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

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Environmental groups vow to continue push for alternative I-710 Freeway plan after bill vetoed


By Sean Belk, November 8, 2013

 Sean Belk/Signal Tribune A recirculated environmental-impact report on plans to expand a section of the 1-710 Freeway, a major thoroughfare for cargo trucks to haul goods to and from the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, should be up for approval in a little more than a year. The billion-dollar project calls for widening an 18-mile section of the freeway in order to reduce traffic, decrease accidents and improve air quality.
 A recirculated environmental-impact report on plans to expand a section of the 1-710 Freeway, a major thoroughfare for cargo trucks to haul goods to and from the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, should be up for approval in a little more than a year. The billion-dollar project calls for widening an 18-mile section of the freeway in order to reduce traffic, decrease accidents and improve air quality.

 Even though the governor vetoed a measure last month that would have ensured that a new alternative be examined for the I-710 Freeway Corridor Project, state officials and environmental groups say the plan will likely be considered anyway.

SB 811, authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Huntington Park/Long Beach), would have required that the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) consider what’s called Community Alternative 7 in the environmental-review process for the I-710 Corridor Project.

The billion-dollar infrastructure project calls for widening an 18-mile section of the freeway. The number-one goal of the project is to improve air quality and public health, followed by decreasing accidents and reducing traffic. The project is considered one of the “largest infrastructure goods-movement projects” in the country.

Although the governor vetoed the legislation, Lara said in an Oct. 11 statement that Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty has assured him that “the concerns of the community will be heard and Community Alternative 7 will be analyzed.”

Lara added, “Though this bill was not signed, we have a relationship and a seat at the table that will still enable us to advocate for clean air, safe roads and healthy communities.”

The new alternative was brought forward by a contingent of community and environmental activists who claim that existing alternatives in the draft environmental impact report (EIR) for the freeway project “fall short of providing a long-term solution to the project area’s congestion, air quality and travel demands,” according to an online campaign letter.

Excluding a no-build option, existing alternatives call for expanding the I-710 Freeway with up to as many as 10 new general-purpose lanes. Alternatives also propose adding a four-lane freight corridor and developing a zero-emissions goods-movement system.

Alternative 7, however, specifically proposes to: invest in public transportation; mandate a committed zero-emission freight corridor; integrate the restoration of natural resources, such as the Los Angeles River; add pedestrian and bicycle elements; and include community benefits, such as double-pane windows, air-filtration systems and landscaped green spaces.

Seventh District Long Beach City Councilmember James Johnson, a member of the I-710 Project Committee that consists of local city officials and makes recommendations to Caltrans on the project, said in a phone interview that the committee already recommended at its Jan. 31 meeting that Alternative 7 be considered. He said Lara’s legislation would have just forced Caltrans to study the option.

Earlier this year, the Project Committee voted to re-circulate environmental reports on the project to provide updated data and studies on adding a zero-emissions freight corridor and expanding general-purpose lanes.

Johnson has supported a zero-emissions demonstration project that would test technology involving cargo trucks using an overhead electrical catenary-type system, similar to trolleys, near the ports, but this proposal has yet to be fully approved.

Some environmental groups and health experts, however, say that expanding the freeway alone won’t reduce air pollution but actually increase capacity that could add even more emissions over time.

“Freeway construction and expansion has led to a car-dependent Los Angeles with among the worst air pollution in the nation,” said Dr. Roberta Kato, a pediatric pulmonologist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and an environmental health ambassador with Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles, in an op-ed piece published in local media last year. “Now we must choose our children’s health and envision a healthy environment for all communities.”

Dr. Felix Nuñez, chief medical officer of the Family Health Care Centers of Greater Los Angeles, states in another online post that high levels of exposure to carbon-based pollutants along the I-710 increase incidents of asthma, other respiratory illnesses, cancer and diseases of the cardiovascular and neurological system.

“Experience and research on induced traffic suggests that if we expand a roadway to relieve traffic, additional drivers will fill the new ‘non-congested’ space, leading to an increase in emissions,” he said.

Johnson, who supported SB 811, said it’s still unclear what alternative is best since Caltrans hasn’t fully studied them yet. The goal of the measure was to make sure Caltrans looks at all alternatives and determines the costs, benefits and any “unintended consequences” of each proposal, he said.

“I continue to strongly believe all the alternatives should be studied,” Johnson said. “I’m very excited about this project. We have a new opportunity to meet all the goals of this project… I think it’s important we make data-based decisions.”

Johnson said new data on the proposals listed in the re-circulated EIR won’t be released or up for approval for about 18 months. “A decision point is about a year away,” he said.

The new alternative and the legislation, however, was supported by various community and environmental nonprofits, including the Coalition for Clean Air, East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice and the Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles, among others.

After SB 811 passed both the Assembly and the Senate earlier this year, Gov. Jerry Brown said in an Oct. 11 letter that he supported the goals of the legislation but wouldn’t sign it because the measure would have violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and created a “precedent” by usurping the established process.

“I commend the author’s objectives in this bill to improve air quality, ensure access to bicycle and pedestrian paths and increase access to public transit,” Brown stated. “These are goals we share. However, statutorily requiring the project environmental impact report to consider specified mitigation measures that exceed the project’s scope is a precedent I don’t wish to establish.”

Some city officials support the governor’s decision. Signal Hill City Councilmember Larry Forester, also a member of the I-710 Project Committee, said the staff members of the Gateway Cities Council of Governments (COG) were not in favor of the bill.

“The reason we were against it is because it suddenly took the 14 years of our efforts on the 710 expansion on track lanes and said, ‘Nope, this is what we’re going to do,’” Forester said. “It’s taking everything and trying to fold it into a CEQA, and it doesn’t work.”

Forester said widening the freeway is considered the best way to reduce both pollution and traffic impacts, adding that, the longer cargo trucks sit in traffic, the more pollution is emitted. He added that the committee had already developed an air-quality action plan.

Still, Brown said Caltrans would continue to work with Sen. Lara and local stakeholders on identifying mitigation measures within the scope of CEQA that “ensures the I-710 project benefits motorists, goods movement, the community and the environment.”

Patricia Ochoa, deputy policy director of the Coalition for Clean Air, said in a phone interview that community members plan to work with Caltrans in coming months to promote Alternative 7 as a “more comprehensive vision” for the community.

“Our plan is to move forward and provide a way to implement Alternative 7,” Ochoa said. “We’re still working to make sure Caltrans looks at the alternative as a whole. We don’t want to piecemeal it. We want a whole concept together. We think it’s important because we feel the communities around the corridor have been impacted by the 710 for years.”

Johnson added, however, that a major factor in determining the best alternative is finances. He said estimates put the I-710 Corridor Project at about $5 billion to $6 billion but only about 10 percent of that has been secured.

Developing a sound environmental report that can attract state and federal funding will be critical to coming up with the required financing, Johnson said. The councilmember added that the longer the project takes, the longer pollution and traffic will persist.

“Every year that goes by that we’re not modernizing the 710 is another year of dirty air and families being kept apart,” he said. “I do think we need to move this forward.”

Vote on controversial Orange County toll lanes delayed

O.C. officials want Caltrans to guarantee the county will control toll policy, keep excess revenue from the $1.47-billion project.


 By Adolfo Flores, November 8, 2013

 405 Freeway

 Orange County transportation officials are considering a plan to eliminate carpool lanes and add toll lanes on a 14-mile stretch of the 405 Freeway between Costa Mesa and the 605 Freeway.

A critical vote on a proposal to add toll lanes to a 14-mile stretch of the 405 Freeway in Orange County — a $1.47-billion project that would involve reconstructing overpasses and eliminating carpool lanes — has been pushed back until December.

The plan to add toll routes to the freeway — dubbed "Lexus lanes" by the mayor of one city along the route — is one of three proposed options for helping untangle the highway congestion from Costa Mesa to the county line in Seal Beach.

The most controversial of the options would add a single general-purpose lane and a toll lane in each direction. The existing carpool lanes on each side of the highway would also be converted to toll lanes.

The Orange County Transportation Authority voted unanimously Friday to delay the decision to Dec. 9, in front of a packed room of residents and elected officials, most critical of the toll lane proposal.
Before they meet again, board members said they wanted assurances from Caltrans, which oversees the state's freeways, that the OCTA would control local toll policy, such as costs and hours of operation, and get to keep excess toll revenues for local improvements.

The transit agency estimates the toll lanes would generate about $1.5 billion in revenue during the next 30 years.

"We all want to know whether Caltrans is going to bill this out to support another project," Todd Spitzer, O.C. supervisor and OCTA board member said.

Orange County was an early pioneer in the toll lane experiment when carpool lanes along a 10-mile portion of the 91 Freeway were converted to pay-to-use lanes. Toll lanes were recently added to the 110 Freeway in Los Angeles, and Orange County has an extensive network of toll roads.

The proposed toll lanes along the 405 would extend from the 73 toll road to the 605 Freeway. The endeavor is being funded by voter-approved Measure M, a countywide half-cent sales tax for transportation projects.

OCTA staff is recommending that officials adopt the controversial toll option.

Ellery Deaton, mayor pro tem of Seal Beach, said the toll lanes will shift traffic onto city streets. "We will have nothing but chaos," she warned.

Steve Ray, an Orange County resident, said he was among those who voted for the transportation tax in order to improve streets and freeways.

"This is double taxation," Ray said of the proposed toll lanes. "This is not what the voters voted for."
If the lanes arrive, a rush-hour driver heading north would pay $9.91 to travel the full length of the toll lanes. Southbound drivers would pay $6.11 in tolls at rush hour, according to OCTA estimates.
Caltrans, which must approve the plan, has an interest in installing toll lanes on the 405 because of a federal mandate requiring that it speed up congested carpool lanes, said John Moorlach, a county supervisor and OCTA board member.

In September the state agency told OCTA that if it didn't choose an option that would unclog carpool lanes, it would consider installing the toll lanes.

Top 10 cities with worst traffic commutes: Surprise [Graphic]


By Amy Hubbard, November 9, 2013

A recent graphic showing the top 10 cities with the worst commutes in the United States has a surprise for Los Angeles residents.
We are not No. 1.

For those of us who have inched along, cursing our fate and the 101-405 freeway interchange -- or fidgeted and groaned at 7:30 a.m. on the 110 Freeway while smug motorists glided by in the FasTrak lanes -- this doesn't seem possible.

But according to data compiled by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute and brought to us by Statista, the city with the worst commutes in 2012 was Washington, D.C. As the graphic shows, the annual hours of delay per commuter in the nation's capital was 67. L.A./Long Beach/Santa Ana was second with 61. Seems like it should be at least 161.

For those who feel cheated at coming in second, the L.A. Times reported on a similar traffic-congestion study in April in which we did come out on top.


[For the record, 1:15 p.m., Nov 9: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the graphic listed the annual hours per day wasted by commuters stuck in traffic. The graphic measures the annual hours of delay per commuter.]

Hate traffic? Follow me @AmyTheHub

Two Pasadena Central Library Programs This Week: An Evening with Chuck Greaves and The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy

Posted by Pasadena City Councilperson Steve Madison on Facebook, November 9, 2013

Chuck Greaves, famous author with five books already published and/or awaiting release and a close friend, will be in Pasadena next week. Please come out and support him on Tuesday, November 12 at 6:30pm at Pasadena Central Library's Donald R. Wright Auditorium, 285 E. Walnut St.
 An Evening with Chuck Greaves
 Former Pasadena Public Library Foundation President and local attorney Chuck Greaves will discuss his latest book Green-Eyed Lady, the second installment in his Pasadena mystery series on Tuesday, November 12 at Pasadena Central Library’s Donald R. Wright Auditorium, 285 E. Walnut St.
A reception will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. followed by the program from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Q & A and a book signing will follow. Books will be available for purchase.
For more information contact Christine Reeder, Adult Services, (626) 744-7076 or creeder@cityofpasadena.net or visit www.cityofpasadena.net.

 The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, 7 – 8:30 pm
LocationPasadena Central Library Auditorium
285 E. Walnut St.
Pasadena CA 91101
Event typeConferences/Lectures
DetailsAn Appointment with our American Past: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, 50 Years Later
Presented by Glenn Bybee. His lecture will be historically informative and organized in such a way that you will utilize your critical thinking and analytical skills to determine what you think really happened. A question and answer period will follow.
SponsorsPasadena Public Library