Purpose

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

Friday, August 2, 2013

Pregnant women living near freeways face greater miscarriage risk

http://www.protectconsumerjustice.org/pregnant-women-living-near-freeways-face-greater-miscarriage-risk.html

December 8, 2013

Pregnant African-American women who live near freeways are far more likely to have miscarriages than women who don’t regularly breathe exhaust fumes, California environmental health scientists have found.

The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment reports that African-Americans were about three times more likely to miscarry if they lived within a half-block of a freeway or busy boulevard than if they resided near lighter traffic.

The researchers also found that women who don’t smoke but regularly inhale traffic exhaust increased their odds of miscarriage by about 50 percent, a study of nearly 5,000 pregnant women in California shows.

Dr. Joan Denton, director of the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, which led the research, said in a statement:

“This study adds weight to the growing body of evidence that constant, heavy exposure to traffic exhaust significantly increases the risk of reproductive harm.”

Several studies have shown links between exposure to air pollution or traffic and low birth weight, premature birth and birth defects. The new research is the first published study of the effect of residential traffic exposure on the risk of miscarriage, said Dr. Shelley Green, who led the study and specializes in the health effects of air pollution.

The paper was published in the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives. Co-authors of the paper included researchers from OEHHA, the California Department of Public Health and the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. Here is a link to the full report.

Green analyzed data from telephone interviews that Kaiser Permanente conducted in 1990-1991 when pregnant women called to schedule their first prenatal appointment at clinics in the East Bay and in the counties of Santa Clara and San Bernardino. The survey of residential, medical and pregnancy history was limited to volunteers who were no more than 12 weeks pregnant.

About 9 percent of the almost 5,000 women in the study had miscarried, which is within the normal range. Researchers examined the miscarriages in relation to traffic exhaust, using residential proximity to busy roads as a proxy for exposure to vehicle pollution. The roads carried average traffic of at least 15,200 vehicles per day.

Pregnant women who lived within 55 yards of busy roads showed a higher rate of  miscarriage compared with women who lived further away from roads with heavy traffic. The scientists found statistically significant associations between miscarriage and proximity to traffic for African-Americans and women who did not smoke while pregnant.  While the association with high traffic was more evident for the nonsmokers, their neighbors who smoked had a 10 percent higher risk of miscarriage.

“Because smokers already are exposed through their tobacco smoke to many of the same chemicals found in vehicle exhaust, the effect of traffic may be masked by the smoking effect.”

The environmental health office, which is part of the California Environmental Protection Agency, narrowly escaped losing its funding in the most recent budget negotiation. The office gained attention earlier this year for listing marjuana smoke as toxic. It also has been involved in studying bisphenol-A, widely used in plastics and thought by some to be a reproductive toxin.

Town Hall Meeting for the San Rafael Neighborhood, August 1, 2013

Posted by Steve Madison on Facebook, August 2, 2013


Below is a picture from last night's Town Hall meeting at La Casita Del Arroyo--pictured are myself, Lt. Voskan Gourdikian and Transportation Director Fred Dock.

Thank you to all who attended and shared their thoughts about the issues facing the San Rafael neighborhood.
























 Peggy Drouet: I attended the meeting last night. A rundown of what was discussed:

 (1) La Loma Bridge. This will be an 18-month project. I have to go on memory, which may be in error, on the dates as I failed to write them down. Start: spring 2014. Notice will be given to residents before its commencement. A pedestrian bridge might be built in this area as well.


(2) Fire Station #39, renovations to be completed, hopefully, December 2013.


 (3) Desiderio Property, which is under the Colorado Street Bridge. Steve Madison on the city of Pasadena website: 

I am pleased to announce that after many years of waiting, the City accepted possession of the
Desiderio property from the Federal Government. The City is working on the EIR (Environmental Impact Report) as it plans to demolish the buildings. This process should take about a year. Funding is in place to move forward with the development of the open place. This project will expand the City's open space, make one of the most beautiful vistas of the Colorado Bridge accessible to all, and add affordable housing under Habitat for Humanity for many families.

 

(4) San Rafael Neighborhood and Avenue 64 traffic concerns. There were many traffic concerns
discussed, mainly speeding traffic on Avenue 64 and the lack of cars stopping at the stop
signs at Avenue 64 and Church Street and speeding traffic on streets leading to the San Rafael School
by the students' inconsiderate parents. A traffic light at the corner of Nithsdale and Avenue 64 might be considered but the money is not there now. Steve Madison said that a traffic light there might
result in considerable noise to nearby residents as cars would then be stopping and then accelerating at that corner, so the pros and cons would have to be taken into account.

We were told that a comprehensive traffic study of the entire San Rafael Neighborhood will commence in the near future. Survey forms will be sent to all San Rafael residents for them to express their particular concerns. The Los Angeles Avenue 64 people were upset when they were told that they couldn't be part of this survey as they aren't Pasadena residents. However, Steve Madison said he will try to coordinate any study of Avenue 64 with LA City Councilman Jose Huizar. 

Additionally, a community group to work with the city on traffic issues in the San Rafael area will
be forming. Contact Steve Madison's field deputy, Takako Suzuki, smadison@cityofpasadena.net 
if you are interested in being a part of the group.


No on the 710 Tunnel


Two tireless NO710 people, Sylvia Plummer and Sarah Gavit, put up posters and gave out flyers at the building's entrance. I saw a number of people reading the handouts before the meeting. Steve Madison asked that people write the city councilmen who are still for the 710 tunnel or who haven't made up their minds yet to try to convince them that the tunnel is a really bad idea (District 1: Vice Mayor Jacque Robinson; District 2, Margaret McAustin; District 7, Terry Tornek; new councilman, District 3, John J. Kennedy). He will present a motion for the city to recommend against the tunnel at the September council meeting. Because of the Brown Act, he is not legally allowed to talk to his fellow councilmen about this issue.


District 1: Vice Mayor Jacque Robinson, district1@cityofpasadena.net

District 2, Margaret McAustin, field rep: Margo Morales, mlmorales@cityofpasadena.net

District 3, John J. Kennedy, field reps: Christian Cruz, ChristianCruz@cityofpasadena.net


District 7, Terry Tornek, ttornek@cityofpasadena.net
 


Town Hall Meeting for the San Rafael Neighborhood, August 1, 2013

Posted by Steve Madison on Facebook, August 2, 2013


Below is a picture from last night's Town Hall meeting at La Casita Del Arroyo--pictured are myself, Lt. Voskan Gourdikian and Transportation Director Fred Dock.

Thank you to all who attended and shared their thoughts about the issues facing the San Rafael neighborhood.
 
 
 
 
 Peggy Drouet: I attended the meeting last night. A rundown of what was discussed:
 (1) La Loma Bridge. This will be an 18-month project. I have to go on memory, which may be in error, on the dates as I failed to write them down. Start: spring 2014. Notice will be given to residents before its commencement.
(2) Fire Station #39, renovations to be completed, hopefully, December 2013.
(3) Desiderio Property, which is under the Colorado Street Bridge. Steve Madison on the city of Pasadena website: 
I am pleased to announce that after many years of waiting,the City accepted
possession of the Desiderio property from the Federal Government. The City is working on the EIR (Environmental Impact Report) as it plans to demolish the buildings. This process should take about a year. Funding is in place to move forward with the development of the open place. This project will expand the City’s open space, make one of the most beautiful vistas of the Colorado Bridge accessible to all, and add affordable housing under Habitat for Humanity for many families.

(4) San Rafael Neighborhood and Avenue 64 traffic concerns. There were many traffic concerns
discussed, mainly speeding traffic on Avenue 64 and the lack of cars stopping at the stop
signs at Avenue 64 and Church Street and speeding traffic on streets leading to the San Rafael School
by the students' inconsiderate parents. A traffic light at the corner of Nithsdale and Avenue 64 might be considered but the money is not there now. Steve Madison said that a traffic light there might
result in considerable noise to nearby residents as cars would then be stopping and then accelerating at that corner, so the pros and cons would have to be taken into account.

We were told that a comprehensive traffic study of the entire San Rafael Neighborhood will commence in the near future. Survey forms will be sent to all San Rafael residents for them to express their particular concerns. The Los Angeles Avenue 64 people were upset when they were told that they couldn't be part of this survey as they aren't Pasadena residents. However, Steve Madison said he will try to coordinate any study of Avenue 64 with LA City Councilman Jose Huizar. 

Additionally, a community group to work with the city on traffic issues in the San Rafael area will
be forming. Contact Steve Madison's field deputy, Takako Suzuki, smadison@cityofpasadena.net 
if you are interested in being a part of the group.

 No on the 710 Tunnel

 Two tireless NO710 people, Sylvia Plummer and Sarah Gavit, put up posters and gave out flyers at the building's entrance. I saw a number of people reading the handouts before the meeting. Steve Madison asked that people write the city councilmen who are still for the 710 tunnel or who haven't made up their minds yet to try to convince them that the tunnel is a really bad idea (District 1: Vice Mayor Jacque Robinson; District 2, Margaret McAustin; District 7, Terry Tornek; new councilman, District 3, John J. Kennedy). He will present a motion for the city to recommend against the tunnel at the September council meeting. Because of the Brown Act, he is not legally allowed to talk to his fellow councilmen about this issue.

District 1: Vice Mayor Jacque Robinson, district1@cityofpasadena.net

District 2, Margaret McAustin, field rep: Margo Morales, mlmorales@cityofpasadena.net

District 3, John J. Kennedy, field reps: Christian Cruz, ChristianCruz@cityofpasadena.net


District 7, Terry Tornek, ttornek@cityofpasadena.net
 
x

Metro’s Beverly Hills Subway: Streets Torn up For 9 Years

http://bhcourier.com/full-details-subway-plans-beverly-hills-9-years/2013/08/01

By Matt Lopez, August 2, 2013

(See website for photos.)


Metro gave a glimpse into the future of Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, at least for the next 10 or so years, at a meeting on July 18 with the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce’s Government Affairs Committee.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the Wilshire/La Cienega station, part of “phase 1” in Metro’s nine-mile, three-phase Purple Line Extension.

Construction

Metro is currently in the “pre-construction” phase and hoping to put dirt to shovel as early as 2014 to remain on a nine-year track to have the station open by 2023. Currently, as part of its pre-construction phase, Metro is initiating contracts to relocate water, power and sewer lines from the construction area. Invitation for Bids for the Advance Utility Locations are currently being solicited.

The Wilshire/La Cienega station will have its entrance at the northeast corner. There will be two construction staging sites (northeast corner of Wilshire/La east corner of Wilshire/La Cienega and northwest corner of Wilshire/Gale). Crossover tracks will extend the box to the east and there will be a Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) removal site at the conclusion of tunneling.

Metro representatives described the station stops as anywhere between 800-1000 feet long, 70-feet wide and around 60-feet deep.

Station box construction begins with soldier pile installation, an earth-retention technique that retains soil by use of vertical steel piles with horizontal lagging.
From there, initial excavation and decking installation begins. Once the concrete decking is installed, site preparation is complete and excavation  and construction commences underneath.

Exemptions

To complete the station construction within its proposed nine-year window, Metro will seek several exemptions from both the cities of Los Angeles and Beverly Hills. At its August 20 study session, the Beverly Hills City Council will discuss how to proceed several of those exemptions.

One such exemption is to allow construction during “peak hours” (meaning rush hours). These peak hours are generally from 6-9 a.m. and around 3:30-7 p.m.

Metro will also seek exemptions to complete overnight work, as long as it is conducted within the City’s specified noise limits.

Metro also seeks to have a holiday construction moratorium that would allow for construction between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

Pile installation and street decking in particular will require peak hour exemptions, while most of the other activities, such as tunnel construction, station construction, hauling, deliveries and demolition will require night-time noise variances, the holiday moratorium, weekend closures, or in some cases all three.

The exemptions will prove crucial for Metro’s nine-year timeline. When asked for a synopsis of recent construction timelines at the meeting, Metro’s Jody Litvak said she did not know how long each of the recently-built stations took to construct.

Schedule

Metro presented two different options for each phase of construction. Final scheduling will be decided on after working with the City on details.

For advanced utility location, two options were presented: working nights from Sunday-Thursday from 8 p.m.-6 a.m., for 40 hours per week for 12 months. The second option is a daytime option, working Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Monday-Thursday from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., for 28 hours per week over 19 months.

Option 1 for pile installation includes day and night work from Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to midnight, for 80 hours a week over 30 weeks.

Option 2 includes Sunday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. work and Monday-Thursday 10 a.m.-3 p.m. work for 28 hours a week over 120 weeks.

Deck installation is proposed on weekend days and nights, from Friday at 11:59 p.m. to Monday at 6 a.m., for 54 hours a week over a span of 20 weekends.

During that time, full street closures will be required, along with a peak hour work exemption and after hours permit.

As noted last week in The Courier, Metro has no plans laid out yet on where traffic will be directed during this construction. When questioned at the meeting, Metro reps said traffic detour details remained to be worked out with the City. Litvak also said the timing of the closures remains to be determined.

Among those in attendance were BHUSD superintendent Gary Woods, councilmember Willie Brien, Andrea Kune, Murray Fischer and former mayors Joe Tilem, Mark Egerman and Allan Alexander.

Related Stories:

What Happens if 4.3 Million People Are Crammed in Downtown?

http://la.curbed.com/archives/2013/08/what_would_happen_if_45_million_people_were_crammed_in_dtla.php

By Eve Bachrach, August 2, 2013

 

07.13genslercapacity.jpg

 

If every bit of Downtown LA were built out to its maximum density, it could support 4.3 million people--nearly 10 times the current number. But don't get too excited; if that did happen, most of those people would be sitting in the dark, thirsty and surrounded by piles of garbage. This is according to architecture firm Gensler, which just released an eight-minute video on the neighborhood's capacity, looking not just at what the city rules allow to be built, but also at the resources (water, electricity, natural gas) available to support more people. A design director at the firm told Downtown News that "the bottom line is that maximum density as defined by the city is really unachievable." At our current level of conservation, for instance, Downtown could only support 1.36 million people. Maybe something to consider as LA's zoning code gets rewritten?

See the website to view the video "Capacity: Downtown Los Angeles."

 
This is the firm's third report on Downtown's future since they moved their headquarters to the 'hood a few years back--you may remember their gondola-heavy view of a car-free core from back in 2011.
· Why Downtown Growth Hinges on Water [DN]
· Gensler Going to Make Downtown Carless but Gondolafied [Curbed LA]

Transportation Funding Bill Dies Unceremoniously in Both Chambers

http://dc.streetsblog.org/2013/08/02/transportation-funding-bill-dies-unceremoniously-in-both-chambers/

By Tanya Snyder, August 2, 2013

A few short hours after the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a $594 billion defense spending bill, Republicans blocked the $54 billion transportation and HUD bill from coming to the floor for a vote. House Republican leadership had blocked its own THUD bill the day before.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell fought members of his own party to keep them from allowing a vote on the transportation spending bill yesterday.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told Politico that Republicans had to quash the bill in order to “indicate we’re going to keep our word around here” — meaning that the Republicans would adhere to the automatic budget cuts triggered when Congress couldn’t agree on a solution to the debt ceiling crisis. Hal Rogers, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, furious that the bill had been pulled, blamed the excessive austerity of the budget they were forced to work within. He called for the end of sequestration “and its unrealistic, ill-conceived, discretionary cuts.”

McConnell, on the other hand, displayed a singleminded determination to kill the Senate transportation spending bill. “He has never worked harder against a member of his own party than he did against me today,” said Sen. Susan Collins, the sole Republican to vote in favor of considering the bill. Collins, the top Republican on the Transportation Appropriations Committee, co-wrote the bill with Chair Patty Murray. According to Politico, other Republicans were prepared to vote in favor of the bill, but “when it became obvious the bill would not meet the 60-vote threshold, she told them they should vote no.”

The Senate leaves today for a five-week August recess and when they return after Labor Day, they’ll have just nine legislative days before the end of the fiscal year.

“So where does that leave us?” Appropriations Committee Barbara Mikulski said. “What is that, are we back to gridlock?”

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer was equally frustrated with the Republican block. “We’re hurting the economy, we’re undermining the confidence of the American people,” he said on the House floor.
Hoyer said he wasn’t in favor of his chamber’s THUD proposal, which cut 15 percent from current funding levels, but he was also irritated with Republicans in both houses for blocking votes on the bills. “Nine days from tomorrow, nine legislative days from tomorrow, we’re going to have that issue of how we’re going to fund government and keep it running,” he said. “In both Houses, the Republican Party has abandoned the appropriations process.”

Rogers called the House bill’s prospects in September “bleak at best, given the vote count on the passage that was apparent this afternoon.” But the prospects of these bills have always been bleak, given how different they are and how impossible it would be to conference them into one compromise piece of legislation that the president would sign. So perhaps it’s no great loss. Next month, Congress will find a way to pass a continuing resolution. freezing current budget levels for yet another year.

Infographic: U.S. DOT Promotes the Health Benefits of Active Transportation

http://dc.streetsblog.org/2013/08/02/infographic-u-s-dot-promotes-the-health-benefits-of-active-transportation/

By Tanya Snyder, August 2, 2013





 



“Transportation investments that support active travel — like greenways, trails, sidewalks, traffic-calming devices, and public transit — create opportunities to increase routine physical activity, improve health, and lower health care costs,” writes U.S. DOT’s Todd Solomon this morning on Secretary Anthony Foxx’s Fast Lane blog. “The same investments promote sustainability.”

All of these numbers are testament to the importance of street design and transit service in how we make our transportation choices and how healthy we are. The statistic about route selection in Portland particularly illustrates how significant good bike facilities are. The same study that found that 49 percent of bike commuters’ miles were ridden on roads with bike facilities also found that 10 percent of utilitarian bicycle travel — as opposed to bicycling just for exercise — occurred on bicycle boulevards, even though bicycle boulevards make up less than 1 percent of the region’s bicycle network. Cities can keep this in mind if they’re wondering whether anyone will use the new bike infrastructure they’re thinking of investing in.

Kudos to U.S. DOT for publicizing these important facts!

Public Safety Committee Acknowledges the Hit and Run Crisis, LAPD Not So Much.


 http://la.streetsblog.org/2013/08/02/public-safety-committee-acknowledges-the-hit-and-run-crisis-lapd-not-so-much/

By Don Ward, August 2, 2013


 Council Members Mitch O'Farrell, Joe Buscaino, Mitch Englander and Mike Bonin listen to testimony from last week's hearing.
 
In Los Angeles, according to LAPD crime statistics for 2011, 1273 cyclists and pedestrians were victims of hit and run crashes. In other words every single day, 3 or 4 cyclists and pedestrians become hit and run victims within Los Angeles city limits. Of these, 26 people walking or biking died as a result of the collision in which a motorist fled the scene. Another 10 victims were killed while in cars.
Mind numbing.

Because LAPD traffic division response time can typically take an hour or more to respond and with LAPD officers known to actively discourage filing reports for minor or no injury hit and runs, there is no telling what the true extent of the crisis is. Years of public comments and protests by cycling and pedestrian advocates including a focused Police Commission action last year have only begun to garner the kind of attention needed to begin to solve this.

Last Friday, members of the LAPD came before the Public Safety Committee to present their report on the extent of LA’s hit and run crisis. The hearing followed a request by Councilman Buscaino in the wake of an LA Weekly exposé last December that brought light to this staggering reality on the streets of Los Angeles. Based on the language of that report… the LAPD leadership does not yet
appear ready to tackle the issue.

Screen-shot-2013-08-02-at-11.55.39-AM.png

Several members of the “all powerful bicycle lobby,” including myself, made the early morning trip to City Hall thanks to a special LA Bike Trains group ride. Having released the report to the police commission weeks before we already knew the report was a disappointment in many ways. But this was a chance to hear what the Council Members thought and to deliver another round of public comment.

Having attended many of these meetings over the years I was not terribly optimistic about it. The formula usually goes something like… livable streets advocates show up with pitch forks, LAPD / LADOT make excuses / naysay / not feasible, politicians feign interest / read their Blackberrys and / or Tom LaBonge talks about critical mass and outlaw bike riders.

But this meeting was different – stacked with freshmen councilmembers – it struck me as a bit of a sea change.

Not only were these Council Members engaged, they were speaking nuanced livable streets language. At one point Council Member Bonin corrected LAPD Deputy Chief Downing for invoking Critical Mass as a causation for hit and run crimes stating: “The typical hit and run victim is not riding on Critical Mass.” This was immediately received with applause from the audience. Given the chance, I would have politely whispered to Chief Downing that the LAPD has been escorting a very peaceful amicable Critical Mass now for years… but I digress.

Audio of the agenda item:

 https://soundcloud.com/safe-streets/public-safety-committee-7-26




Notable Quotes from the meeting:

“There still has to be accountability on the part of the bicyclists.” -Deputy Michael Chief Downing
(QUESTION: How exactly does a hit and run victim work to become accountable while lying abandoned on the pavement?)

“We want to have more clearance on robberies than we do hit and runs.” -Deputy Chief Michael Downing

“There is no such thing as a hit and run accident, there is no such thing as a murder accident or a child rape accident… it is a crime.” – Ann, cyclist

“Driving is a priviledge not a right, and the privilege is thoroughly abused.” – TJ Flexor, cyclist
“A hit and run accident is also a violent crime and I personally want to see it elevated in status.”
- Mike Bonin


“My son was not killed by the hit, he was killed by the run.” -Dan Rosenberg

“As a father I take this very seriously.”
- Mitch Englander

“The trend is to get more people out of cars and walking and biking everywhere. We need to protect vulnerable users of the roads.”
–Mitch O’Farrell

It was clear that the committee members were looking for answers and the critical first step is acknowledging the problem, which the LAPD through it’s report and via the words of Chief Downing were not quite ready to do. Instead, the blame the victim mentality won the day. The report slicing and dicing statistical methodology in an effort to compare Los Angeles to other cities essentially proclaiming “Look! they have a problem too!” I kept thinking to myself when was the last time the ole “Everyone else is doing it too.” excuse got someone out of a speeding ticket?

Moving forward, while it wasn’t made clear what the next steps would be. But what I did find promising about the meeting was that all of the members acknowledged that Hit and Run crime is not only out of control in Los Angeles but more importantly that it should be elevated to the same urgency as other violent crime. Cyclist and pedestrians advocates have been asking for this distinction for years and it seems like the city of Los Angeles is finally-almost-kind-of on the verge of acknowledging it through official means.

Before retiring the item Councilman Englander moved to:

Adopt LAPD recommendations

Remove the word accident from hit and run reports

Gather better data and report EVERY hit and run crime

Report back on additional Enforcement options


These are encouraging first steps… and 3-4 people riding their bikes and walking in Los Angeles today and tomorrow and the next and the next and the next need the city to continue to step it up. Next week, I will post up some thoughts on what I think the city can do right now to quicken the pace.

Here’s the presentation and video from last night’s Union Station Master Plan community workshop

http://thesource.metro.net/2013/08/02/heres-the-presentation-and-video-from-last-nights-union-station-master-plan-community-workshop/

By Steve Hymon, August 2, 2013







Couldn’t attend last night’s community workshop for the Union Station Master Plan? Above is the presentation given at the meeting and here is a 27-minute video that includes the presentation and commentary from Master Plan staff.

So what do you think of the emerging plan? Any alternative or particular slide that you like or have strong opinions about? Comment please.

Bon Voyage, Big Bertha! Seattle Digs a Cave For the Future

http://gizmodo.com/bon-voyage-big-bertha-seattle-digs-a-cave-for-the-fut-977885200

By Brooke Jarvis, August 1, 2013

 In coffee shops and bookstores across Seattle this summer, advertisements for concerts and gallery shows shared space with a less common urban invitation: to a party for a really big drill.




 Bon Voyage, Big Bertha! Seattle Digs a Cave For the Future



The drill—specially designed to dig a tunnel underneath downtown Seattle, building new car capacity to replace an aging, earthquake-damaged viaduct that has dominated Seattle’s waterfront since the 1950s—has a name (Bertha, in honor of Seattle’s first female mayor), a wisecracking Twitter account, and a smiling, shovel-wielding cartoon likeness.

Bon Voyage, Big Bertha! Seattle Digs a Cave For the Future 

Last Saturday, some 5,000 people came to its going-away party, the last chance for Seattleites to see the machine that, on Tuesday morning, began grinding through the earth beneath their feet for the next year and a half. It was as much a party as any construction site can be, with food trucks and confetti amid the bulldozers and reflective vests.

Bon Voyage, Big Bertha! Seattle Digs a Cave For the Future 

Bertha’s certainly big enough to warrant the hoopla. The largest-diameter drill in the world (its boring face is five stories tall), it was shipped from Japan to Seattle in 41 separate pieces back in April; its cutterhead alone weighs almost 800 tons.
Bon Voyage, Big Bertha! Seattle Digs a Cave For the Future 

Bon Voyage, Big Bertha! Seattle Digs a Cave For the Future 

Bon Voyage, Big Bertha! Seattle Digs a Cave For the Future 

The whole thing is over 300 feet long—and that’s not counting the two miles of conveyer belt that will stretch out behind it, carrying hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of sand, dirt and rock out of the tunnel and onto waiting barges.
Bon Voyage, Big Bertha! Seattle Digs a Cave For the Future 

Bertha comes with its own control room, workshop, and lunchroom for the 25 workers who will work inside it (that’s right, inside–even many of the cutting surfaces are designed to be replaceable from within), as well as a pair of giant arms designed to secure the tunnel’s walls (assembled inside Bertha’s shield and installed, ring by ring, behind it as it goes).
Bon Voyage, Big Bertha! Seattle Digs a Cave For the Future 

Still, all the festivity—the I Heart Bertha stickers, the gee-whiz signage—couldn’t help but feel a bit forced: an effort to close the door on the long and often contentious path that led to the champagne bottle exploding across Bertha’s broad back.
The viaduct that the new tunnel is meant to replace was a 1950s answer to a 1950s traffic problem; even the city engineer at the time reportedly looked at the designs and said, “It is not beautiful.” The viaduct raised a double layer of cars, trucks and buses above the city’s center, leaving the streets below in perpetual shadow and noise and partially cutting the city’s waterfront, with its beautiful views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, off from the rest of downtown.
Dave Bird, a general contractor who attended the launch party, said he looked forward to Seattle gaining a multi-use waterfront more like Vancouver, British Columbia’s. “Ours is just a big concrete thing with cars on it,” he told me.
Bon Voyage, Big Bertha! Seattle Digs a Cave For the Future

Bertha began her life in Japan, constructed piece by piece, in sections. Image courtesy of WSDOT.

In 2001, after an earthquake damaged the viaduct, it became clear that it could not withstand another strong one. And so began a decade-long process of coming up with an alternative. The city looked into another elevated road and a cut-and-cover tunnel, but voters rejected both. The deep-bore tunnel idea, too, was initially rejected as too expensive.
A number of groups pushed to simply remove the viaduct without building a direct alternative, arguing that surface streets, improved transit, and other, upgraded routes could absorb the viaduct’s traffic, and that other cities had removed downtown freeways without ill effects.
Arguments raged in public hearings and editorial pages about which approach was the best for the city’s future: the greenest, the most effective, the most forward-thinking (which, to many, means the least car-centric). At times it felt like a debate not about a commuting route, but about the soul of the city.
Bon Voyage, Big Bertha! Seattle Digs a Cave For the Future

Bertha is assembled inside her future shaft in Seattle. Image courtesy of WSDOT.

There are still hard feelings. Some come from those who feel that politicians rammed the tunnel idea through; from taxpayers who worry the dig will be a boondoogle; from transit advocates who mourn pouring billions of dollars into ever more infrastructure for private cars; and even from commuters who are upset to lose the viaduct at all, with its quick downtown access and beautiful view.
One woman told me that she was excited about the tunnel plan, but asked not to print that information alongside her name because “there are those in my life who are still extremely angered about it, who cry when they think about anything to do with the tunnel.” 

At the launch party, though, there were plenty of Bertha boosters, and the emotion most in evidence was curiosity. Seattleites strolled around the site asking questions of engineers and Department of Transportation employees: How will the drilling affect buildings? How will the tunnel be ventilated? What will happen to all the dirt? 

They stood in long lines to lean over catwalks, craning their cameras to capture the scope of the drill and the 80-foot deep pit in which it rested. Many brought children, who gaped at the sheer size of the machinery and collected stickers from a succession of information stations: conveyor system, power source, cutterhead. 

One sticker came from checking out some unassembled sections of a future tunnel ring—massive, curved slabs of concrete that, together, will eventually combine to form a miniscule slice of the completed tube. The sections were set out so that people could sign them or write messages—a kind of 21st-century cave art—which would be cemented underground as long as the tunnel lasts. 

Bon Voyage, Big Bertha! Seattle Digs a Cave For the Future

Bon Voyage, Big Bertha! Seattle Digs a Cave For the Future

Many of the messages people chose to send underground with Bertha were simple: “Good luck,” “Bon voyage,” “Dig straight!” and “See you on the other side.” People wrote their names, their hometowns, their pride that they or their family members had worked on the project. Someone wrote, “Civil engineering rules!” Someone drew a bicycle and wrote, “Yah, put all the cars underground!” Someone else: “In 2013 we really loved our cars. Sorry.” 

Bon Voyage, Big Bertha! Seattle Digs a Cave For the Future

Bon Voyage, Big Bertha! Seattle Digs a Cave For the Future

Bon Voyage, Big Bertha! Seattle Digs a Cave For the FutureExpand
The messages were a small, surreal reminder of the future Seattleites who might someday encounter them, who will see in today’s public works a relic of how the city once envisioned, rightly or wrongly, its own future self. Their inscriptions transformed the tunnel into a time capsule, a reverse archaeological site: burying a fossil message for the future instead of digging one up from the past.
Bon Voyage, Big Bertha! Seattle Digs a Cave For the Future
Bon Voyage, Big Bertha! Seattle Digs a Cave For the Future
Bertha makes contact, breaking ground on Tuesday, July 30, 2013. 


 Comments:

 Man there is a ton of irony here. A city that prides itself on being progressive decides to kowtow to traffic instead of finding more progressive alternatives (public transit etc.) to a growing traffic problem. lol 


 It's more replacing a thoroughfare that could potentially collapse and kill everyone than it is a congestion relief plan.

 Seattle needs subways to get between neighborhoods, not more highways. Haven't we moved on from this Robert Moses thinking of city planning? 

As excited as I am to see the tunnel be done and have the waterfront be more open, this is a half-assed solution. They are replacing a 6-lane viaduct with a 4-lane tunnel. In a city whose population is supposed to grow by 1.5 million by the year 2020. Not such forward looking planning.
Of course they are slowly making headway on the light rail system to connect the north and south of the city, but all one needs to do is look to "the bus tunnel" or the never-was-monorail to see how bad we, as a city, are at public transportation issues.
 
 

Notice how much of the costs of this project will be money that'll go out of metro-Seattle and even the country. The city could have built an above-ground replacement for far less and with much less risk of cost overruns. Think salt-water problems. This tunnel is mere yards from an arm of the Pacific ocean.

It would have been far wiser and cheaper to demolish the existing viaduct and have 3-4 local construction teams building portions of the replacement quickly. A park, bikeway and small business venue could have been built on the top, creating something unique to Seattle.
Instead, the politicians rammed this tunnel down out throats, primarily because building below ground benefits powerful downtown real estate interests. Everyone in the region gets taxed to enrich a few dozen people.

I'm moving away from Seattle later this week, so I'll not get stuck with all the added taxes if this project turns out like Boston's Big Dig. Here's what Wikipeda says about the latter.
"The Big Dig was the most expensive highway project in the U.S. and was plagued by escalating costs, scheduling overruns, leaks, design flaws, charges of poor execution and use of substandard materials, criminal arrests, and even one death. The project was originally scheduled to be completed in 1998 at an estimated cost of $2.8 billion (in 1982 dollars, US$6.0 billion adjusted for inflation as of 2006). However, the project was completed only in December 2007, at a cost of over $14.6 billion ($8.08 billion in 1982 dollars, meaning a cost overrun of about 190%) as of 2006. The Boston Globe estimated that the project will ultimately cost $22 billion, including interest, and that it will not be paid off until 2038."

Pity Seattle. Big Bertha is likely to be a Big Failure.

One addition comment. There are those who bought the rather odd argument that the old Viaduct blocked views of Puget Sound. That makes no sense. Along much of its length, there are other and higher buildings mere yards inland from the Viaduct that block those views just as effectively. And as you can tell from the picture someone posted, the land rises rapidly as you go inland, so a couple of blocks inland from the existing Viaduct was effectively below grade and blocking no views.

 SR 99 Tunnel Machine Animation

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=guWkPRReUaE



 See article for more comments.





Fact Check: ‘One of the Best Light Rail Lines’ In the Country/

http://voiceofsandiego.org/2013/08/01/fact-check-one-of-the-best-light-rail-lines-in-the-country/

By Andrew Keats, August 1, 2013
File photo by Sam Hodgson

The San Diego Trolley

Statement: “The existing blue line today is probably one of the best light rail lines in the entire country,” said Gary Gallegos, executive director of SANDAG, in a July 17 interview with Voice of San Diego.

Determination: Mostly True

Analysis: It’s not often that people say nice things about San Diego public transportation.
The city’s reputation as a sprawling ode to Southern California’s automobile dependence is well established.

So it was surprising to hear Gary Gallegos, executive director of SANDAG, the regional transportation authority, say the most popular line in the city’s light rail system is among the best in the entire country.

Since the statement was so out-of-step with conventional wisdom, we decided it deserved another look.

The blue line runs from the U.S.-Mexico border through the South Bay, Barrio Logan and into downtown San Diego. By 2018, SANDAG will have expanded the line all the way to University City.
Part of the calculation to expand the blue line to University City — rather than to build light rail service to some other part of the city — was based on the ridership of the existing line, which makes it easier to count on a solid return on the investment of extending service an additional 11.2 miles.
Gallegos was explaining that calculation when he made this bold statement.
But he was also relatively vague.

He hedged a bit by saying the blue line was “one of the best” lines nationwide.
And he didn’t specify what metric he was using as a basis for his claim.

Spokespeople for SANDAG and MTS, which operates the local public transportation system, said Gallegos was referring to a metric called farebox recovery ratio, or a line’s operating expenses divided by its fare revenue. It measures a transit line’s cost effectiveness.

“The blue line and the San Diego Trolley system as a whole rank at the top of light rail lines in the nation in terms of ability to recoup operating costs,” said Helen Gao, a SANDAG spokeswoman.

Here’s a chart of farebox recovery ratios for the best-performing national light rail systems, using 2011 data from the National Transit Database.



Farebox Recovery Ratio, Light Rail Lines

Farebox Recovery RatioSan DiegoBostonPortlandDenverMinneapolisSalt Lake CityPhoenixHoustonSacramentoSt. LouisClevelandSeattleSan FranciscoNewarkCharlotteLos AngelesBuffalo50403020100
2011 Farebox Recovery Ratio (fare revenue/operating expenses) of national light rail systems. (Source: National Transit Database)

 
The blue line itself has a farebox recovery ratio of 76.4 percent, compared with the overall trolley system’s 57 percent. Boston, the next highest performing system in the nation, has a 49 percent recovery ratio. Los Angeles comes in at 21 percent.

The blue line, clearly, does a great job of recouping its operating expenses.

So, how does that metric fare as a single, catch-all description of a transit line’s effectiveness?

“When you look at financing public transit and providing reliable transit, the first thing taxpayers ask is, ‘Does this make sense?’” said Elyse Lowe, executive director of local advocacy group Move San Diego. “Transit relies on its ongoing operating revenue to be successful, so I really think (farebox recovery ratio) is the gold standard because you want to know people are buying in.”

Lowe said one complaint of the trolley system as a whole, including the blue line, is that its stops aren’t located in areas where it’s possible to walk from home, meaning people often have to rely on a car even if they use the trolley on a regular basis.

But the blue line remains effective because it goes all the way to the border, where it begins with thousands of riders using it to access jobs throughout San Diego.

“Clearly it was very smart to build the trolley all the way to the border,” Lowe said.

That decision also reveals another strength of the blue line: its original cost of construction.
The line’s capital cost in 1981 was $87.5 million, or $5.5 million per mile. Two years later, planners added a second track to the line, bringing the total cost to $119.25 million.

Adjusting for inflation, the original expenditure comes in at more than $300 million in 2013 dollars. That’s a lot, but consider the proposed extension of the blue line to University City is currently carrying a projected cost of $1.7 billion, more than five times the inflation-adjusted original expenditure.

“Between farebox recovery ratio, on top of the blue line being cited often as one of the cheapest lines in the country, that combination means it’s probably the top-performing line financially in the country,” said Juan Matute, a researcher at the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs.

But Matute also said judging the line entirely by its financial performance reveals the priorities of its planners.

“There’s a very businesslike focus about operating and always making sure there’s a return on investment,” he said. “In other parts of the state, transit is seen as a social service that connects people to jobs. That’s just not going to show up in (farebox recovery ratio).”

Matute said his preferred measure of a system’s overall performance is “passenger miles per annual vehicle revenue miles.” It’s basically a way to measure the average number of riders on a transit vehicle. It tells you whether a transit line is being used, rather than just whether it’s financially viable.
Here’s how the San Diego Trolley ranks among other light-rail systems nationwide based on that metric.


Passenger Miles Per Vehicle Revenue Mile

Los AngelesBostonDallasMinneapolisCharlottePortlandHoustonSan DiegoSeattleClevelandSan FranciscoSt. LouisPhiladelphiaSacramentoDenverSalt Lake CitySan JoseBaltimoreBuffalo3020100
Passenger Mile Per Vehicle Revenue Mile (Source: 2011 National Transit Database)

By that standard, San Diego still does pretty well, but it’s no longer the clear top performer. It’s closer to the middle of the pack.

Based on a purely financial assessment, Gallegos was right to place the blue line among the nation’s best-performing light rail lines.

What he didn’t mention was any other way to measure how effective a line is, such as how well it allows residents to save money by ditching their car, what percentage of the population makes use of the service or how satisfied customers are with their trolley experience.

Consider this: A system consisting of one bus tasked with covering the entire city would cost little to operate and could be entirely full at all times. Though effectively useless, the hypothetical line might notch a 100 percent farebox score. Farebox alone doesn’t tell a transit line’s whole story.

But outside of a super-metric that properly weighs competing priorities and spits out a single answer on the “best” line in the country, farebox is an important measure.

Our rubric grades a statement “mostly true” when it is accurate but misses an important nuance.
That fits Gallegos’ statement, which accurately described the blue line as one of the most financially successful in the country, but didn’t acknowledge other ways a public transportation line performs.

If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.