funding from General Motors throughout his career.)

The biggest obstacle, says Tonguz, is getting the government to test the system in a real-world setting.

"In my mind the argument here is so compelling, the benefits so compelling, it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when," he says.

In-N-Out Arcadia drive-thru could be clogged by Gold Line construction 


By Brenda Gazzar, February 5, 2013 


 During work on the Gold Line's Santa Anita Avenue bridge this spring, In-N-Out Burger customers will be asked to line up their cars on Colorado Boulevard rather than on Santa Anita Ave for the duration of the bridge's construction Monday.


ARCADIA - Once the Gold Line Construction Authority's five-month closure of a portion of Colorado Boulevard ends in April, commuters and businesses including In-N-Out Burger will endure major construction on Santa Anita Avenue for another bridge at the railroad tracks.

The Colorado Boulevard and Santa Anita Avenue bridges are among the more than 20 being built or modified to make way for the $735 million, 11.5-mile Foothill extension from Pasadena to Azusa.

For six months starting in April, Santa Anita Avenue will be reduced to one lane of traffic in each direction, officials said.

"It will be a challenging time because Santa Anita is a pretty busy street," said Kevin Goodman, a segment manager for Foothill Transit Constructors, a Kiewit-Parsons joint venture.

As for the popular In-N-Out Burger, a plan is to get vehicles to enter and queue down onto the Colorado Boulevard entrance only rather than on Santa Anita, where cars are often lined up on the street, said Dan Kulka, FTC's community relations liaison.

"The plan is to sort of detour the queue down onto Colorado so they'll be westbound on Colorado kind of waiting in the middle there because it's a wide enough street and we're going to try to retrain them to queue that way," Kulka said. "We'll start a month ahead and they'll actually hand them out flyers as they come through the window since they have a lot of repeat customers. We'll give them a map and they'll be signs out there."

Gold Line officials are coordinating with In-N-Out and other businesses in the area that will be affected.

"All businesses will be accessible during this time; a little difficult to get there but accessible," Kulka said. "We'll have `Open during Construction' signs, and we'll work with them ... We'll just have to make it through these four months."

But some In-N-Out customers Monday said the temporary changes might prompt them to go elsewhere.

"I probably won't come here anymore; it's too much inconvenience for me," said Denise Keys, an Altadena resident who was queued up for a burger Monday on Santa Anita. "It's going to be backed up if you're entering from one side."

Carl Van Fleet, vice president of planning and development of In-N-Out Burger, said they are familiar with the Gold Line project and are working with the Foothill Transit team "to make sure we cooperate with them while maintaining convenience for our customers."

Michael Goldstein, owner of Goldstein's Bagel Bakery, said the southernmost entrance of his business on Santa Anita, which is used for drive-thru traffic, will be fully closed for several months, forcing all vehicles to enter from the restaurant's northern entrance on Santa Anita.

About one third of the bakery's business comes from the drive-thru window. While that will remain open during construction, Goldstein said he feared business might be reduced so much that he might have to lay off employees.

"People will be discouraged to go through this right turn (into his business) because there will be a whole lot of stuff, a whole lot of distracting ... and also people won't want to go out on Santa Anita because it's double the traffic," he said.

Following the Santa Anita bridge completion and the 2013 Breeders' Cup on Nov. 2 and 3, FTC crews will begin expanding the existing bridge on Huntington Drive at Second Street. While Huntington will stay at two lanes, drivers will not be allowed to turn left from Second Avenue, Goodman said.

Despite recent rain, FTC officials are still on schedule to complete the Colorado Boulevard bridge in April. That work is requiring a full, 24-hour closure of Colorado Boulevard between San Antonio Road and Santa Anita Avenue through April 30.

"From what I've seen, it's going pretty well," said Arcadia City Engineer Phil Wray. "We haven't seen any substantial backups from traffic."

The Construction Authority has opened a new Arcadia community office at 400 North Santa Anita, Suite 101B that is open Mondays and Wednesday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to address questions and concerns. Residents can also call the Foothill extension's project hotline at 626-324-7098.

Roadshow: In tally of worst U.S. traffic, Bay Area now matches Los Angeles


By Gary Richards, February 5, 2103

Q Something has puzzled me. I read your column almost every day, and it amazes me how much time is spent griping on traffic conditions in the Bay Area. As someone who grew up in other parts of this country, I have seen new highways and privately funded toll roads developed at a much faster rate than here.

I have a simple question for your readers: Do you want to continue griping about traffic issues you control? Each and every one of us has the power to elect representatives who do what we want! If local officials won't listen to the needs of their citizens, vote for someone else. If you aren't willing to vote out the current folks, then stop griping!

Please, please, please publish this and see what type of response you get back.

Manjul Gupta
San Jose

A This is a fitting day to do so, as the Texas Transportation Institute has released its annual congestion report. For 2011, it ranks the Oakland-San Francisco area as the second most congested in the nation based on hours commuters were delayed in traffic -- 61 per year, matching the delay drivers in Los Angeles face each year. Got that? Many of us now face L.A.-style traffic.

The Washington, D.C., area is the worst in the nation at 67 hours of delay per driver, and New York is third at 59. The South Bay is 29th (out of 80 of the nation's largest urban areas) at 38 wasted hours.
Over the past three decades, Bay Area governmental leaders and voters have approved more than 500 miles of new highway lanes in the region, allowed solo drivers on two freeways to use carpool lanes for a toll, installed hundreds of metering lights and extended BART to the San Francisco Airport, with work ongoing to extend BART to the South Bay.

So, Manjul and anyone else, what other improvements would you favor?

Q Our school enrollment has recently gone through a dramatic increase, which is causing a traffic NIGHTMARE. I understand police are understaffed in San Jose, which is why they refused to help our elementary school combat overcrowded, unsafe traffic conditions in the morning and afternoon. We've met with the DOT, Safe Paths to School, the district superintendent, etc., and have done everything in our power to help the flow of traffic and provide a safer environment for kids as they arrive at school.

But there are many parents who refuse to listen to reason, become impatient and allow their small children to cross crowded streets while they double park, park on the wrong side of the street, block drop-off zones, etc.

I stand out at one of our drop-off zones each morning to help parents understand how the drop-off works (no parking, no double parking! Pull FORWARD!) and it's the same people every time who are putting their kids in danger. Recently my daughter and I were almost hit in a crosswalk because of a driver who didn't want to wait their turn.

My question (finally): If I get video or pictures of cars and their license plates while they are doing things they should be getting tickets for, will the police issue them a ticket? When I see 7-year-olds climb out of their car as their mom waves them across a drop-off zone with cars coming and going, it's all I can do to keep from screaming at them. Any suggestions? It's beyond frustrating.

Gina Ashe

San Jose

A Indeed it is. Police will tell you that parents are the worst drivers in school zones and do all kinds of stupid things. But police must witness an infraction to issue a ticket, so it won't do any good to take video of bad driving moves. I suggest doing what my kids' elementary school did -- form a committee to address your concerns and send home to each parent a "rules of the road" brochure.

This week police throughout Santa Clara County will be participating in Operation Safe Passage -- the annual crackdown around schools. This will include monitoring children walking and riding their bikes to school.

Q When will the new Highway 101 lanes between the San Antonio and Embarcadero exits in Palo Alto be completed? Do you think it will help rush-hour traffic?

Michael DeNeffe

A The road widening -- auxiliary lanes between interchanges and a second carpool lane each way -- should be done this summer. And it has to improve conditions. Traffic can't get any worse, can it?

Have a gripe, minor annoyance or major problem with transportation? Look for Gary Richards at Facebook.com/mr.roadshow or contact him at mrroadshow@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5335. The fax number is 408-288-8060.

Reminder: Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD), District 7 Candidate Forum, February 6, 2013

For Immediate Release
Feb 6, 2013
6:30 PM

 San Rafael Neighborhoods Association
and co-sponsor
 Downtown Pasadena Neighborhood Association






6:30 P.M.

Church of the Angels Church Hall
1100 Ave 64
Pasadena 91105


Voters from SRNA neighborhoods will put a mark on local history March 5th when voting for the first time for a candidate for the Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) to represent PUSD's new geographic Seventh District.

PUSD District 7 encompasses neighborhoods from San Rafael and Linda Vista along with certain areas of Old Pasadena and Madison Heights.  School site facilities located in District 7 include:

Blair/Allendale Complex, 
Linda Vista Elementary, 
Roosevelt Elementary 
San Rafael Elementary

In preparation for this historic election SRNA, joined by the Downtown Pasadena Neighborhood Association (DPNA), will sponsor a District 7 candidate forum Wednesday, February 6th at Church of the Angels Hall on Avenue 64.

Neighbors will be able to meet and speak with PUSD District 7 candidates Luis Ayala and Scott Phelps during the 6:30 reception followed by candidate statements at 7:00, moderator questions, and concluding with questions from the audience.

PUSD District 7

Wednesday February 6th
6:30 pm


1100 Avenue 64
Pasadena 91105

The church hall is located across from the church, corner of Church St. and Ave. 64
Parking is available on city streets
San Rafael Neighborhoods Association:

The mission of the San Rafael Neighborhoods Association (SRNA) is to enhance and maintain the character and quality of all San Rafael neighborhoods through advocacy and an activated community.  

Join SRNA--West Pasadena's newest and fast growing neighborhood organization dedicated to the San Rafael Neighborhoods Area 

Member $20
Household $35
Sustaining $100
Patron $250 
Benefactor $500

Contact us and send check by mail to:
San Rafael Neighborhoods Association (SRNA)
PO Box 92617
Pasadena, CA 91109
or join us at our website at
www.srnapasadena.org and click the tab "Join Us"
Credit cards accepted

SRNA is registered with Neighborhood Connections in the City of Pasadena