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, May 28, 2013

Builder of 1st phase of California's bullet train faces scrutiny

 Tutor Perini Corp. is slated to start construction in the Central Valley in six weeks, but a member of Congress is concerned that the company scored low on design quality, safety and engineering.


 By Ralph Varabedian, May 28, 2013


 State Sen. Jeff Denham

 U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham (R–Atwater), a critic of the state's high-speed rail project, is expected to demand a detailed explanation of how Tutor Perini was selected to build the first phase of the line.

The state bullet train agency is pushing full throttle to start construction of the important first phase of the California high-speed rail system in as little as six weeks, prompting scrutiny of the state's selection of a construction company with the worst technical scores among bidders.

Tutor Perini Corp. won the competition to build the first 29 miles of the high-speed rail route on a low bid of $985 million, even though its design quality, safety plan and engineering, among other factors, ranked at the bottom of five teams seeking the work.

The highest-scoring team, led by the Spanish firm Ferrovial, bid $1.4 billion. The second-highest scorer, led by the Spanish firm Dragados, bid about $100 million more than Tutor.

A state Senate committee, a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives and the state auditor, among others, are looking at a variety of issues and allegations about the project, even as the state begins buying the first parcels of land ahead of the planned start of construction in July.

The House subcommittee on rail, chaired by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Atwater), a bullet train critic, is expected to demand a detailed explanation of how the selection was made when he opens a hearing Tuesday in the San Joaquin Valley city of Madera, near where Tutor Perini would first sink its shovels into the ground.

"My biggest concern," Denham said, "is that somebody could come in low and we would see wild change orders and wild price increases and the contractor would make money on the back end."

Denham said the project was "out of control" and was putting the state at risk of squandering billions of dollars on a system that could be abandoned partially built. He added that no construction should occur until legal disputes are settled, required environmental reviews are completed, and voters are given a chance to approve the growing cost of the $68-billion project.

Rail authority Chairman Dan Richard says that the project has made tremendous progress this year and that Tutor's price will save the state money.

The initial 29-mile stretch would run south from near Madera toward Fresno, reshaping the state's fifth-largest city with a 1.7-mile trench, a 1.2-mile viaduct and three major bridges.
The construction includes building a long tunnel in a pit and then pushing it into place with giant hydraulic jacks, a technically complex job that has seldom been done in the United States.

The federally funded portions of the project must be completed by 2017 to avoid potentially forfeiting grants, which would add to the project's problems with long-term financing. Of the $68 billion, the Government Accountability Office, an arm of Congress, has estimated the project is short more than $38 billion.

Tutor Perini and its team, which includes Pasadena-based engineering firm Parsons Corp., will also do most of the design and engineering work.

Tutor Perini may have won the bid because of an unusual move by the state, which weighted 70% of its decision on cost and 30% on technical merit. The Design Build Institute of America recommends that government agencies put most of the emphasis on technical scores.

The state also tilted the competition for the low bidder last August when it changed an original plan that would have disqualified the two bidders with the lowest scores from getting the contract.

The authority made low prices a top priority, even offering Chief Executive Jeff Morales a $25,000 bonus when he was hired if he could bring in the bids at or below estimates, among nine other criteria. Rail authority officials say payment of the bonus will be decided by the board in the future.

Before Tutor Perini was selected some financial analysts predicted that it would win the competition only because of its chief executive's close ties to organized labor, one of the project's biggest supporters.

The board of the California High-Speed Rail Authority is expected to award Tutor Perini the contract when it meets next month based on a recently issued recommendation from its staff.
The state has said little about why it scored Tutor Perini's proposals significantly below the two Spanish firms, which have extensive bullet-train experience in Europe.

In addition to Denham, several groups critical of the rail agency said the state was buying down to the least qualified company, an allegation that infuriates Tutor Perini Chief Executive Ron Tutor, who insists that he has far greater expertise than his competitors.

"It is the usual nonsense of people who have no idea how construction functions," he said in an interview. "There is no buying down anything. The fact that they scored the points only meant in their consultant's eyes rightly or wrongly — we could debate that forever — they liked the design better from the Spanish.


Sandstorm forces CHP to close 14 Freeway in Lancaster area


By Robert J. Lopex, May 28, 2013



 Map shows general location where a sandstorm forced the 14 Freeway to close

A sandstorm whipped by powerful winds forced officials to close the 14 Freeway near Avenue A in the Lancaster area amid rush hour Tuesday afternoon.

Officers arriving at the scene encountered several vehicle crashes amid a blistering sandstorm that reduced visibility to dangerous levels, the California Highway Patrol said.

"Our units have goggles and masks," Officer Tatiana Sauquillo told The Times. "Apparently there's zero visibility."

Both northbound and southbound lanes of the freeway were closed about 4:30 p.m., prompting the CHP to declare a SigAlert for the area.

It was unclear how long the freeway would be closed. 

A high-wind warning was issued for the Antelope Valley by the National Weather Service. Northwest winds blowing 25 mph to 35 mph were expected, and gusts could be up to 60 mph, the agency said. It was unclear how long the freeway would be closed.

My note: I don't ever remember a sandstorm closing a freeway in Southern Calfornia before this. It will be interesting to read what the newspaper says about it tomorrow.
Following NYC’s Historic Launch, Bike-Share Poised to Pop Up Everywhere 


By Tanya Snyder, May 28, 2013


 Green bike symbols indicate existing bike-share systems, while all those blue question marks are cities with bike-share under development on this fantastic map by MetroBike.

Yesterday was a momentous day for sustainable transportation: New York City launched its Citi Bike system, logging a record-breaking 6,050 trips and 13,768 miles on its first day. Already the biggest bike-share system in the country, it’s on track to expand to nearly twice its current size.

Somehow it feels like New York popped the cork and now champagne is bubbling out all over the country. Chicago just got its first look at the bikes for its system, called Divvy, due to launch in June, with memberships going on sale next week. Right across the river from New York, Hoboken is launching a dock-less bike-share system this week. Aspen, Colorado, hops on the bandwagon a week from tomorrow. Columbus, Ohio, should gets its 300 bikes in July.

Los Angeles and Long Beach were supposed to be rolling as of last month, and now it looks like December, maybe. Austin was supposed to launch its system this month but it’s been delayed, too.

San Francisco will get its system, at long last, in August, starting with 700 bikes at 70 stations and growing to 1,000 bikes shared with Redwood City, Mountain View, Palo Alto and San Jose. SF has aspirations to increase its number of bikes to 2,750 over the next few years. Meanwhile, Portland will make a bid to reclaim its status as the gold standard for American bicycling when it gets bike-share next spring, but it will be a rather late addition to the bike-share ecosystem.

As bike activist Elly Blue mused in a conversation with Streetsblog recently, “who knew” bike-share was going to be the next ground-breaking innovation in bicycling? When it arrived to DC a few years ago, some cyclists thought, “Well, this is nice for tourists but I already have my bike.” Meanwhile, others immediately saw the utility of bike-share for days with unpredictable weather, meet-ups with friends, linking up with transit, and walk-up apartments without bike storage. It was an instant hit, helping to inspire all these other cities to start their own systems.

Bike-share results in an immediate, visible increase in the number of bikes on the road, making everyone safer by putting drivers on alert that they’re sharing the street with other modes. And it has countless other benefits too: In DC, it has helped its 22,200 members change transportation habits so much that they’ve reduced their annual miles driven by more than 198 miles each, on average — totaling 4.4 million miles not driven each year because of bike-share.

Just imagine how it will transform your city.

Report: 3 of 4 say U.S. transportation infrastructure upkeep key


May 28, 2013


Three out of four Americans say having safe, efficient and well-maintained transportation infrastructure is at least, if not more, important to their personal livelihood and well-being than good cable, cell phone, Internet, water, sewage and household electricity and natural gas services, according to a new report.

Those are key findings of a national poll commissioned by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), to see how valuable Americans think road and transit network is to the nation, their everyday life, and relative to other modern necessities they routinely rely upon.
Poll findings include:

  • Eight out of 10 Americans (78%) say driving a motor vehicle is “very” or “extremely” important to their ability to conduct their daily lives. Twenty-one percent (including 34% of low income respondents) say the same about using public transportation;
  • Nearly nine out of 10 respondents (88%) say transportation infrastructure is important to maintaining a strong U.S. economy;
  • 83% say the nation's transportation network is important in ensuring national defense and emergency response capabilities;
  • 71% agree that growing traffic congestion in U.S. metropolitan areas is making products more expensive, because congestion increases transportation costs for businesses.
  • 74% of us agree that “investing in transportation infrastructure should be a core function of the federal government.”

The poll revealed that many Americans probably have no idea how much they are paying each month in the state and federal gas taxes that are the primary source of funding for road and transit capital investments.

Asked the question how much their household pays each month in gas taxes, 40% of respondents say they “don’t know.” According to Federal Highway Administration data, the average U.S. household paid $46 per month in gas taxes in 2011 — the most current year available.

One-quarter of respondents (24%) estimated they pay more than double that amount, which in some cases is likely an overstatement, as this would involve buying enough gas to fuel a household’s cars for nearly 5,400 miles per month, while federal data show the average household with one or more cars drives just over 2,100 miles per month.

U.S. Commerce Department 2011 data show the average household spends about three-and-a-half times more each month for household electricity and natural gas service ($160) than Americans pay in state and federal gas taxes. Americans also pay three-and-a-half times as much monthly, on average, for landline and cell phone service ($161) and nearly two-and-a-half times as much for cable and satellite television, radio and Internet access ($124). Americans pay almost 19% a month more, on average, just for Internet access.

For the research, a total 1,001 interviews of American adults were conducted over the phone from April 4 to 8, collected from the Ipsos Public Affairs telephone omnibus survey, TeleNation. It included both randomly selected landline and cell phone interviews, conducted in either English or Spanish depending on the respondent. The data were weighted to reflect Current Population Study statistics on age within gender, U.S. Census Region, market size, education, race and ethnicity.
Streetsblog Transition Team: Who Should Join Garcetti on the Metro Board of Directors


By Damien Newton, May 28, 2013

 Note: Between now and July 1, Streetsblog will host a series of discussions with suggestions to help guide the new Mayor’s transition team on transportation issues and appointments. Have a better idea than we do? Let us know in the comments section. First up, is the Metro Board of Directors.)

There are thirteen members on the Metro Board of Directors. Five of the directos are the L.A. County Supervisors. Another four come from areas of Los Angeles County through local nominating boards and a weighted vote of L.A. County cities (excluding los Angeles). Last, the Mayor of Los Angeles is automatically on the Board, and he appoints three other positions.

When Streetsblog asked Eric Garcetti, both on video and in a questionnaire, what he will look for in a Metro Board appointee, his answers were vague. We know that he is looking for “at least one person who rides transit” and people that are “independent.”
These answers were not very revealing.

Over the last couple of years, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s appointees included former Assemblyman Richard Katz, Mel Wilson, and Los Angeles City Council Member Jose Huizar. Huizar and Katz both publicly and actively backed the candidacy of Wendy Greuel, who lost to Garcetti last week.

For the sake of discussion, we’re assuming that Garcetti will replace Katz and Huizar with campaign
supporters. We’re also assuming that Wilson, a steady vote for Villaraigosa’s priorities, will probably be replaced as well. So who do I think would make a good team for Mayor Garcetti on the Metro Board? My picks, which take into account politics, experience, and competence, come after the jump. A note, these are not who I would pick if I were Mayor nor who I necessarily think he’ll pick. They are more like people I would pick if I were Eric Garcetti.

Being on the Metro Board doesn’t come with large salary, but it does come with prestige, power and a platform to angle for other elected office.

If I were Garcetti, I would pick: Council Member Mike Bonin, Former Council Woman Jan Perry and Jaime De La Vega.
Jan Perry and the other two major candidates for Mayor who were vanquished in the primary endorsed Garcetti in the general election. 

There’s always pressure on the Mayor to appoint a City Council Member to the Metro Board. During Streetsblog’s five and a half years covering Metro, the Council was represented by Bernard Parks and Jose Huizar. When Huizar couldn’t make it, Tom LaBonge would fill in. Transportation Committee Chair Bill Rosendahl made a lot of noise about how he wanted to be appointed, but Villaraigosa went in a different direction. Both Parks and Huizar are on the Transportation Committee.

While Bonin is new to the City Council, he’s certainly no outsider to City Hall or transportation issues. In addition, the battle over the route of the Westside Subway will be a heated one, and Garcetti and the City of Los Angeles could use a Westside Council Member to lead the charge.
Despite his current boss' endorsement of Wendy Greuel, Mike Bonin backed Eric Garcetti in the Mayor's Race.

Bonin has also said he wants to be part of the Transportation Committee. Even if he doesn’t receive that committee appointment, he has been the Chief of Staff for the Committee’s Chair for the last four years and will likely be keeping Paul Backstrom on staff, who has established himself as something of an expert on transportation issues in his own right.

Perry may seem an odd choice, as she’s already on record opposing the current route for the Westside Subway while Garcetti has expressed approval for the route. However, her time as a Council Woman for a dozen years makes her a good person to be the Mayor’s point person on several transit issues.

Under redistricting, Perry’s old 9th District was changed to mostly cover South Los Angeles. However, originally her district included portions of Downtown Los Angeles that will be impacted by the Regional Connector project. Perry also served as Chair of the Expo Construction Authority for a couple of years. Last, to state the obvious, to have a powerful and well-respected African-American politician representing the Mayor on issues related to the Crenshaw Line is a bonus for the Mayor.

These experiences make her a perfect point person for any issues that come up during Expo Line Phase II Construction or planning and possibly early construction of the Regional Connector and Crenshaw Line.

Both Bonin and Perry were loud supporters of the Garcetti Campaign.

Jaime De La Vega did not publicly endorse a candidate, which is common for General Manager’s of city departments. The LADOT General Manager, who also served Villaraigosa as Deputy Mayor for Transportation, has experience in transportation policy going back to the Clinton Administration. If Garcetti is serious about “speeding up” construction of Measure R projects, keeping Villaraigosa’s point person on board his team is an easy decision.
De La Vega stayed out of the Mayor's Race.

There is recent precedence for an LADOT General Manager to serve on the Metro Board of Directors. Rita Robinson, De La Vega’s predecesor, briefly served on the Board in 2009 and 2010.
Of course, there are literally hundreds of good (and interesting) choices available for these plum positions. Mitch O’Farrell, who will replace Garcetti in his old Council District and LaBonge, another supporter of Garcetti and a long-time member of the Transportation Committee, have both made noise about being appointed to the Board as well. Of course, Garcetti could also pul la wild card out of the deck, or choose to keep some of Villaraigosa’s team despite the availability of other qualified people.

If you have better suggestions than I, leave them in the comments section. We’ll update Streetsblog the moment we hear news on Metro Board appointments.

Regional transit plan has new name, uncertain future


By Arnold Adler, May 25, 2013



  Regional transit planner


Regional transit planner

Downey City Councilman Luis Marquez, who is also the vice president of the Eco-Rapid Transit Board, displays drawings and a timetable toward the construction of a commuter rail system through Southeast Los Angeles County. The completion date is expected in 2027.

PARAMOUNT — The Eco-Rapid Transit plan, formerly known as the OrangeLine, is moving slowly but still on track for construction to start in 2020 and be operational by 2027, some 14 years from now. But the fate of the $3 million, 2.3-mile bike and pedestrian path through Bellflower is uncertain.

The Bellflower Trail, from Lakewood Boulevard southeast to the San Gabriel River (605) Freeway is on the abandoned right-of-way of the Union Pacific Red Car Line. Studies by the Eco-Line board, based here; along with the Southern California Association of Governments and the county Metropolitan Transportation Authority, agree that it should be the southern-most link from Cerritos and Artesia northwest to Union Station in Los Angeles.

City Councilman Scott Larsen, who represents Bellflower on the Eco-Rapid board, said area cities want an elevated rail, not only to retain the bike path but to avoid grade-level traffic problems.

When planning and approving the trail in 2008, Bellflower officials were told by the MTA, which owns the land, that the city could use the route but could not erect permanent buildings or plant deep-rooted trees, said Downey Councilman Luis Marquez, vice president of the Eco-Rapid Board.

Officials at that time promoted an elevated rail over the trail as part of a planned high-speed train powered by magnetic levitation, similar to trains in Germany and China.

County transit planners have said an elevated rail is too expensive and a high-speed train running about 120 miles per hour was impractical because of the frequent stops it would make at planned stations, sought by most of the 15 cities that make up the Eco-Line Authority.

It all depends on the technology used, Marquez said. “Big Maglev” is out but a smaller, slower version is still on the table along with electric powered light rail such as the nearby Green Line; and possibly a Disneyland-type monorail. But previous studies by SCAG have ruled out a bus route, Marquez said.

“Our main focus is to give area residents an alternate means of transportation to Los Angeles and other Southeast cities, thus reducing traffic on freeways and air pollution,” Marquez said.

The general northern corridor, called the West Santa Ana Branch, also owned by the MTA, extends northwest from Cerritos, Artesia, Bellflower and Paramount, then northerly through Downey, South Gate, Bell Gardens, Cudahy, Huntington Park, Bell, Maywood and Vernon into downtown Los Angeles. A specific route through those cities, within the corridor, generally on either side of the Los Angeles River, is still undecided.

Less certain is the Antelope Valley Line from downtown Los Angeles northwest through Glendale, the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank and the city of Santa Clarita.

The Union Pacific Red Car route, which was abandoned in the early 1960s, used to take commuters from the Bellflower area to Union Station in about 20 minutes, long-time residents recalled.

The length of time for a trip from Cerritos to Union Station would depend on the type of transportation used, Marquez said, along with the number of stations. Those stations represent an expected boost to economic development, he noted.

Downey and South Gate want a station in the Hollydale area where the two cities meet near Garfield Avenue and Imperial Highway. Northeast of the location is the 100-acre southern campus of Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center.

Los Angeles County is planning a major development in the area, which could mean thousands of jobs and a need for workers to get to the area, Marquez said. However, the county has not announced specific developments or a timetable.

The South Gate City Council, using its own funds for a study, also has proposed a station on the southeast corner of Firestone Boulevard and Atlantic Avenue. The intersection is currently undergoing widening to make way for the 38-acre Azalea Shopping Center at the intersection.

Plans for the station and an adjoining “transit village” there, with a mix of commercial and residential uses, meet the recommendations of SCAG, said South Gate City Manager Michael Flad as the council unanimously approved the station concept April 23.

That plan, originating in 2010, was the subject of a workshop in South Gate last July at which some 40 residents from South Gate and surrounding cities gave input, Flad told his council.

Meanwhile, the Huntington Park City Council has voiced preference for a station on Randolph Street, just west of its main shopping area along Pacific Boulevard. A rail line already exists along Randolph.

Analysis of various plans will continue this year, with final action in 2014. Design and engineering is tentatively set to begin in 2018 with construction to start in 2020, Marquez said.

Funding for the continuing study includes a $280,000 federal grant from Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Cerritos. Some $240 million will be available in 2015 from Measure R, a bond issue for transportation approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2009. Money also comes from membership dues by the cities, including the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. A station there would be in keeping with county desires to promote other airports besides LAX to reduce congestion there, Marquez said.

“We need to carry people from Cerritos to Los Angels in the fastest, most efficient way,” Marquez said, noting that one-time plans to continue the Eco-Rapid line into Orange County have been dropped.

“We would love to connect with Orange County but they have their own plans, so we are concentrating on Los Angeles County,” Marquez said, adding the Eco-Rapid board keeps aware of other transit plans including a proposed train from Anaheim to Las Vegas.

He said current plans for the high-speed rail system from San Francisco to Sacramento, then south to Los Angeles and San Diego, do not conflict with those of the Eco-Line. “They are interstate while we are concentrating on Los Angeles County,” Marquez said.

The Eco-Rapid Transit Board meets at 6:30 p.m. the second Wednesday of the month at various locations. The next meeting, June 12, will be at Simms Park, 16614 S. Clark Ave., in Bellflower.

Frank Quintero, a Glendale city councilman and a member of the Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena Airport Authority, is the current Eco-Rapid chair. Marquez is vice chair and Councilwoman Maria Davila of South Gate is secretary. Treasurer is Michael McCormick, a council member from Vernon.

Auditor is Larsen from Bellflower, a CPA; general counsel is Teresa L. Highsmith and an ex-officio member is Huntington Park City Manager Rene Bobadilla.

The agency shares headquarters offices with the Gateway Cities Council of Governments, 16401 Paramount Blvd.

“Thirteen years [to completion] isn’t that long,” Marquez said. “We want to make sure we provide good transportation services to our cities and residents.”
LACMTA adopts FY14 budget 


May 24, 2013


The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) Board of Directors have adopted a balanced $5.075-billion budget for Fiscal Year 2013-14 that begins on July 1, 2013.

LACMTA adopts FY14 budgetThe spending plan keeps fares at current levels, however, CEO Art Leahy has urged directors to begin discussing fare restructuring for future years. He notes LACMTA fares are among the lowest of any major transit agency in the world, and riders only pay 26 percent of what it costs to operate their buses and trains.

In FY14, additional late night service will be added on the Expo and Gold Lines and there also will be more weekend service on all rail lines.

LACMTA will spend $261 million in the next fiscal year on deferred maintenance for bus and rail vehicles and facilities and another $37 million on capital improvements for safety and security, including $20 million for gates and other safety enhancements on the Blue Line.
The budget altogether includes $165 million for safety and security, a major focus of Los Angeles County Supervisor and LACMTA Board Chair Michael Antonovich. The sum includes paying for law enforcement on the LACMTA system in addition to capital improvements and various passenger safety and security measures. This will be a $13-million increase over the current fiscal year.

Gates in the subway and many of the light-rail stations will be latched, a phased in approach that will start June 19 just before the start of the new fiscal year. Next year, LACMTA also plans on unveiling a master plan for Union Station that will address how the historic facility will accommodate transit system expansion.

Fulfilling the voter mandate for Measure R that is greatly expanding transit options for Angelenos, in FY14, LACMTA will advance design and early construction for the Purple Line subway extension, the Regional Connector rail line that will connect the Gold, Blue and Expo lines to eliminate transfers and the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor light-rail line, among other transit projects and programs. Construction is well underway for the Expo light-rail segment from Culver City to Santa Monica and the Gold Line Foothill Extension from Pasadena to Azusa and will continue in FY14.

LACMTA's FY14 budget is $500 million or 11 percent more than the agency's current $4.575 billion budget. LACMTA funding comes largely from local transportation sales tax revenue, along with transit assistance and grants from the state and federal governments, farebox revenue and other revenue sources such as advertising, land leases and commercial filming.


In L.A., polishing up the pedways

Downtown's elevated pedestrian walkways need repair and protection from vandals. But where will the money come from? 

 May 23, 2013Pedway

An elevated pedestrian walkway, or pedway, in downtown L.A.

In downtown Los Angeles, elevated pedestrian walkways — called pedways — slice the air between tall buildings on Bunker Hill, like a 1970s vision of a future metropolis. That's exactly what they were intended to be — the first phase of what would become a mechanized people mover. Those plans were abandoned long ago, but the existing 10 pedways have something of a cult following among the residents, office workers, bike messengers and high schoolers who traverse them. Yet as beloved as they are, the pedways are something of a stepchild when it comes to getting the resources and funds to erase graffiti and repair smashed lights and guard against future vandalism.

This is hardly the worst infrastructure problem in a city of broken sidewalks, rutted streets and homeless encampments. But it seems ironic — even unfair — that city officials and civic boosters who are constantly exhorting us to get out of our cars and who are painting miles of bike lanes and guiding urban hikes through quirky neighborhoods would ignore these long-standing walkways. The pedways, a part of the history of downtown, deserve, at least, the attention of local politicians and businesspeople, who should work to find a creative solution.

The pedway most vulnerable to vandalism spans the World Trade Center and the Bunker Hill Towers apartments, owned by Essex Property Trust Inc. The managers of those buildings should consider helping fund a security camera that might deter vandals or help catch them. (The pedways fall within the Downtown Center Business Improvement District, but the organization's CEO says its strained resources can only cover maintenance crews on the pedways about once a week. It's unclear how often security patrols go up there.)

A spokesman for City Councilman Jose Huizar says the councilman's office is talking to local property owners about getting a surveillance camera set up. It's unlikely that it would be monitored constantly, but it could serve as a deterrent. Huizar's staff has also talked to the principal of the charter high school located in the World Trade Center building about having students clean up the pedway graffiti as a community project. These are good ideas, and local residents' persistence was key in getting the council office engaged. Now Huizar's office needs to take the lead and follow through.

The pedway vandalism is just one of many issues that are important to city residents but not a high priority for city funds. Illegal trash dumping in residential neighborhoods is a serious problem that needs to be eradicated, for example. In Lincoln Heights, a defunct historic city jail that serves as a film location and a meeting place for community groups is crumbling and needs a major overhaul. In these cash-strapped times, the city can't fix everything. But city officials should offer creative alternatives and form partnerships with private groups and businesses to resolve issues important to their constituents.

Bridges and U.S. Infrastructure Spending Are Falling: Is There a Link?


By Philip Bump, May 24, 2013




It's still not entirely clear what caused I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in Washington to collapse Thursday night. Nor is it clear, despite media reports, how strong the bridge was before it broke. What is clear is that, had the state needed to repair it, getting federal money to do so would be an uphill climb.

To demonstrate the steep drop-off in Business Insider created a graph, using data from the Federal
Reserve, showing spending on public construction. We took the same data and made it a bit easier to read.

In raw dollars, the decline is obvious. From a peak of about $325 billion in March 2009, the monthly amount has plummeted to $258 billion — a big number to upgrade your house, but less so for the entire country.
Amount spent on public construction (millions)Amount spent on public construction (millions)1/1/20001/1/20001/1/20051/1/20051/1/20101/1/2010$160,000$160,000$240,000$240,000$320,000$320,000
But when you compare spending to the entire economic output of the country — how much of what we make that's spent on public construction — the picture becomes more stark. We haven't spent this little of our economic output on public construction since before 1993.
Percent of annual GDP on public constructionPercent of annual GDP on public construction1/1/20001/1/20001/1/20051/1/20051/1/20101/1/20101.50%1.50%2.00%2.00%
This drop has been something of a hobby-horse for the president. Five times over the last five years he's advocated for increased spending on infrastructure— only once, during the stimulus, with any success.

Again: It's not clear that the bridge in Washington needed federal help. A 2011 list of "Structurally Deficient Bridges" from the Washington Department of Transportation includes the Skagit River bridge, noting that the deficiency was found in the bridge's deck. The remedy for the problem, however, indicates its severity: "Monitor thru Inspection."
Mother Jones's Clara Jeffery tweeted this helpful glossary from the Iowa DOT, explaining what that means.
A bridge sufficiency rating includes a multitude of factors: inspection results of the structural condition of the bridge, traffic volumes, number of lanes, road widths, clearances, and importance for national security and public use, to name just a few. …

The fact that a bridge is classified under the federal definition as “structurally deficient" does not imply that it is unsafe. A structurally deficient bridge, when left open to traffic, typically requires significant maintenance and repair to remain in service and eventual rehabilitation or replacement to address deficiencies. To remain in service, structurally deficient bridges are often posted with weight limits to restrict the gross weight of vehicles using the bridges to less than the maximum weight typically allowed by statute.
Emphasis in the original. A 2010 inspection apparently found that the bridge was "functionally obsolete" with a sufficiency rating of 57.4. Both sound bad, but neither necessarily is. "A functionally obsolete bridge," the Iowa DOT glossary explains, "is one that was built to standards that are not used today. These bridges are not automatically rated as structurally deficient, nor are they inherently unsafe." And as the Associated Press noted Thursday night, over 750 bridges in Washington state alone have lower sufficiency ratings.

Not that this information makes the state of the bridge strong. Watching not-the-worst bridge collapse is hardly reassuring, particularly since the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the state's bridges a C- earlier this year. To remedy all of the problems the group found across the country's infrastructure would require an additional investment of $3.6 trillion by 2020.

Don't hold your breath.
As US population shifts, DOT pursues livability


May 24, 2013


In 2011, our nation's 78 million baby boomers began turning 65. That is an unprecedented demographic shift, and it means that the kinds of infrastructure and services needed in communities across the nation will change. And, as I noted earlier this week at The Atlantic's Generations Forum, that is particularly true for transportation.
  Denver Light Rail
In preparing for the Generations Forum, I thought about DOT's strategic goals: safety, sustainability, economic competitiveness, and a state of good repair for our transportation infrastructure. And it occurred to me that to talk about livability, another one of our strategic goals, is really to talk about all of those goals.

That's why at DOT, we work hard to make sure that as our population ages, we’re providing the livability people need and want.
Thanks to our TIGER grant program, we've been able to work with local leaders in communities large and small. And in those communities, we’ve created more transportation options for people of all ages.
This is particularly important now as people choose to drive less. In 2011, Americans took nearly 10 percent more trips via public transportation than we did in 2005. So, when we support transit-oriented development, with housing and commercial enterprises accessible to good transit options, we make life easier for those who can't or don't want to drive.
Loading Bike on Bus
We also generate terrific opportunities for businesses whose customers can find them and whose employees can get to work without having to drive. Medical offices are easier to get to, along with grocery stores, health clubs, and whatever other services an aging population might seek.

Americans are also commuting by bike and on foot more frequently, so we've worked hard to make sure people have the sidewalks and bike lanes that make our neighborhoods real communities. And we're looking at adjustments to pedestrian signal timing, to give people more time to cross intersections safely.
Pedestrian Silhouettes Crossing
By updating our transportation network--making sure our roads, rails, and runways are in a state of good repair--we make getting around safer for all Americans.

For example, road work not only replaces aging pavement with a safer, smoother ride; new technologies like Safety Edge can further improve safety by alerting drivers if their vehicles drift.
And, as communities replace worn out signs and traffic signals, you’ll see larger signs with taller letters, signs placed in a way to give motorists more time to react, and traffic signals with bigger lenses for greater visibility.
We’ve also helped fund an initiative through the National Center on Senior Transportation to increase options for older adults and make it easier for them to live more independently within their communities. This is good news for seniors and their families.

Most aging adults want to remain in their communities. And we need to help them stay connected as they age.

That’s exactly what DOT's livability investments do.