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

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Los Angeles retains notorious rankings for worst smog, traffic


By Steve Gorman, April 24, 2013


LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Los Angeles may boast some of the best weather among U.S. cities while scoring high in celebrity sightings, but the Southern California metropolis remains unable to shake off its more notorious No. 1 rankings for worst smog and heaviest traffic.

Los Angeles, the nation's second-largest city, again topped the charts for ozone pollution, and finished fourth for particulate pollution such as dust and soot, in the American Lung Association's annual national air quality report card, released on Wednesday.

The farming town of Bakersfield, California, was rated No. 1 for particulates.

The greater Los Angeles area has ranked every year but one since the association's first report in 2000 as the city with the worst levels for ozone, a key component of smog formed when sunlight reacts with hydrocarbon and nitrous oxide emissions.

A major source of ozone pollutants is tailpipe emissions from automobiles, which in turn account for Los Angeles' No. 1 ranking this year as the nation's most traffic-clogged city, according to a separate annual study released on Wednesday.

Honolulu dropped from first to second place in traffic congestion, followed by San Francisco at No. 3, the traffic-data company Inrix, based in Seattle, reported.

Inrix also found road and highway congestion in the Los Angeles area was back on the rise in early 2013 after two straight years of decline, a likely reflection of an improved economy.

Los Angeles has roughly 10 times more roads than Honolulu, but the Inrix study provides a comparative gauge of travel time it calls the "gridlock index," which measures the intensity of traffic congestion to local drivers as it occurs.

According to Inrix, the average Los Angeles motorist wasted 59 hours last year in jammed traffic, compared with 50 hours for the average Honolulu driver.

In terms of air quality, California as a whole dominated the list of the most polluted U.S. cities, accounting for seven of the top 10 for ozone and eight of the top 10 for annual levels of particulate pollution, the American Lung Association said.

Nearly 90 percent of Californians, or 33.5 million people, live in areas plagued by unhealthy air, especially in Los Angeles, the so-called Inland Empire region east of the city, the state capital of Sacramento, and the agricultural heartland of the San Joaquin Valley, the group's study found.

Those residents are at greater risk for asthma attacks, heart attacks and premature death, the association said.

However, many California cities have shown steady progress on improving air quality, particularly the Los Angeles region, whose ozone levels have fallen by 36 percent since the organization's first State of the Air report card in 2000.

The region's annual particle pollution has dropped by 43 percent in that time and is now close to meeting the federal year-round standard for particulates.

The U.S. cities ranked as having the cleanest air in the latest report were Ames, Iowa, for ozone and Cheyenne, Wyoming, for annual particulate pollution.

PERRIS VALLEY LINE: Deadline set to address environmental issues


 By Peter Surowski, April 24, 2013

 The proposed Perris Valley Line would add commuter rail service between Perris and Riverside.

A judge asked county transportation officials for a proposal to resolve concerns an environmental organization has raised over the proposed Perris Valley commuter rail line.

Judge Sharon J. Waters gave the Riverside County Transportation Commission five days to address a ruling she issued on March 28 that found in favor of the Friends of Riverside’s Hills on several points concerning the project’s environmental impact report.

“We’re ready to analyze those aspects to her satisfaction,” said Anne Mayer, executive director of RCTC.

The $232.7 million project would add 24 miles of track and four new stations from Riverside to Perris. It would used Metrolink trains and is projected to see about 4,000 boardings daily.
Friends of Riverside’s Hills sued RCTC, contending the environmental impact report failed to properly address negative effects the project would have. The judge found in favor of transportation officials on most issues. But she favored Friends on several points, including complaints over the project’s effect  on a sensitive toad population, pedestrian use of a hiking trail that would cross the tracks and the air quality due to the number of truck trips needed for the project.

In its proposed judgment filed earlier this month, the Friends group contended the approval for the environmental report should be disregarded.

“I think the judgment we submitted was in line with the decision of the court,” said Ray Johnson, an attorney for Friends.

RCTC’s attorneys asked the judge to let the commission fix the problems with the environmental report rather than throw it out entirely.

“We’re not talking about the next 20 years of project operation,” said Michelle Ouellette, an attorney for RCTC. “We’re talking about (the construction phase), a very narrow window.”

She told the judge she was afraid that if the environmental report were thrown out and RCTC had to remake it, Friends could sue over the second one.

“We’re talking about years and years of litigation,” Ouellette said, adding the effect on the project could be disastrous.

“We will lose federal funding and probably lose this project.”

Johnson said that suing twice over the same report would be unusual and that he has no intention to do that.

“Normally if you screw up an (environmental impact report), you fix the problems,” Johnson said.
RCTC’s Mayer said she hopes the judge will see that these problems can be addressed.

“I’m really looking forward to getting the decision from the court so we can move forward with this important project,” she said.

Metro board approves toll lane project


By Luke Money, April 25, 2013


Los Angeles County’s top transportation agency approved toll carpool lanes Thursday for Interstate 5 through the Santa Clarita Valley.

If the state agrees with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s unanimous vote, Santa Clarita Valley residents would have a new carpool lane in each direction from Parker Road in Castaic to the I-5-Highway 14 interchange in Newhall Pass — for a toll.

While the exact magnitude of the tolls would be determined at a hearing later this year, a person driving alone would be subject to the per-mile toll at all times, and a car with fewer than three people would be subject to the toll during “peak” travel hours, according to the project proposal.

Metro members agreed to join in a private-public partnership to build the lanes and use tolls as a way of recouping the costs of the estimated $410 million project.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich is the chairman of the Metro board but did not vote on the proposal Thursday, according to spokesman Tony Bell.

Bell said Antonovich was “conflicted” on the proposal.

The project will now be presented to the California Transportation Commission, which is expected to weigh in on the matter in the fall, said Lan Saadatnejadi, the executive officer of Metro’s highway program.

“For a complicated project like this, we’re doing everything possible to see that this project moves through,” Saadatnejadi said Thursday.

Under the proposed private-public partnership, an independent company would assume the upfront costs of constructing the lanes and be reimbursed through a combination of collected tolls and tax revenues from Proposition C and Measure R that are earmarked for transportation.

Under the proposal, two new 13.5-mile carpool lanes, one in each direction, would be built from Castaic to the I-5 junction with Highway 14.

Even if the Transportation Committee approves the project, actually securing such a partnership is likely 12 to 18 months away, Saadatnejadi said. From there, construction on the project would take an additional three to five years.

An estimated $310 million in funding for the project was initially slated to come from Proposition C and Measure R tax revenues, but those funds wouldn’t be fully paid out until 2040 and would face an estimated $100 million shortfall.

Using the private-public partnership would move the estimated completion date up as early as 2019, Saadatnejadi said.

Tolls on existing Metro Express lanes in Southern California range between 25 cents and $1.40 per mile.

Trucks would not be allowed to use the lanes, while cars with more than three people, buses, van pools and motorcycles would be able to use the lanes free of charge.

In return for the tolls, the proposal calls for a guarantee that traffic in the lanes does not drop below 45 mph, according to Metro officials.

Ho Chi Minh City Scrambling to Put Transit in Place Before People Start Buying Cars


By Eric Jaffe, April 26, 2013


Ho Chi Minh City Scrambling to Put Transit in Place Before People Start Buying Cars

The Latitude blog of the New York Times recently tracked the efforts of Ho Chi Minh City, the most populous city in Vietnam, to get its metro system in place before residents catch the car bug. Cities in developing nations often put themselves behind the traffic curve, if you will, by encouraging people to drive before public transit has been established. As one transport expert told Latitude reporter Lien Hoang: "Once people get into a car, it's hard to get them out."

At the moment, mobility in Ho Chi Minh City generally means motorbikes. They account for 60 to 65 percent of all city trips and create what Ethan Arpi at The City Fix once called "a traffic nightmare and a miasma of smog." Between 800 and 900 road deaths occur each a year in Ho Chi Minh City, the majority of them bikers, and the two-wheel culture has also contributed to a disconnected form of sprawl known as "leap-frog development," according to a recent World Bank report [PDF].

Many transport experts agree that once residents swap their motorbikes for cars, the situation only stands to get worse. That day is rapidly approaching. Auto sales grew 8 percent across Vietnam this year, and in Ho Chi Minh City per capita income surpassed the $3,000 threshold above which car sales tend to spike in 2011, reports Hoang. Right now cars account for only 5 percent of city trips, according to World Bank, but if private ownership meets current expectations, the city will face "serious congestion problems."

Making matters worse is the fact that what little public transportation does exist in Ho Chi Minh City has been, to date, quite unpopular. Transit makes up roughly 5 percent of city travel, with buses "stigmatized as a service for low-income commuters," writes Hoang. That problem certainly isn't unique to the developing world, but officials will have their hands full to reach the 40 percent transit share target they've set by 2025.

Still there are signs of hope. After years of planning and consideration, the metro is finally emerging. The system will cover some 66 miles of metro Ho Chi Minh City with six lines; construction began on Line 2 in August of 2010 and on Line 1 two years later. Initial service isn't supposed to begin until 2017, however, which means several years in which less sustainable transport habits will be reinforced.

To address this service gap, World Bank recently helped Ho Chi Minh City implement a BRT system. City officials toured Curitiba and Bogota, home to some of the world's most established rapid buses, as well as cities in China and Indonesia, home to similar emerging congestion problems. Afterwards officials mapped out a bus corridor designed to serve as a transit stop-gap, encourage high-density development, draw on solar energy, and ultimately enhance the metro system.

 Last fall the city officially announced plans for its $152 million, 15-mile BRT system — reportedly a fleet of 30 buses that will charge lower fares for students and the poor. There are caveats to copying a BRT system from other parts of the world, but then again there are precedents for using BRT as a transit band-aid while awaiting a subway system. Whatever happens, no one can say Ho Chi Minh City is just idling on its motorbikes until the cars arrive.

Note by Peggy Drouet: In case you are wondering, Ho Chi Minh City was formerly known as Saigon and is still called that by many Vietnamese.  The street in the photo would be easy to walk on as only bicycles are shown in the photo. But to walk on a regular street takes much daring as motorscooters park on the sidewalks, so you then have to walk in the street, facing hordes of motorbikes coming toward you. You have to pick up the "how to walk and also how to cross streets in Vietnam" skill quickly if you want to stay alive. But if you ever wanted to visit Vietnam, go now before a car culture changes it. It really is vibrant with the millions of motorscooters on the roads.

Easy Riders


By Len Hoang, April 16, 2013


HO CHI MINH CITY — A developed city is not one in which the poor get around by car but one in which the rich get around by public transit, a former mayor of Bogotá once said. That’s the vision Vietnam is trying to live up to as it becomes more prosperous.
But the government’s efforts to finalize work on metro systems for Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City is being undermined by rising living standards and consumerism. Motorbikes, which were an icon of Vietnam’s economic reforms in the 1980s, are being supplanted by a better status symbol: cars.

There about 1.5 million cars in Vietnam, for a population of more than 90 million. That still isn’t very many, but the Vietnam Automobile Manufacturers’ Association projects that sales will grow by 8 percent this year. The cost of used vehicles is falling. And the auto association is calling for fewer restrictions like registration fees and for lower import tariffs, which can reach 70 percent of a vehicle’s total price.

Robert Valkovic, the Asian Development Bank’s transport specialist for Vietnam, says that car sales tend to take off when per capita income reaches $3,000 per year. G.D.P. per capita in Vietnam is only about $1,400, but it is higher among urbanites — in Ho Chi Minh City, the figure topped Valkovic’s threshold in 2011 — and they are the ones most likely to buy cars.

So if the Vietnamese government wants to head off the kind of gridlock that plagues Jakarta and Beijing it would do well to funnel its resources into mass transit — and fast. “Most other countries have waited for the problem and then said, ‘Oh, let’s build a metro,’” Valkovic told me during a recent visit here to check on the progress of Vietnam’s first metro systems. The Asian Development Bank is lending the government $293 million for the construction of one of five planned subway lines in Hanoi and $540 million for one of six lines in Ho Chi Minh City.

Beyond the challenge of completing the subway systems within a reasonable time — there have been delays due to bureaucratic red tape — the government will have to convince commuters to ride the trains.

Public transit is stigmatized as a service for low-income commuters. By one estimate, 1.3 million of Hanoi’s 6.5 million residents ride the bus, whereas the city counts 3.8 million motorbikes and 368,000 cars. Before I, too, joined the motorbike-crazed masses a few months ago, I took the bus every day. The rides were often bumpy, but for the equivalent of a quarter, I got a seat on a vehicle that sheltered me from the elements and always had the right of way. The divide between the bus users and other commuters was obvious, though: Most riders are students, the elderly or disabled.
Subways would be more popular than buses with people who can afford private transportation. The rides would still be cheap, but smoother, and the vehicles would be sleeker. For a time at least, the novelty alone might lure commuters. The authorities could then sustain the momentum by lauding train travel for curbing traffic and pollution. An efficient mass transit system would, indeed, be a more potent symbol of modernization than streets packed with cars.

Vietnam can’t delay the push for its first metros; it must get those trains running before a new car culture replaces the country’s motorbike culture. “Once people get into a car,” Valkovic warns, “it’s hard to get them out.”

 Note by Peggy Drouet: Yes, the photo in the above article is an accurate representation though you usually see the child standing up and holding on to the handle bars. Masks for everyone.

Pasadena school board decides to cut again

Layoffs will save beleagured district about $2 million next year.


By Joe Piascki, April 27, 2013

Pasadena school board members voted Tuesday to slash 48 jobs — this on top of 94 teacher, librarian and counselor pink slips in March — in their ongoing struggle to close a projected $8.8-million budget gap.

Positions to be eliminated in June include instructional aides, security guards, elementary school library coordinators, community liaisons, typists and clerks.

The reduction in full- and part-time workers includes a handful of unfilled positions, but was packaged with reduced hours for eight other employees.

Tuesday's cuts are expected to save about $2 million and bring the total amount of board-approved budget reductions for the 2013-14 school year up to about $6.6 million, Pasadena Unified's Chief Finance Officer John Pappalardo said.

Board President Renatta Cooper cast the lone dissenting vote in the 5-1 decision, with board member Ramon Miramontes absent.

"What we're being asked to do seems damaging to the district," Cooper said. "It seems like we're amputating a limb … I just can't do it right now."

School board members put themselves in a tight squeeze in February with a 4-3 vote to issue far fewer pink slips for teachers and other educators than the 160 that officials had proposed.

It remains unclear which programs might be targeted for the $1.25 million in additional cuts needed for a worst-case budget scenario.

Spending on new initiatives, such as the conversion of Washington Middle School into a science and technology magnet campus, could also require budget trade-offs.

Board member Tom Selinske urged labor unions to agree to work furloughs to save jobs.
Labor leaders criticized the layoffs as a preemptive move that put too much pain on the backs of some of the school district's lowest-paid workers.

"Why put the cart before the horse? We're still at the negotiating table," said Rosemarie Riley, president of the Pasadena chapter of the California Schools Employees Assn., which represents the majority of workers who were cut from the districts rolls on Tuesday.

The United Teachers of Pasadena has yet to reach a collective bargaining agreement but is publicly opposed to furloughs. The Assn. of Pasadena School Administrators and the local Teamsters have agreed to several unpaid days off, however.

But, "If there's going to be pain, let everybody feel it," Riley said, echoing workers who say administrators have been largely shielded from budget woes.

In addition to about a dozen central office workers who are among those getting pink slips, the school district will leave two of five executive positions — the chiefs of facilities and technology — unfilled next year, Supt. Jon Gundry said in a statement Tuesday.

"There is very little hiring and discretionary spending going on right now, so there is not a lot of savings to be had there," Gundry said. "It is not possible to cut administration enough to balance the budget."

School district officials aren't required to turn teacher pink slips into layoff notices until May, and layoff notices for other workers can be rescinded if the budget picture improves, Pappalardo said.

405 Freeway widening project delayed by a year, $75M over budget


By Dakota Smith, April 25, 2013

The massive 405 Freeway widening project through the Sepulveda Pass is 12 months behind schedule and over budget by at least $75 million, transportation officials said Thursday, April 25, 2013.

 The massive 405 Freeway widening project through the Sepulveda Pass is 12 months behind schedule and over budget by at least $75 million, transportation officials said Thursday.

Causing more delays for commuters and headaches for local homeowners, the $1 billion car-pool lane won't finish until at least mid-2014, officials said.

Construction was originally supposed to wrap next month. Last year, officials gave a new completion date of December 2013.

"This project has been jinxed almost from the beginning," said Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who sits on the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. "I am very disappointed at the contractor, and how they have handled this project."

Construction started in 2009 on the new 10-mile car-pool lane, which will connect the 10 and 101 freeways when finished. The 405 Freeway links the San Fernando Valley and the Westside, and the new car-pool lane was supposed to ease congestion in one of the busiest traffic corridors in the country.

But contractor Kiewit has encountered numerous setbacks, said MTA spokesman Dave Sotero, citing issues ranging from a faulty freeway retaining wall to the discovery of numerous utilities under Sepulveda Boulevard.

Yaroslavsky was more blunt: "There's been bad construction. They should have known about those utility lines."

The enormous project requires heavy, nearly round the clock construction, which has led to regular traffic delays and diversions for commuters. Work regularly starts about 1 or 2 a.m., and homeowners around Sepulveda Boulevard say they suffer with constant noise and vibration.

Additionally, commuters have experienced significant delays in the last year and a half, with shutdowns around Wilshire Boulevard for the construction of new ramps.

Homeowners describe changing their entire schedules, scheduling doctor's appointments at off times, or leaving the house later in the day to avoid the morning commute.

Additionally, amid complaints from residents and car owners about alleged damage to homes and vehicles near the construction site, Yaroslavsky has asked Metro's Office of Inspector General to review claims filed to contractor Kiewit Corp.

A report is expected in June.

"Everyone is just worn out," said Laurie Kelson, who chairs the Transportation Committee of the Encino Neighborhood Council. " A lot more people are sticking closer to home. You don't drive unless you have to."

The Los Angeles Times first reported news of the year-long delay Thursday.

In a statement, Thomas C. Janssen, spokesman for contractor Kiewit said there have been "significant challenges" and cited the project's overall complexity.

"Kiewit and Metro are committed to working together to minimize future delays and resolve final costs," Janssen said. "We value our relationship with Metro and are committed to delivering the highest-quality product on the I-405 project."

Despite a pushback in the overall completion of the project, some sections of the car-pool lane will open before next year, which should ease traffic, Sotero said. A 2.5-mile section near the southern end of the 405 Freeway will open this summer. Other segments are also expected to reopen next year, Sotero said.

He also stated the method of construction is speeding up completion of the project by seven years.
David C. Murphy, president of Angelenos to End Gridlock, which was formed to bring attention to delays of the 405 Freeway project, said he was recently given a $50,000 check by entrepreneur Elon Musk to help fund his nonprofit.

Murphy hopes the attention on the delays will convince Metro and Kiewit to hire more staff to finish the job sooner.

"We're saying, get this thing done," Murphy said.

Locals like Kelson have quietly criticized the addition of another freeway lane, stating that it's not a long-term solution to traffic congestion. While the MTA is also studying other transit options, like putting a tunnel under the Sepulveda Pass, some locals say the car-pool lane was a waste of money.

Asked if he would vote again to add the new car-pool lane if he knew about all the delays, Yaroslavsky said he was uncertain.

"I couldn't honestly say with a straight face I would do it again," Yaroslavsky said.

Doo Dah Parade brings its own brand of freakish fun to Pasadena


By Brian Day, April 27, 2013


Thousands lined Colorado Boulevard on Saturday to revel in the bizarre and hurl tortillas as Pasadena's unconventional tradition, the Doo Dah Parade, once again unleashed its unique brand of jubilant weirdness.

But those who come out to the 36th Occasional Doo Dah Parade were not merely spectators. Paraders solicited participation from members of the crowd, many of whom came armed with tortillas to throw - a long-standing tradition of the eccentric parade.

"It's so much fun for the kids. It's a day to be silly and have some fun," said Louise Jurgens of La Verne, who watched the parade with her family. She added she's been attending the Doo Dah Parade for more than 20 years.

Jurgens and her family had prepared simple signs to show to the parade participants. One read, "Throw stuff at me!" Another read, "You rock!"

She added that one of her favorite entries was regular participant in the parade: the Barbecue and Hibachi Marching Grill Team. The group is known for tossing hot dogs into the crowd during their routine of synchronized grilling.

Other parade entries included truck-mounted rock bands, historic cars and a host of eccentric character ranging from bearded ladies to motorized muffins.

The event was led by Doo Dah Queen Susann Edmonds; Grand Marshal, architect and Zorthian Ranch proprietor Alan Zorthian; as well as Pasadena Star-News Editor Frank Girardot, who was named by Doo Dah as this year's "Thorny Rose" for generating controversy in the local community.

Though he said he wasn't sure what to expect before riding in the parade, "I really had a good time and I enjoyed it," Girardot said. Wearing a Detroit Tigers baseball cap and a Detroit Lions T-shirt, the editor said he was happy to represent his hometown of Detroit and the staff of the Pasadena Star-News.

"It's good, zany fun," said Joel Dahl, 29, of Pasadena, who watched the parade with his girlfriend Leah Klugman, 33, of South Pasadena.

"I like it because it has a sense of irony to it, a sense of humor," Dahl added.

Jeff Trow, 44, who watched the Doo Dah Parade with a group of friends, said he had never before attended the event.

"It's awesome. There's muffins driving by us right now," he said. "I can't believe I haven't been here before."

"It's the most amazing thing ever," said Lindsay Messett, 37, adding that she hadn't been to the Doo Dah Parade since she was 10 years old. "It couldn't be a better time."

Todd Barneck, 49, of Whittier went with family members to the parade. Though he said he'd heard about the event for years, Saturday was the family's first time attending.

"I like just the freeness for people to do what they want, whether it's zany or on the edge of offensive," he said.

Another first-time Doo Dah Parade visitor, 50-year-old Ed Wojcik of Long Beach, said he and his family were enjoying the festive atmosphere and the unusual parade entries.

"It's interesting," Wojcik said. "Every where you turn, you see something new. It's a good environment. Nobody takes themselves to seriously."

Known as Pasadena's "other parade" or the "twisted sister" of the Tournament of Roses Parade, the Doo Dah Parade began as a small event in 1978, and has grown to receive national attention. It is presented by the Light Bringer Project, a Pasadena nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the arts.

Photo Gallery: The 2013 Doo Dah Parade


By Alex Collins, April 27, 2013


Diane Patrizzi, a former Doo Dah Parade queen, kicks off the festivities during the 2013 Doo Dah Parade in Pasadena on Saturday, April 27, 2013. 
Danny Gill, left of Glendale, and John Gonzalez of Corona dance in the streets while dressed up as the Blues Brothers during the 2013 Doo Dah Parade in Pasadena on Saturday, April 27, 2013.

 Danny Gill, left of Glendale, and John Gonzalez of Corona dance in the streets while dressed up as the Blues Brothers during the 2013 Doo Dah Parade in Pasadena on Saturday, April 27, 2013. 

How Will the Nafta Superhighway Affect the Long Beach/LA Ports?

We in the affected 710 Tunnel area have been continuously told that we must Beat the Canal--that is, the Panama Canal expansion, which will, when completed, allow bigger ships to transit it. We have been told that if the Long Beach/LA ports do not themselves expand their capacity, which they are doing, we will lose much port cargo from Asia, especially from China and Japan, to U.S. East Coast ports. We have been told that the South 710 Corridor Project, increasing the number of lanes on the South 710, is necessary to handle all the anticipated additional truck traffic from the ports due to the ports' expansion. A corollary to this, even though Metro denies it, is that the 710 Tunnel is necessary to accommodate the increase in truck traffic from the ports to the 210 and the 5.

But an interesting thing has happened. A Tolled Single Bore Tunnel has been recently added to the SR 710 EIR/EIS Study. Now the Metro staff has stated that dual tunnels may provide too much capacity. Why this change of heart? What happened to all those great estimates of vehicle traffic that will use the dual tunnels? More or less, though Metro will probably deny this, there may not be as many trucks in the future that will use the tunnel, as there may not be as much port traffic requiring trucks.

The reason for this not that Burlington Northern, now owned by Warren Buffett, will increase the capacity on his railroad for container cargo. His route out of Los Angeles is already at capacity. Each of his trains carries about 100 containers at a time and run about every 15 minutes. There is no way that his trains can carry more cargo. Whether his trains are loaded at a new Long Beach railyard or at the Hobart railyard makes no difference in the capacity of his trains.

Metro's change of heart could be simply what we in the affected 710 area has not heard much about or really anything about: the Nafta Superhighway. This has been an on-again, off-again idea which is now on-again.

The cargo ships from Asia will not be going to East Coast and Gulf ports, but to one or more ports in Mexico, probably to the Port of Lazaro Cardenas on the Pacific Coast.

Port of Lazaro Cardenas 

"The Port of Los Angeles, the country’s busiest container port, faces an uncertain future. A $5.25-billion project will make the Panama Canal wider and deeper, allowing ships from China to bypass West Coast ports for deepwater ports on the US Gulf Coast and East Coast. Experts suggest that as much as a quarter of the approximately 60 million tons of cargo – nearly 8 million TEU’s in 2011 – Los Angeles and neighboring Long Beach handles each year could be diverted, shrinking both the size and importance of the terminals. But the canal is not the port’s only competition.

Early last month APM Terminals, the ports arm of Danish oil and shipping group A.P. Moller-Maersk, signed a 32-year concession contract with the Port of Lazaro Cardenas (APILAC) for the design, financing, construction, operation, and maintenance of a new specialized container terminal at the port.
APM Terminals will start construction on Mexico’s new super port by September of this year. The first phase will be completed in 2015, costing over USD 300 million. The terminal will undergo a phased expansion in accordance with provisions stipulated in the concession agreement. The entire project will require an investment of over USD 900 million."  http://gcaptain.com/mexicos-900-million-mega-container/ (September 5, 2012)

Punta Colonet

The other port that is in contention to be "Super Port" is Punta Colonet, Mexico, on the Baja Peninsula.

"PUNTA COLONET, MEXICO — Mexico's government is preparing to open bidding on the largest infrastructure project in the nation's history, a $4-billion seaport that could transform this farming village into a cargo hub to rival the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

If completed as planned by 2014, the port would be the linchpin of a new shipping route linking the Pacific Ocean to America's heartland. Vessels bearing shipping containers from Asia would offload them here on Mexico's Baja peninsula, about 150 miles south of Tijuana, where they would be whisked over newly constructed rail lines to the United States. http://articles.latimes.com/2008/mar/25/business/fi-mexport25 (March 25, 2008)

"The port at Punta Colonet, when completed, is expected to rival the biggest West Coast ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach, both heavily congested now.
Bringing goods into a Mexican port would mean lower costs for foreign shippers because of cheaper labor and less restrictive environmental regulations.
Hutchison Ports Mexico, a subsidiary of the Chinese company Hutchison Whampoa Ltd., is keeping reports about progress on the venture close to the vest."  http://www.wnd.com/2006/10/38177/

Ports of Lazaro Cardenas and Punta Colonet

The cargo unloaded at either the Port of Lazaro Cardenas or Punta Colonet will then be shipped to the United States via truck and rail lines of the Kansas City Southern Railway.

" Cargo moves to and from the port by road and rail equally, with rail service provided exclusively by Kansas City Southern Railway. The port is expected to become a major container facility due to congestion at the U.S. ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and its relative proximity to major cities such as Chicago, Kansas City, and Houston. In preparation for the port's increased capacity, railway and highway infrastructure running north-south through the center of Mexico has been upgraded in recent years to handle the anticipated increase in volume of goods bound for the United States using this transportation corridor. If a proposed government-backed Pacific port is built at Punta Colonet, Baja California, goods flowing to U.S. states like Arizona and Nevada could bypass the congested Los Angeles region with closer access those markets, providing increased competition with Lázaro Cárdenas." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_of_L%C3%A1zaro_C%C3%A1rdenas

Now to the Nafta Superhighway. 


 The Nafta Superhighway will "connect Mexico, the United States, and Canada, cutting a wide swath through the middle of Texas and up through Kansas City. Offshoots would connect the main artery to the west coast, Florida, and northeast. Proponents envision a ten-lane colossus the width of several football fields, with freight and rail lines, fiber-optic cable lines, and oil and natural gas pipelines running alongside.http://www.lewrockwell.com/paul/paul349.html

There has been much opposition to the creation of the Superhighway and it has been on-again, off-again. Now it is on-again.

It's back: Texas in 'Super Highway' deal with Spain

Perry signs agreement 3 years after public opposition halted project 


By Jerome R. Corsi, December 29, 2012

NEW YORK – Believe it or not, the Trans-Texas Corridor is back.
Very quietly, Gov. Rick Perry and the Texas Department of Transportation, or TxDOT, signed in October a comprehensive development agreement to construct a toll-road redevelopment of Interstate 35 north of downtown Fort Worth.
TxDOT signed the 50-year deal with NTE Mobility Partners Segments 3 LLC, a U.S.-based wholly-owned subsidiary of Cintra, the Spanish-owned construction company. TxDOT picked Cintra in 2005 to build what some critics called the “NAFTA Super Highway.”

Chris Lippincot, the former TxDOT information officer who is currently acting as the new public relations man for Cintra in the United States, also announced TxDOT signed a contract in September with Cintra to build a privatized State Highway 130 toll road in San Antonio.
Jerome Corsi’s “America for Sale” exposes the globalists’ effort to put America on the chopping block

Perry may never have abandoned his original idea to build what during the presidential administration of George W. Bush was known as the Trans-Texas Corridor project, a 4,000-mile network of privately built and operated toll roads to crisscross the state, with Spanish development company Cintra scheduled to earn the tolls under 50-year leases.

In 2009, Perry scrapped the TTC plan after a series of combative town hall meetings throughout the state showed TxDOT it faced massive taxpayer resistance.
But now, the plan apparently is being implemented in small chunks, without the fanfare of divulging a statewide blueprint Perry and TxDOT may still have tucked away in their back pockets.

Was TTC ever really dead?

Operating below the radar of public opinion, Texas currently has $20 billion in roadwork underway through public-private partnerships, according to Ted Houghton, TxDOT chairman, the Texas Tribune reported earlier this month.

Despite Perry’s pledge in 2009 to end the Trans-Texas Corridor project with Cintra, TxDOT has kept the public-private partnership toll road concept alive by proposing smaller projects for the approval of the Texas state legislature.

Nicholas Rubio, the president of Cintra’s U.S. arm in Austin, told the Texas Tribune that Cintra currently has contracts for three road projects in Texas, consisting of approximately $5 billion in private investment against about $1 billion in public subsidies.

“You have to recognize, in general, that policymakers in Texas have been ahead of the curve,” Rubio told the Tribune. “The states that have been developing P3s (public-private partnerships) are Texas, Florida, Virginia, and that’s about it.”

In October, Perry and Rafael del Pino, chairman of Ferrovial, Cintra’s parent company in Spain, attended the grand launch of a 41-mile stretch of State Highway 130 P3 project between Austin and Sequin.

Texas owns the land on which the SH 130 P3 project is built, but a private consortium owned and operated by Cintra is scheduled to build the toll road. It’s to be operated under a 50-year lease, with Cintra taking the lion’s share of the tolls collected over the next 50 years to recover construction costs and to make a profit.

To make the SH 130 toll road palatable to Texas drivers, the speed limit will be set to 85 miles per hour, the fastest posted limit in the United States.

A look-back to the Bush era

Quietly but systematically, the Bush administration in conjunction with Perry in Texas advanced the plan to build a huge highway, four football fields wide, through the heart of Texas, parallel to Interstate 35, from the Mexican border at Laredo, Texas, to the Texas border with Oklahoma.

The Trans-Texas Corridor moved ahead to begin construction following the re-election of Perry in November 2006.

Plans to build TTC-35 were fully disclosed on KeepTexasMoving.org, a now defunct official TxDOT website.

On March 11, 2005, a “Comprehensive Development Agreement” was signed by TxDOT to build the “TTC-35 High Priority Corridor” parallel to Interstate 35.

The contracting party was a limited partnership formed between Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte, S.A., a publically-listed company headquartered in Spain, majority controlled by the Madrid-based Groupo Ferrovial, and a San Antonio-based construction company, Zachry Construction Corporation.

The Cintra deal meant that once the TTC was completed, anyone who wanted to drive on it would have to pay an investment consortium in Spain for the privilege of driving in Texas.

Although somewhat incomprehensible to most U.S. citizens, these public-private partnerships involve selling off key U.S. infrastructure projects to foreign entities.

Granted, the “ownership” rights of projects like TTC-35 would have remained with the state of Texas, yet selling off the leasing rights amounts in the thinking of most U.S. citizens to selling off the highway to foreign interests for the term of the lease.

Under the terms of the TTC agreements with TxDOT, Cintra would have had the rights to operate TTC-35 for 50 years and to collect all tolls on the road in that period of time.

The Comprehensive Development Agreement called for Cintra-Zachry to provide private investment of $6 billion “to fully design, construct and operate a four-lane, 316-mile toll road between Dallas and San Antonio for up to 50 years as the initial segment of TTC-35.

For this, Cintra-Zachry paid the state of Texas $1.2 billion for the long-term right to build and operate the initial segment as a toll facility.

In April 2006, TxDOT released a 4,000-page Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, for what was described as the “Trans-Texas Corridor-25 Oklahoma to Mexico/Gulf Coast Element.”

The April 2006 EIS made clear that Cintra-Zachry planned to build a 1,200-foot-wide (approximately four football fields wide) complex with 10 lanes of highway – five lanes in each direction, north and south.Three lanes in each direction would be reserved for passenger vehicles and two separate lanes reserved for trucks.

The EIS design included six rail lines running parallel to the highway, with separate rail lines in each direction for high-speed rail, commuter rail and freight rail.

Finally, the design called for a 200-foot wide utility corridor that would include pipelines for oil, natural gas, water, telecommunications and data, as well as electricity towers.

According to the TxDOT Trans-Texas Corridor Plan adopted in June 2002, TxDOT ultimately would build some 4,000 miles of highway-railway-utility super-corridors throughout Texas over the next 50 years, using some 584,000 acres of what is now Texas farm and ranchland, at an estimated cost of $184 billion.

The TTC plan left little doubt TTC toll-road super-corridors were designed to facilitate international trade, primarily speeding trucks and trains carrying “inter-modal” containers from Mexican ports to destinations in the heartland of the U.S.

The full TTC build-out was designed to move goods through Texas rapidly, bypassing the major cities.

Meet n' Greet Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez

From Sylvia Plummer

 Save the Date:  Saturday, May 4

No 710 Tunnel supporter:
 Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez, Representing the 51st Assembly District 
Eagle Rock Community Meet-N-Greet
Please join Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez for a Community Meet-N-Greet. This is a great opportunity to visit and discuss state and legislative issues that affect the community.
Saturday, May 4 | 9 a.m. - 11 a.m.
2626 Colorado Blvd | Los Angeles
Eagle Rock Shopping Plaza (Target)
For more information, please call the district office at (213) 483-5151.

Jerry Brown eases up on push to revamp California's Environmental Laws
 The governor acknowledges that the appetite for such change 'is bigger outside the state Capitol than it is inside.'

From Sylvia Plummer: 
This could harm our No 710 fight.  
If Brown seeks to alter CEQA so he can get his high speed rail project through, it may (depending on the type of alteration) remove the CEQA requirements currently used to fight the 710 project legally.

 This statement from the article should worry us and we should be prepared:

"Brown seems confident that he has all the facts he needs. He vows that the law will be changed by the time he leaves office and suggested that he may yet try to extract concessions from lawmakers this year, as part of other negotiations.


By Evan Helper, April 17, 2013

Jerry Brown visits China

 California Gov. Jerry Brown, right, meets with representatives of Chinese auto manufacturer BYD in Shenzhen, China, on Tuesday. During his trip to China, Brown repeatedly contrasted the speediness with which public works projects are completed in China with the obstacles, including environmental lawsuits, that such projects face in California.

SACRAMENTO — As Gov. Jerry Brown toured China over the last week, he repeatedly contrasted that nation's speedy construction of modern transportation systems and other key public works with what he characterized as a lack of vision back home.

A pillar of his plan to let the "bulldozers roll" on big projects in California has been an overhaul of the state's landmark environmental law, which can tangle development in litigation for years.

Yet before he even boarded his return flight, the governor said he was giving up on any substantial revision this year of the 40-year-old law, which he says stands in the way of progress.

The appetite for such change "is bigger outside the state Capitol than it is inside," Brown said as he sipped tea in the southern port city of Shenzhen on his last full day of events abroad. "This is not something you get done in a year. There are very powerful forces that are strong in the [Democratic] Party that will resist."

In fact, his plans to change the law, coupled with his infrastructure agenda, already face resistance on several fronts.

The state Democratic Party, holding its annual convention in Sacramento last weekend, had already resolved publicly that it "stands with the labor and environmental community" in support of the existing California Environmental Quality Act. Party members called on Brown and lawmakers to "oppose any efforts to weaken this law."

Nearly two dozen Democrats in the Legislature have signed a letter calling on Brown to substantially scale back his proposal for a massive water project in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

And at a recent hearing, a group of state senators panned the administration's bid to spend $500 million to make public school and community college buildings more energy-efficient, advising that the plan be rewritten because it does not target the districts that need it most.

In addition, voter support for the high-speed rail system the governor is championing for California has slipped considerably as the cost of the project has leaped by billions of dollars.

Whether the turbulence is enough to impede Brown's infrastructure push remains to be seen. So far, the governor has opted to stay above the fray until the real deal-making begins — typically well after he issues his revised budget in May, during final spending negotiations in June and when the Legislature is preparing to adjourn at summer's end.

The governor's retreat on the environmental law took some of his allies by surprise. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said he would continue to work on comprehensive legislation to "update" the act, despite Brown's remarks from overseas.

California's environmental law is one of the strictest in the nation, requiring state and local agencies to identify all potential effects of a project and take all possible steps to avoid or mitigate them. Opponents of big projects can use the requisite impact studies and reviews as tools to block any building in court.

 A coalition called the CEQA Working Group catalogs cases in which it alleges the law is misused. It cites Mulholland Drive neighborhood groups, unhappy with the aesthetics of a bridge planned by the California Department of Transportation, using threats of a lawsuit to force the state to revise construction plans for the 405 Freeway.

That added millions of dollars in costs and months of delays, the group says, and prolonged the chaos of "Carmageddon."

Lawsuits by neighborhood groups have caused the environmental approval process for the Expo Line extension to Santa Monica to drag on for eight years, according to the coalition. A group called California Unions for Reliable Energy has filed dozens of environmental lawsuits that can delay construction of power plants, only to drop its objections once favorable labor agreements are secured.

The law "has turned into something it was never intended to be," said Matt Regan, vice president of the Bay Area Council, a business advocacy group promoting changes in the law. "The bulk of CEQA lawsuits filed by labor are not for environmental purposes.

"But unions are not the only ones abusing this law," he continued. "Businesses do it. NIMBYs do it. It has become the default for people who want to stop anything."

Such groups say, as Brown does, that they want to update the law, not abandon it. Every other living California governor also says the law needs updating.

Environmentalists and labor unions say the criticism is overblown. The overwhelming majority of lawsuits filed under the law, they say, are motivated by legitimate environmental concerns. Champions of the regulations have commissioned reports tying the state's economic growth over the last few decades to the strong environmental protections.

"This is another cry for deregulation without cause or reason," said Robbie Hunter, president of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California. "The people behind this say it is hurting the economy in this state, and we don't think it is true.

George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson and Gray Davis penned an opinion piece in the Sacramento Bee earlier this year that said abuses of state environmental regulations "are threatening California's economic vitality, costing jobs and wasting valuable taxpayer dollars."

Letters: Saving CEQA


April 20, 2013

Re "Brown seeks environment law fixes," April 18

 If Gov. Jerry Brown is really going to let the "bulldozers roll," then the rest of us need to protect the California Environmental Quality Act. CEQA is California's most powerful and important environmental law.

gmcginnis at 12:04 PM April 22, 2013 CEQA Reform is Essential to California’s Economic and Public Health.
For more than 40 years, the California Environmental Quality Act has safeguarded against sprawl and industrial projects that would otherwise harm residents’ health and the environment.  But anti-growth and special interest groups are exploiting CEQA to block even the most sustainable projects.
But why are so many groups abusing CEQA?  The simple answer is because they can.  For all its attributes, the law is lacking in many regards.  Unlike other states, California’s environmental law does not require transparency.  Any group can sue to block development without disclosing their funding source.
The law was also written decades before we accepted climate change as a reality.  CEQA treats all developments the same, including smart-growth projects that integrate where we live, work and play.  Ultimately, that leads to more cars, sprawl and pollution.
Hopefully, efforts to revamp the law in 2013 are not dead, as Gov. Brown suggested a few weeks ago.  CEQA reform is essential for thoughtful, streamlined growth that promotes public health while creating jobs and protecting the environment.
Gray McGinnis
Land Use Integrity Project
agitator1 at 10:50 PM April 18, 2013 Hey morons of California !  I have a flash for you:Jerry Brown is the idiot governor who help codify  the laws that he railing on today.Remember 40 years ago he was the man in charge with his "moonbeam" agenda back in the early 70's.Now he is beginning to see what his ideas are producing:nothing but a slow  death for the California economy.Thanks much you SOB !!You have got a lot of nerve pontificating about how environmental laws are stifling our economy today.You are more responsible than anyone since these laws originated during your tenure.Problem is most of the young zombies in the Democratic party do not know history or care.They might well be advised to do a backgroung check into your career Mr.Brown and examine your record.They will certainly discover what a hypocrite Jerry Brown was and is to this day.Thank God Jerry Brown's legacy will never match that of his father !!!
NatureLover2012 at 5:34 PM April 18, 2013 Do we really want to be like China, where land can be taken away from the owners without notice or fair compensation, where the air pollution in some cities is apparently worse than it ever was in Los Angeles?
I hope not.

Corrupt-O-Crats at 6:29 AM April 23, 2013 No I don't really want to be like China, but then why is Jerry selling his/our soul to China ???
harryinla at 4:54 PM April 18, 2013 Moonbeam is going to require that everyone hug a tree a least once a day.

NatureLover2012 at 5:36 PM April 18, 2013 It sounds more like he wants to run a bulldozer over trees.
lbjack at 5:47 PM April 18, 2013 Hey, Halfwit, Brown is trying to do the opposite!  You are the perfect example of the brainless blowhard.

NemoFish at 1:53 PM April 18, 2013 Seriously? Preaching to Communist China about how they should be more environmentally conscious, begging for their money, and then coming back to look at our own laws?  Common sense would tell you to fix your own laws before wasting time overseas preaching about something you know needs fixing.  Who voted this guy in? nice jobs whomever helped put this idiot in place.

Bruce Williams at 12:46 PM April 18, 2013 You can change CEQA to grant certain exceptions for public works projects that can be shown to reduce impacts in the long run in other areas.

MichaelCruise at 12:06 PM April 18, 2013 What the Governor should consider as he leaves China and returns with his big plans to destroy environmental protections is the pollution cesspool that is China.  China's problems with pollution and environmental degradation will take decades to fix, if they can be fixed at all.  If you haven't traveled to China in the last  couple of years, you cannot appreciate fully what I'm describing.  It's a disaster.
Chillipepper at 8:17 AM April 19, 2013 I have visited many times. You see what you want to see.
DPRichard at 11:42 AM April 18, 2013 So Jerry's idea of making the environment better in California is to tour the worst-pollluting nation on the planet? Hey, don't thumbs down me Democrats, you voted for this clown.
rtamtc at 9:47 AM April 18, 2013 It's about time to change the law.  The NIMBYs, unions, and business who abuse the law are giving environmental protection a bad name.

gregdn at 9:25 AM April 18, 2013 I'm pleased that Jerry at least tried.  He now knows how stubborn his own Party is.
anoncalusa at 8:46 AM April 18, 2013 you can reduce a huge carbon footprint. if you just enforce immigration laws. Maybe you wouldn't have to tax the californias for all that waste...
pasadenascott at 8:35 AM April 18, 2013 I agree with the governor that CEQA needs to be updated. How about requiring an environmental impact report for every couple who wants to have more than 1 child, and throw in a carbon footprint analysis as part of this evaluation.

Mike Fauxhawk at 5:57 AM April 18, 2013 He wonders how the Public Works projects in China get done so fast? They do it with low paid non union labor. The Gov. needs to get the tool belt on for a few weeks and he will see why the Ca public works jobs take so long and why there are such costs overruns. (Just like UNDERCOVER BOSS). In China you don't see 4 guys holding shovels/ tools over one guy in a trench digging.
MichaelCruise at 12:09 PM April 18, 2013 You haven't traveled to China.  That much is clear.

Mike Fauxhawk at 12:25 PM April 18, 2013 Why would I want to travel to China?
southbaybeachboy at 5:00 AM April 18, 2013 If we are to improve the State's economy, this must be done.  The State Legislature probably won't go along with Governor Brown's proposals.  But, clearly Jerry is trying to do something to improve the business climate and attract more jobs to California.
Mike Fauxhawk at 5:58 AM April 18, 2013 He should resign.
Chillipepper at 6:05 AM April 18, 2013 All these are democrats soap. They are done for the eyes of low information voters so that they think Sacramento is working for them. The fact is that California is rule by the public unions. State legislatures and governors has lost their powers and sold to the unions.
In the end, California will keep loosing jobs. I can bet you that our budget which Brown said that we are on track and in the black is not going to happen. We are going to be short and may have to borrow even more as the economy slide, companies here close or move away, business stop employing because of uncertainty, and our social system goes bankrupt.
Note as I speak, Fresh N Easy went belly up. JC Penny is going to close. And there are many to come in California. I have never seen so kuch office space for lease here in LA. As utilities cost, rents etc goes up.. it will definitely affect retail. California income will drop as cost increases with public union demanding more pay increases.
MichaelCruise at 12:10 PM April 18, 2013 Let his focus be on infrastructure projects then that come with sound environmental protections.  It's not an either/or proposition.
MTKayak at 4:50 AM April 18, 2013 Just another reason to move away from disfunctional California.
MichaelCruise at 12:11 PM April 18, 2013 and what...move to Texas?  No thanks.  But safe travels!

evoldeth at 9:06 AM April 20, 2013 Dont let the door hit ya where the god lord split ya!