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, October 31, 2014

57 Freeway/60 Freeway bottleneck relief on the way: Guest commentary

http://www.presstelegram.com/opinion/20141029/57-freeway60-freeway-bottleneck-relief-on-the-way-guest-commentary

By Hasan Ikhrata, October 29, 2014

Southern Californians spend 3 million hours a year stuck in traffic, through it probably feels like more for anyone forced to navigate the confluence of the 57 and 60 freeways in the San Gabriel Valley on a regular basis.

Ranked as the nation’s seventh worst highway bottleneck in the nation by the American Transportation Research Institute, the 57/60 epitomizes the daunting challenges Southern California faces in moving people and goods throughout our growing region.

The tangled, two-mile stretch near Diamond Bar and the city of Industry merges two freeways into one, compressing 17 lanes into 14 and racking up more than 600 accidents a year from among the 340,000 vehicles a day that pass through it.

Fixing it is a major priority for our region, and to that end, the U.S. Department of Transportation recently awarded a $10 million grant, unlocking another $27.2 million in matching funds from state and local sources, to begin work on a multi-phase realignment of the interchange.

The overall project will cost $256 million — money well spent when you consider both the quality-of-life and economic costs of doing nothing.

With 18 million people, more than all but four entire states, Southern California will see its population grow by another 4 million over the next 21 years — compounding congestion and air-quality challenges that already rank among the most difficult in the United States.

Pivotal to all of this are the importance of goods movement to Southern California and the role of the 57/60 as a trade gateway, not just for the region but the country as a whole.

Though we don’t always think of ourselves as a manufacturing center, the six counties that comprise the Southern California Association of Governments’ region in fact represent the nation’s third largest, behind only the states of California and Texas. Combine that with our having the largest container port complex in the U.S. and neighboring Mexico’s emergence as a global trade partner, and it’s no wonder that goods movement and related industries now comprise one-third of all jobs and economic activity in our region.

Today, approximately 1.5 billion tons of goods are moved through Southern California each year, with 24,000 to 30,000 trucks a day traveling the 60 Freeway alone. According to published reports, traffic congestion regularly delays one of every five commercial trucks in the region, increasing the cost of shipping by 50 percent to 250 percent.

Investing in projects such as the 57/60 confluence is, therefore, good business. SCAG’s most recent Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy identified $524 billion in vital mobility improvements over the next 25 years, and found a return on investment of $2.90 for every dollar spent.

In the case of this project specifically, estimates are that 5,100 jobs will be created over its life. Construction could begin as early as next year on the first phase — a dedicated westbound on-ramp to the 60 Freeway from Grand Avenue. Subsequent phases include widening Grand Avenue and Golden Springs Drive, a westbound off-ramp and auxiliary lane from the 60 to Grand Avenue, and more than $200 million in freeway improvements and by-pass connectors.

By themselves, these improvements are expected to reduce the accident rate by at least 160 annually, and 3,200 to 3,300 over the next 20 years.

We applaud the Department of Transportation’s awarding of $10 million through its Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program, and thank all of the stakeholder groups that have already committed funding to this essential project. These include the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the city of Industry and the Federal Regional Surface Transportation Program.

Their commitment not only will begin to fix one of the worst highway bottlenecks in the country, but have a lasting positive impact on the economy and quality of life throughout our region.

Hasan Ikhrata is executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments.