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

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Report on Zocalo 710 Meeting: Figuring Out the 710 Freeway's Future

From Sylvia Plummer, May 8, 2014

One thing I can say it was a full house, and many No 710 folks in the audience.  The panel was stacked - 100% in favor of the 710 tunnel. 

Pasadena and the Foothill freeway will pay the price:

Listen to Brian Taylor, UCLA  Institute of Transportation Studies director, and what he had to say about the traffic  (at 10:06 minutes)

"In terms of Goods Movement the corridor plays a very important role, and I think that's a concern of some residences that when connections are made it would relieve other sorts of trips on the 5 (freeway), on other....  and would allow (traffic) to move up to the Foothill freeway which would certainly include truck traffic, it would be quite significant.  But the actual traffic were that link ever completed, the share of traffic by people living and working nearby would be shockingly high.  And there have been pass analysis that have found that."

For those that missed the meeting, here's a link to the video:

Video and podcast from Zocalo Public Square’s forum last night on the 710 freeway


By Steve Hymon, May 8, 2014

 Above is both video and a podcast (you need to go on the website to view the video and to hear the podcast) from Zocalo Public Square’s forum at MOCA on Wednesday evening that was titled “What does Southern California need from the 710 freeway?”

The forum — which was sponsored by Metro — focused on the 4.5-mile gap in the 710 freeway between Alhambra and Pasadena and the ongoing study by Caltrans and Metro that seeks to improve traffic congestion in the area.

The project’s draft environmental document is scheduled for release next February and is considering five alternatives: a freeway tunnel to close the gap, a light rail line between East Los Angeles and Pasadena, bus rapid transit between East L.A. and Pasadena, traffic signal and intersection improvements in the 710 area and the legally-required no-build option. The project is scheduled to receive $780 million in Measure R funding, although additional money would be needed to build some of the more expensive alternatives — if, in fact, the Metro Board of Directors ultimately decides to build anything.

NBC-4′s n moderated the panel that included Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce President Gary Toebben, former Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency Linda S. Adams, Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) executive director Hasan Ikhrata and UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies director Brian Taylor. I thought Nolan framed the 710 issue well, calling it a “Gordian knot” and that “I’ve never seen a transportation issue as convolutedly complicated as this one.”

As the panelists pointed out several times, the 710 discussion goes back to the 1950s and original state plans to complete the 710 between Long Beach and Pasadena. Less than half of the state’s original freeway plans for our region was built – the reason, for example, that the 2 freeway ends at Glendale Boulevard and the Marina Freeway only exists west of the 405. As Brian Taylor noted, however, the 710 remains somewhat unique among the unfinished freeways because while there are uncompleted segments, there are very few areas where there is such a pronounced gap.

What to be done about it? Both Toebben and Ikhrata said that closing the gap made the most sense and would take traffic off surface streets in the western San Gabriel Valley, help improve air quality (the freeway would keep traffic moving instead of sitting and idling) and would likely also ease congestion on other freeways that motorists use to skirt the 710 gap, most notably the 110 and 5 freeways. “It’s more expensive to do nothing,” Ikhrata said, adding that billions of dollars were lost in travel delays.

When Toebben was asked if motorists would be willing to pay a toll to use the tunnel, his answer was a simple “yes.” He later noted that he lives near Orange Grove Avenue in Pasadena and sees motorists each day use it as a way to close the 710 gap by using Orange Grove, the 110 freeway and the 5 freeway to get back to the 710. “Am I willing to pay three, four bucks — I don’t know what the cost will be — to avoid those other routes and get off those freeways so that others who need to travel those freeways, can? Yes, I’m willing to do that. I’d venture to say that every single person who lives anywhere close to this freeway, and I’m including myself, will see less traffic on their streets if a tunnel was built than they see right now.”

UCLA’s Taylor took the most nuanced and expansive view, first explaining the basic mechanics of freeway traffic congestion when commuters and those running errands compete for too little physical space on roadways (go to the 29 minute mark of the video). The result: throughput of the roads drops dramatically and a traffic jam ensues. He also pointed out that Measure R half-cent sales tax increase spreads the cost of mobility to everyone, whether they are using the mobility or not.

With that in mind, Taylor said that solving traffic congestion on a regional level could be done today if the area so choose with congestion pricing — i.e. tolling roadways so that motorists paid the true cost of driving (air pollution, freeway expansion, travel delays). That would drop demand for road space down to reasonable levels and allow traffic to free-flow instead of idle along. “Let’s argue about whether to close the gap or not, because we want to make sure that we never want to price people’s travel…if we did we would have a free flowing system,” Taylor said. “[But] that’s politically unacceptable.”

There was a brief Q&A session after the main discussion and it was pretty clear that some in the audience felt their view was missing: that closing the gap with a freeway tunnel would ultimately lead to more traffic and air pollution. And some of the questions revealed (yet again) the depth of the disagreements over this issue: when one audience member asked why building a rail line for freight from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach was not being considered, SCAG’s Ikhrata replied that building a freight rail line to Pasadena made little sense as most freight from the ports moves east, not north.

Here’s an article on Zocalo Public Square’s website. And here’s the SR-710 Study home page.

Figuring Out the 710 Freeway’s Future

How Does This Road Impact Traffic, Pollution, and Commerce Across Southern California?


 Conan Nolan, Gary Toebben, Linda Adams, Brian Taylor, Hasan Ikhrata

By Sarah Rothbard, May 8, 2014

The future of the 710—one of Southern California’s most important freeways—is an important issue and the subject of passionate debate. It’s also at the center of one of the region’s longest-running transportation questions: What, if anything, should be done about the fact that the 710 has never been completed? In front of a full house at MOCA Grand Avenue, NBC4 general assignment reporter Conan Nolan moderated a panel co-presented by Metro about how the freeway, and the five options on the table for dealing with the 4.5-mile gap between Alhambra and Pasadena, affects the entire region.

Nolan opened the discussion by asking Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) executive director Hasan Ikhrata if the current situation is untenable.

“The short answer is yes,” said Ikhrata, adding that something needs to be done now because of projected population increases over the next 20 years.

Why, Nolan asked UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies director Brian Taylor, has this freeway become a thorn in the side of L.A. transportation?

Taylor explained that the stalemate has gone on for years, and as a result, it’s become deeply emotional for many people. And its costs are spatially concentrated: People in one location would bear the burden of the project, but its effects would be felt all across the region. It’s akin to a sewage treatment plant or airport being built in a neighborhood. It’s easy to mobilize the people most affected—because their community will experience displacement—and more difficult to get others involved.
One of the options on the table is a freeway tunnel. What, asked Nolan, would this mean?

Taylor said that the 710 is unusual because it connects to the port in Long Beach and sees a larger share of long-distance travel than other freeways. However, most travel is local, and this freeway is no exception. In general, people on any given street are coming and going just a few miles. While truck traffic on the 710 would be significant, “the share of people living and working nearby would be shockingly high” on the 710.

Turning to Clean Tech Advocates senior advisor and former California Environment Secretary Linda S. Adams, Nolan asked how much building a freeway affects the environment. With new technologies reducing vehicle carbon dioxide emissions, is it what goes on the freeway that matters most?

 Public transit options—light rail and rapid bus transit—are also on the table. Are these viable?
Certain travel, said Taylor, is very well handled by public transportation. But many trips require a car—not just people going to work but midday errands and other trips that involve multiple stops.

Even when an area sees an increase in public transit, the percentage of personal vehicle trips drops by less than 10 percent.

Another option being considered is to build nothing at all. What would this mean for the flow of goods and services in Southern California?

L.A. Chamber of Commerce president Gary Toebben—who lives in Pasadena—said that the impact would be greater on people commuting to and from work than on goods and services.
And, said Ikhrata, it will cost more to do nothing—in terms of the costs of traffic congestion and poor air quality—than to do something.

Taylor said that many of our traffic issues have to do with the way we deal with the costs of transportation. We don’t want to charge people for road space, raise fuel taxes, or charge high parking rates—so instead, we raise money for transportation through general consumption taxes. Congestion, said Taylor is “the most politically acceptable solution to the fact that people don’t want to pay for the cost of transportation.”

“Bad pricing,” said Ikhrata, “kills good planning.”

There have been many complicated transportation issues both in Southern California and elsewhere. What is it about the history of the 710 that makes it so difficult?

California Governor Earl Warren proposed the 710 Freeway in 1949, said Taylor. What’s unusual about the project is that it’s lasted so long, the depth of feeling gets passed down from generation to generation. Usually, community opposition and regional interests are able to negotiate; in this case, after a half-century, that’s become impossible.

California is requiring cleaner cars and cleaner fuel; reducing vehicle miles traveled is the state’s third goal to reduce greenhouse emissions, said Adams. But “we know Californians are in love with their cars, and no one expects them to give up their cars,” said Adams. “The key is to provide options.”

Nolan asked if bumper-to-bumper traffic causes more pollution than a freeway tunnel would.
Ikhrata said that SCAG studies have shown that a tunnel would result in better air quality—and would decongest local streets and reduce costly traffic delays.