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, January 11, 2014

Here’s an early warning — another earthquake is coming: Larry Wilson


By Larry Wilson, January 10, 2014
 Deputy director of Taiwan's Seismology Center Peih-Lin Leu points at a seismic chart following an earthquake, in Taipei on June 2, 2013. A strong 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit Taiwan Sunday, killing one person and violently shaking buildings in the capital.

That coming Biggish One — a magnitude-7 quake — is 100 times bigger than that coming Mediumish One, a 5.

That’s because each whole number on the scale marks a 10-fold increase in wave amplitude.

But like me, you knew that, right, because we’re old vets of Earthquake Country? I’m just guessing, though, that like me, you conveniently forget the fact in between being reminded of it, because it’s what we do in order to get out of bed each morning. We can’t go around worrying every minute about when the ground is going to start moving under our feet in horrendous fashion, because that way neurosis lies.

It’s so unlike the way it is for folks who live in other regions prone to natural disaster. Hurricanes are all over the Weather Channel. Tornadoes begin not out of the blue but in a system that creates the whirlwinds, and if their exact path cannot be accurately predicted beforehand, there is definitely a thing called Twister Weather.

Whereas, and you know this, there is not a thing called Earthquake Weather, even if we sometimes like to think there is — a little unseasonably warm, the Earth’s crust getting a little baked and kaboom! We know this is an Old San Andreas Wives’ tale, or we know it when we are reminded of it by the seismologists among us.

A group of those seismologists gathered a bunch of reporters and editors together last week at Caltech for the Earthquakes 101 Media Summit. With the 20th anniversary of the Northridge Earthquake upon us on Jan. 17, it was high time to gather the troops who will be telling the world about the way it is here in Southern California when the next one hits. We need to get it right when it does, as it will.

Then there’s this: “It’s not the magnitude of the earthquake that affects you; it’s the shaking of the ground you’re on,” said Tom Jordan, director of the Southern California Earthquake Center at USC. “Soft soils shake more than hard rock.” So know your ground.

We’re not going to prevent the next Big One. And, no, as KNBC’s Conan Nolan, who told some war stories from his long experience covering quakes told the group, that paranoid question that always comes up in a post-quake press conference — “Didn’t you scientists actually know it was coming, and you didn’t want to scare us?” — is not the case. But other places, primarily Japan but also Mexico, have invested in earthquake warning systems that can alert us when a quake has happened and give residents at least a hint that it’s coming, as well as stop fast-moving trains up to a minute before the shock waves get to Los Angeles from a desert fault, for instance. California even has a recently passed law authored by state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Van Nuys, requiring that a better early-warning system be put in place. But the estimated $80 million in funding for the system hasn’t been identified — and it would be a small price to pay to dramatically increase our safety. Not that it would prevent property damage. But it would allow us time to get to a relatively safe place.

Caltech’s Egill Hauksson told reporters that since the Northridge quake, 20 years of state budget problems have actually seen improvements in emergency response investment “dismantled and discontinued” because of spending cuts. “We’re still throwing the dice on that one,” he said. We do have more sensors and bigger computers to track the meta-data that will help us analyze the next quake. But spending and interest “tend to decrease the farther we get away from” a killer temblor. As another seismologist told him, “You’re only as good as your last earthquake.”

Can’t we instead use our memories of how bad it was last time to get it together before the next one comes?

Man stuck, killed by Metrolink train in Glassell Park


By Kelly Goff, January 11, 2014

A man was struck and killed by a Metrolink train in Glassell Park on Saturday afternoon while reportedly walking along the tracks.

The man, who has not yet been identified, was struck by a the Antelope Valley-bound train just before 4:30 p.m., according to Katherine Main, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Fire Department. He was declared dead at the scene.

The crash happened near the 2700 block of Media Center Drive.

The fatal collision caused Metrolink to cancel trains along the Antelope Valley line and replace them with bus service while authorities investigated in the incident.

No one on the train was hurt.

Governor Christie’s Biggest Transportation Failure Isn’t a Bridge or a Tunnel


By Janna Chernetz, January 10, 2014

 Photo: Office of the Governor

It’s not “Bridgegate.” It’s not cancelling the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) tunnel. Governor Christie’s biggest transportation failure to date is his failure to adequately fund transportation.

New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund, which was created in 1984 to pay for transportation capital projects, is bankrupt. Since July 2011, 100 percent of the New Jersey’s dedicated transportation revenue has gone toward debt service. And neither the Governor, nor the state legislature, see this as a big enough funding failure to pay any significant attention to it.

The five year (2011-2016), $8 billion transportation capital plan is financed primarily through debt, along with funds that were originally earmarked for the ARC tunnel, which will run out in 2016. Although the Governor promised PAYGO (“Pay As You Go”) funds in 2013 and 2014 to help finance projects, those promises fell flat.  Instead, PAYGO funds were used to plug a hole in the 2013 general fund resulting in a hole in the transportation capital plan that led to $261 million in new debt. In fiscal year 2014, the planned $375 million in PAYGO was replaced with a one-time shot of $250 million from higher than expected proceeds for previous years’ transportation bond sales and some crafty capital project planning.  It is still unclear how the remaining years (2015 and 2016) of the capital plan will be financed without new revenue sources.

Meanwhile, next door in Pennsylvania, Republicans and Democrats joined together to pass a transportation bill last year, financed with an increase in the gas tax which will generate $2.3 billion annually for road, bridge and transit projects. Now that is bi-partisanship to brag about.

Keystone State leaders last increased their gas tax in 2006. New Jersey’s last gas tax increase: 1988.

Governor Christie must lead on this issue, otherwise the state legislature will not act. Assemblyman John Wisniewski, Chairman of the Assembly Transportation Committee, recently told reporters that, “the gas tax is the most efficient and equitable way to fund our transportation infrastructure,” and that “people are willing to support the gas tax if they are confident it will be used for the transportation work that’s needed.” But it’s unlikely Wisniewski and other Democrats would take up this issue in the next legislative session, fearing not only “the governor’s veto, but his wrath as well.”

Without immediate action — and with the obvious funding crisis looming on the horizon — New Jersey will see no relief from continued deteriorating bridges and roads, transit fare increases and traffic congestion. For that, he owes all of New Jersey his biggest apology.

Hub for earthquake information, Pasadena barely damaged in 1994 Northridge earthquake


By Adam Poulisse, January 11, 2014


The Northridge Fashion Center became one of the symbols of the quake’s destructiveness. Damage to the mall, built in the early ‘70s, was estimated at $131 million. 

PASADENA >> When the Northridge earthquake struck Southern California at 4:31 a.m. on Jan. 17, 1994, national attention focused on the Caltech Seismological Laboratory and the U.S. Geological Society (USGS) for information and answers.

But when it happened, Ken Hudnut’s attention was on the shaking in the USGS office on Wilson Avenue.

The geophysicist was pulling an all-nighter in his office proofing a scientific journal article on the 1992 Landers earthquake.

That’s when the tremors began from the 6.7-magnitude earthquake along the San Andreas fault. Hudnut knew nothing about the earthquake at the time, just that he had to take cover somewhere on the second story of the wood building.

Get under something sturdy, and hold on, he told himself. Wait it out. He dived under his desk.

“When the earthquake hit, I don’t remember having the conscious thought, ‘Oh, this must be a big earthquake.’ I remember knowing right away what to do,” he said. “I got under my desk. My problem was I knew I had a computer monitor right above me on the desk that I was underneath.
“I knew I had to get into a tiny, little ball so that the computer monitor above me didn’t fall on my legs, and I was scared, man,” Hudnut said. “When you look now in hindsight at the shake map that we recreated for the Northridge earthquake, I was just in the yellow zone in Pasadena. I was not in the red zone, not by a long shot. I really feel for the people who were in the San Fernando Valley right on top of the Northridge earthquake, because what I experienced was really scary. The people over there had a very traumatic experience.”

The earthquake killed 57 people and injured countless others. It caused $40 billion in damage.
Pasadena was far enough off the San Andreas fault where it was not as affected as other areas of the Los Angeles County. Pasadena experienced “moderate to strong” shaking, but light damage, according to the California Integrated Seismic Network’s Northridge ShakeMap released in 2007.

“A lot of chimneys were knocked down in Pasadena, and there were cracks in stucco,” said Kate Hutton, staff seismologist at Caltech’s Seismological Laboratory. “There wasn’t heavy structure damage from the Northridge quake, mainly because of the distance (from the epicenter).”

Reseda experienced violent or extreme shaking and heavy damage since it was so close to the epicenter.

Since Pasadena was spared extensive damage, it was easier for media to descend upon Caltech, swarming the Seismology Lab for days, even weeks, waiting for answers to relay to people about the quake.

“It was not chaotic, it was very well planned,” said Margaret Vinci, manager of Earthquake Programs at Caltech. “We learned from the Northridge quake. Now we have security come, so the minute there’s an earthquake, security comes and they secure the doors just to keep order.”

Local pizza places like Domino’s delivered free food to media members stationed outside of Caltech during the days following the earthquake.

At its closest point, the San Andreas fault lies about 60 miles north of Pasadena and is south of Palmdale. However, nothing can protect the city from the widespread effects, such as utilities being knocked out near the epicenter.

“Although Pasadena won’t experience the San Andreas rupture as if it’s right in our backyard, we will be affected by all the devastation that happens,” said Kate Scharer, resident geologist at USGS. “The trick for Pasadena is that if you have a major rupture, basically all of the infrastructure that goes through the San Fernando Valley would be lost.”

That includes much of the county’s water supply, Scharer said.

The Northridge earthquake struck on Martin Luther King Day weekend, a three-day federal holiday so many state employees were off. Staff operated on a skeletal crew for about a day until emergency response teams could get to Pasadena to clear debris, said Lisa Derderian, Pasadena Fire Department spokeswoman. In 1994, she was the spokeswoman for the San Gabriel Valley chapter of the American Red Cross.

While waiting, the community took it upon themselves to keep one another safe while power and utilities were out.

“We saw a lot of neighbors helping neighbors,” Derderian said. “What I saw is a lot of people checking on their neighbors, which is what we encourage day to day.”

The earthquake made history as being the costliest earthquake in the U.S. until Hurricane Katrina in 2005, according to the Earthquake Country Alliance.

For Pasadena, though, the 1987 Whittier Narrows 5.9-magnitude earthquake and the 1991 Sierra Madre 5.8-magnitude earthquake caused more damage to Pasadena than the Northridge quake.

 “We had a lot of older brick buildings (damaged), a lot of damage in Old Town. One of the fire stations had damage on Fair Oaks,” Vinci said of the 1987 Whittier Narrows earthquake, which caused about $358 million in the east Los Angeles area, according to the USGS.

As a result, older buildings in the San Gabriel Valley were retrofitted to withstand earthquakes,
“You go into Old Town, you see pipes going through the outside,” Vinci said. “Those are all retrofitted as a result of Whittier.”
It was good timing. In 1991, the Clamshell-Sawpit Canyon fault off the Sierra Madre fault zone occurred, causing about $40 million in property damage, even though there was no surface rupture, according to the Southern California Earthquake Data Center.

Over 20 years, technological advancements have provided an easier, quicker way to transmit earthquake data. Hudnut of the USGS works with GPS systems. Now, 92 stations are using the Internet to stream data faster and process data in real time.

“What we used to take days, or even a week to do after the Northridge earthquake, we can now do it in minutes or maybe hours,” Hudnut said. “But we’ve gotten a lot faster at using the GPS data.”
Natural disasters and their anniversaries always rejuvenate people’s sense of earthquake preparedness, and lessons brought forth by previous experiences like in 1994.

“What we found is we take so many things for granted,” Derderian said. “An earthquake is a fear of the unknown. The big thing is to be prepared. We don’t know where it’s going to be when it happens.”

Air Pollution Has Been a Problem Since the Days of Ancient Rome

By testing ice cores in Greenland, scientists can look back at environmental data from millennia past

Bt Joseph Stromberg, February 2013

Methane gas has impacted our atmosphere since the Romans.

Before the Industrial Revolution, our planet’s atmosphere was still untainted by human-made pollutants. At least, that’s what scientists thought until recently, when bubbles trapped in Greenland’s ice revealed that we began emitting greenhouse gases at least 2,000 years ago. 
Célia Sapart of Utrecht University in the Netherlands led 15 scientists from Europe and the United States in a study that charted the chemi­cal signature of methane in ice samples spanning 2,100 years.
The gas methane naturally occurs in the atmosphere in low concentrations. But it’s now considered a greenhouse gas implicated in climate change because of emissions from landfills, large-scale cattle ranching, natural gas pipeline leaks and land-clearing fires.

Scientists often gauge past climate and atmosphere conditions from pristine ancient ice samples. The new research was based on 1,600-foot-long ice cores extracted from Greenland’s 1.5-mile-thick ice sheet, which is made up of layers of snow that have accumulated over the past 115,000 years.

Sapart and her colleagues chemically analyzed the methane in microscopic air bubbles trapped in each ice layer. They wanted to know if warmer periods over the past two millennia increased gas levels, possibly by spur- ring bacteria to break down organics in wetlands. The goal was to learn more about how future warm spells might boost atmospheric methane and accelerate climate change.

The researchers did find that methane concentrations went up—but not in step with warm periods. “The changes we observed must have been coming from something else,” Sapart says.

That “something else” turned out to be human activity, notably metallurgy and large-scale agriculture starting around 100 B.C. The ancient Romans kept domesticated livestock—cows, sheep and goats—which excrete methane gas, a byproduct of digestion. Around the same time, in China, the Han dynasty expanded its rice fields, which harbor methane-producing bacteria. Also, blacksmiths in both empires produced methane gas when they burned wood to fashion metal weapons. After those civilizations declined, emis- sions briefly decreased.

Then, as human population and land use for agricul- ture increased worldwide over the centuries, atmospheric methane slowly climbed. Between 100 B.C. and A.D. 1600, methane emissions rose by nearly 31 million tons per year. According to the most recent data, the United States alone generates some 36 million tons of methane per year.

“The ice core data show that as far back as the time of the Roman Empire, human [activities] emitted enough methane gas to have had an impact on the methane signature of the entire atmosphere,” Sapart says.

Although such emissions weren’t enough to alter the climate, she says, the discovery that humans already were altering the atmosphere on a global scale was “tremendously surprising.

The discovery will compel scientists to rethink predic- tions about how future methane emissions will affect climate. “It used to be that before 1750, everything was considered ‘natural,’” Sapart says, “so the base line needs to be reconsidered, and we need to look farther back in time to see how much methane there was before humans got involved.”

Air Pollution and Diabetes


Week of January 10, 2014

 Smog over Shanghai. New research suggests that dirty air is contributing to the global diabetes pandemic

We’ve long known that air pollution is bad for our lungs and can even cause cardiovascular disease, but as Doctor Sanjay Rajagopalan tells host Steve Curwood, recent research suggests that breathing dirty air in combination with a fatty diet can promote diabetes.


CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth, I'm Steve Curwood. Now, here is the US, environmental legislation has helped clean up much of the air we breathe, and the recently published EPA standards for new power plants will do even more in the future, if they're implemented. But much of the rest of the world still suffers from bad air. Particulate air pollution is a major health concern for people living in cities around the world, and has long been linked to respiratory and cardiovascular health problems. But now new research out of the University of Maryland suggests a strong link between air pollution, diabetes and high fat diets. Joining us now to explain is Dr. Sanjay Rajagopalan, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Maryland.

RAJAGOPALAN: Now type 2 diabetes, or adult onset diabetes, as some of your listeners might be familiar with, is a pandemic that’s growing in proportion. We don’t understand many of the underpinnings of this disorder. Clearly, we know that physical activity and diet play a role, but there’s increasing interest in a number of environmental factors that might predispose to type 2 diabetes. And we got interested in this primarily because type 2 diabetes clearly alters or increases your susceptability to cardiovascular disease.

A lot of the mechanisms that underlie diabetes and cardiovascular disease are common; inflammation seems to be a common denominator. And since one of the mechanisms by which air pollution modulates your risk for heart disease is through inflammation, we postulated that perhaps this might be playing a role in offering an individual, or in this case, experimental animals, susceptibility to diabetes.

CURWOOD: So, could you describe this study for us? What exactly did you do?

Smog in China

RAJAGOPALAN: So this is a follow up of an earlier study that we did several years ago where we showed that when you take sedentary mice that are fed a high-fat diet, and then exposed to air pollution at levels that are very relevant to what an individual might inhale perhaps in a crowded city like Beijing or New Delhi, that over a period of time, these mice develop an exaggeration of the type 2 diabetes. So ordinarily when you expose an individual, or in this case, an experimental mouse to a high-fat diet, they get diabetes after a duration of time. What we found was juxtaposing air pollution inhalation five days a week, as an average commuter from the suburbs to the city might experience, increases the probability or the liklihood of these mice developing diabetes.

So in this study we extended those findings and asked a question to delve into the mechanisms of how this might happen. So we essentially took mice and divided them up into different groups - a group that was exposed to dirty air, a group that was exposed to clean air - and had two interventions where two groups being exposed to clean air and dirty air were fed high-fat diet and the other group was essentially fed a normal diet, or a relatively more healthy diet, and exposed to the same interventions of clean air and dirty air. And what we found was, if you’re consuming high-fat diet, on top of that you’re inhaling particulate matter, this markedly increases your susceptibility to eventually developing type 2 diabetes.

CURWOOD: How much of a difference is it? Twice as likely? Four times as likely?

RAJAGOPALAN: Oh yeah. This magnifies it by approximately two to four fold, so these mice develop diabetes much sooner. The severity of diabetes is accentuated. There was a roughly a doubling of the severity of type 2 diabetes when we put together dirty air in conjunction with high-fat diet.

CURWOOD: Now some people are going to say these are mice. How relevant to people?

RAJAGOPALAN: Oh, very good question. And I would say that since our initial observation, there have been at least 15 studies that have actually extended these observations of experimental models to large populations, and some of these have been done obviously in North America where we live, you know, in a relatively clean environment from an atmospheric standpoint thanks to regulation put together by Congress in the 1970s..but despite that even with the levels you’re exposed to with this continent we still see continuing associations between inhaled particulate matter content and susceptibility to type 2 diabetes. And this has been replicated obviously in countries where the levels are 10 to 20 times higher than what we experience on a bad day in North America. In countries like India, for instance, in China, Indonesia, part of the middle East. These findings have been replicated in a multitude of cohorts and other contexts as well.

CURWOOD: So, at the end of the day, how big of a problem is diabetes globally, and how does that relate to air pollution?

RAJAGOPALAN: Yes, I think the first question is important. I think type 2 diabetes from a global perspective is perhaps one of the most important challenges we as human beings face from a chronic disease standpoint. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the number of type 2 diabetes by 2030 is going to exceed half a billion patients, and this in terms of economic costs, is currently costing in 2012 dollars close to a half trillion dollars in terms of healthcare costs. So this is a humungous problem. Now, from an individual perspective, air pollution does not have as strong of an association with cardiovascular disease as something like hypertension for instance. But from a population level, considering the fact that air pollution is pervasive, it’s present all the time, and nobody is immune to its effects unless you’re living in Antarctica, this becomes a huge population problem.

Dr. Sanjay Rajagopalan

CURWOOD: In this country, we’ve had a lot of debate over the cost of healthcare. How much should we be considering the environmental factors when it comes to what it costs for us to take care of people?

RAJAGOPALAN: I think environmental factors are going to be center page in these discussions because there’s a growing body of data that’s suggesting that whether it’s water or air or things that you eat, the packages that food is packed in...all of these things have ever so slight effects on your susceptibility to a number of chronic diseases. And these are things that are the reality, but are really the primary prevention measures where if you took care of these issues, you might not have problems to begin with. So these are easy solutions, clearly when you start to think about it, but also equally complex in terms of implementing at a societal level, because it takes so many different stakeholders to agree and to make these changes, you know, it tends to be a lot more complex.

CURWOOD: Dr. Sanjay Rajagopalan is Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Maryland at Baltmore. Thank you so much, Professor.

RAJAGOPALAN: Thanks, Steve, for having me on your show.

5 Freeway tunnel reopens, evidence of inferno is erased

 For Caltrans workers, it's OK if nobody notices their work at the Glendale Freeway connector. They know they kept a freeway from collapsing and prevented a months-long traffic nightmare.


By Thomas Curwen, January 10, 2014


 Tony Brake had seen tunnel fires before, and given the tower of black smoke and what he could see of the flames, he feared this one was going to be bad.

On a Saturday morning in July, a tanker truck carrying 8,700 gallons of gasoline flipped over, and the two-lane underpass connecting the northbound Glendale Freeway with the northbound 5 Freeway turned into a blast furnace.

If the tunnel — which supports the 5 Freeway — were to fail, the freeway would collapse. Traffic would be snarled for months, and for a region just emerging from a recession, the economic impact could be severe.

Brake, a senior bridge engineer for Caltrans, remembers walking through the tunnel two days after the fire. It looked as if it had been bombed. Crews had erected a bulwark running its length to support the ceiling, and the scorched walls were brittle and crumbling. A skeleton of rebar was laid bare.

At Friday's reopening of the tunnel, Brake stood amid a crowd of close to 50 fluorescently clad engineers, contractors and maintenance personnel, as politicians stood at a lectern and raised their voices against the freeway drone to praise the work.

 "In California, we know how to make things happen when we need to," said City Councilman Mitch O'Farrell.

At about 10:30, an armada of Caltrans vehicles slowly traversed the tunnel and saw — nothing. All evidence of the inferno and the work that has defined Brake's life for the last six months had been erased.

Drivers too will notice little more than shiny guard rails, a new roadbed and signage, more than 200 LED lights and a coat of white paint that just might resist the efforts of local tagging crews.

For Brake, indifference is a sign of a success.

"After the work is done, no one really knows what we did," he says. "But that's OK. What is important is that we prevented a tunnel from collapsing, no one was hurt, the repairs were made, and we are able to move on."

Soon after Brake's initial walk-through, crews began searching deep into the walls for patches of concrete no longer able to hold up the freeway overhead.

Drills bit into the walls and ceiling, extracting up to 100 concrete samples, a process akin to taking a medical biopsy. The samples were injected with dyes that highlighted microscopic cracks, and they were placed in vises that compressed them to the shattering point.

Cameras snaked into small bore holes. A radar system analyzed swaths of the walls and the ceiling, and sensors recorded the sound waves of hammers struck against the surface of the tunnel.

When the results came in, Brake was relieved. The damage was not as bad as he had feared. Most troublesome were a series of outrigger beams on the north side of the tunnel. The beams had cooked in the fire, Brake thought, like chicken in a rotisserie.

Brake and two colleagues drafted a set of blueprints that specified the repairs. The design included 13 pages of structural work, one of the most complicated reconstructions that Brake had overseen.

By mid-November, demolition started on the compromised concrete.

Wearing a hard hat, yellow rain slicker and rain boots, with a blue bandanna over his face, Lance Higgins stood at a control panel of an ungainly, four-wheeled contraption with an articulating arm angled high against the side of the tunnel.

A machine, a Conjet Robot 363, "delivers 32 gallons a minute through a nozzle the size of a Starbucks' stir stick," Higgins said.

With the push of a button, the water pressure — about 18,000 pounds per square inch — tore at the brittle concrete, stripping off four inches and further exposing the rebar. Occasional rocks shot across the tunnel like bullets. Loud pops signaled the displacement of larger chunks.

The wall soon looked like a cliff at low tide, its mottled surface of aggregate dripping wet. A soggy rubble littered the roadbed.

Two weeks later, scaffolding rose against the east side of the tunnel. Men in jumpsuits, hard hats and ventilators moved along its three tiers.
One hefted a heavy rubber hose. Another directed a mist of concrete — a special mixture known as shotcrete — from the nozzle onto the wall. After a couple of passes, he had laid down a 4-inch-thick layer of concrete over the rebar.
Others followed with 4-foot-long screeds, drawing S's on the wall as they smoothed out an application of concrete.
Brake picked up a handful of the sticky gray paste. He pulled out small fibers, like hairs, that had been mixed in with the cement. "It reminds me of the straw that was placed in the mud bricks of ancient Egypt," he said.
The fiber, made of polypropylene, strengthens the concrete.
On the opposite wall, the concrete was smooth and moist like the surface of a swimming pool.
A week before the opening, crews wrapped the damaged outrigger beams with a carbon fiber fabric. Applied like fiberglass, the material was slathered with an epoxy resin that dried to the hardness of steel.
Caltrans is still calculating the costs, which Brake estimates will come to $9 million. The agency expects to be reimbursed by the Federal Highway Administration Emergency Relief Program.

According to Caltrans spokesman Patrick Chandler, the agency will also try to recover its expenses from "the responsible parties." In 2007, after a fire caused $11 million in damage to the truck bypass tunnel of the 5 Freeway near the 14 Freeway, the state recovered approximately $3 million.

As for the cause of the more recent accident, the California Highway Patrol conducted the investigation. According to the accident report, a subcontractor for G&G Transport started driving the tanker truck at 2 a.m., delivering fuel to a vendor in Ventura shortly before dawn, then returning to Gardena to reload.

The driver was headed to a Costco in Burbank, mapping his route with a GPS. He arrived in the tunnel at 10:35 a.m. when, according to the accident report, he heard an explosion "like a tire rupturing." Uninjured, he walked away from the scene.

The CHP will not release details about the accident other than stating that for undetermined reasons the driver made "an unsafe turning movement on the freeway." A CHP spokeswoman said the portion of the accident report that specifies cause is shielded from the public because it is the opinion of the investigating officer.

Brake is curious, however.

"I never got the full story, and I wish I had," he said. "Could there be something in the tunnel design that contributed to this accident, something that should be addressed? Is it a problem for this tunnel or is it something we should consider in other tunnels as well?"

The information could be useful as he looks ahead to his next project. In March he has to deliver plans for a renovation of three connector tunnels on the 210 Freeway in west Pasadena. By the end of the year, they too will be made over with new LED lights and white paint that just might resist the efforts of local tagging crews.

CALL TO ACTION: Request to extend the 60 day review period on the SR-710 draft EIR.

From Sylvia Plummer, January 11, 2014

What is happening?  Ara Najarian is making a motion to extend the 60 day public review period on the SR-710 draft EIR to 120 days.  Based on comments at a recent Metro Board staff briefing, this motion might not pass in the Planning and Programming Committee.  Ara Najarian is requesting support for his motion.

What can you do?  If you are available, we need you to attend this meeting and support Ara Najarian's motion.

Wednesday January 15, 2014   2:30pm
Metro Planning and Programming Committee
Metro Board Room, 3rd Floor
One Gateway Plaza
Los Angeles

Want to carpool?  Email me with your name, telephone # and where you live.

There is parking under the Metro Headquarters Building, $6.00. (Enter on Vignes St.)
The Gold Line is a great option, since the end of the line is next door to Metro's building.
(behind Union Station)

Meet us outside the Metro Board Room at 2:15pm

SR-710 North Extension - A History


Posted by CV Gal, January 10, 2014

Sign the Petition at no710.com

In 1958, a Master Plan of Freeways was adopted by the State of California. The Long Beach Freeway was outlined in that plan. In 1964, a 23-mile portion of the freeway was constructed, now called Interstate 710 (I-710). It runs from Ocean Boulevard west of downtown Long Beach and northward to Valley Boulevard in El Sereno (City of Los Angeles), near the Alhambra border. The unfinished corridor now called the State Route 710 (SR-710), was not built at that time but it was planned for the near future. 

1960 - 2000

In the 1960s, in preparation for eventual excavation of the new SR-710 section, 500 houses were purchased to clear a surface route. They were located in El Sereno (220), South Pasadena (112), Pasadena (143) and Alhambra (25). At the time, it was estimated that a total of 976 houses would be needed for the project. The 500 houses are still owned by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) today. Some have been rented back to residents on a month to month basis for decades. Some are vacant. Most are in disrepair.

Over the course of the next forty years, the SR-710 portion of the freeway was not completed, largely due to intense community opposition and judicial injunctions which are still in place. Many freeway “gaps” remain in the region’s original master plan as only 60% of the projects have ever been finished. One example is the SR-2 Freeway that terminates on the south at Glendale Boulevard near downtown Los Angeles, instead of connecting with the I-405 through Beverly Hills as planned.

First Decade of 2000’s

Between 2003 and 2009, Caltrans and the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA or Metro) began to look at whether it was feasible to construct a bored tunnel rather than a surface route to extend the SR-710 Freeway and connect it to the I-210. Ultimately, five zones were examined through boring, seismic reflection, and surface wave testing in a geotechnical feasibility study. Upon completion of the study in the fall of 2009, Caltrans reported that it is “technically feasible” to construct a tunnel in any of the five zones which roughly spanned from the I-5 & SR-2 interchange to the I-210 & I-605 interchange. They added that no single route had been chosen. However, based on geologic and financial considerations and actions by the MTA Board and staff, many community members speculated that Zone 3, the original Meridian route through El Sereno, South Pasadena, and Pasadena would be chosen. The final geotechnical report presented in March 2010, indicated that no conditions exist that would stop, prohibit, or otherwise preclude tunneling through any of the five zones, even though seismic faults and contaminants exist throughout. With no accurate project definitions (need & purpose), no true feasibility studies, no examination of alternative transportation modes, or cost-benefit analyses conducted, the project was pushed forward through to the Scoping and environmental analysis stages.

Tunnel Description

The tunnel would be comprised of two 57-foot deep bored holes, approximately 150 feet underground and would require 200-foot wide concrete portals for entrances, exits, toll plazas and ramps. The portal ends would have about a half a mile of "cut & cover" excavation where the dirt is removed then filled back in. Ventilation towers and other structures may need to be built at surface level along the route to vent concentrated exhaust or it may just be blown out of the ends. The tunnels themselves would measure 4.9 miles in length and would be the longest road tunnels ever built in the United States.

The plan is to build the south portal in the City of El Sereno, north of Valley Boulevard and CSULA where hundreds of Caltrans-owned homes would be destroyed. The north portal will surface at Del Mar Blvd in Pasadena, right next to Huntington Memorial Hospital and Maranatha High School. The tunnel will only be accessible by the I-210 and SR-134 freeways and hence will not serve the community of Pasadena. On the south end, drivers must already be driving on the I-710 in order to access the tunnel. There will be no ramps at the portal ends or at any point along the 4.9 mile route.

Tunnel Cost Makes the Tolls Exorbitant

The cost of the project has been estimated by various sources to range from $1 billion and $14 billion and is expected be funded through a public-private partnership (PPP) and $780 million in Measure R funds. MTA is currently using the figure of $5.425 billion in their projections. It is predicted that the tunnel toll would be between $5 and $15 to use each way—a prohibitive expense for most commuters but not necessarily for trucking companies who could pass the cost on to consumers through increased prices. The resulting jobs created by the expansion, would be primarily for expert tunnel builders from outside the State or Country, less so for local citizens. 

A Toll Tunnel Increases Congestion

Building a new tolled roadway will not relieve congestion problems in the region and could actually exacerbate current conditions. Commuters will, almost certainly, continue to use local surface roads to avoid paying tunnel tolls. An analysis by the City of La Cañada Flintridge of three separate highway studies indicates that traffic will increase by 25% and the tunnel will open with a Level of Service classification of “F”, meaning failure or gridlock. Metro’s own forecasts project an increase by over 40% of vehicles on local streets.  Clearly, this massive development would present issues of enormous costs, health consequences due to poor air quality, traffic congestion, noise, and 10 years of disruption due to construction as well as introduce risk from earthquake, fire, flood, and terrorist attacks in the tunnel. Quality of life would change dramatically for all the communities surrounding this area, especially the small towns that would be in the crosshairs of “big city” developers who want to bring “progress” to the area.

Who is For and Who Opposes?

Completion of the SR-710 Extension is being moved forward by Caltrans, MTA, the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments (SGVCOG), the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), and the Cities of Alhambra, El Monte, Duarte and more. It is opposed by the Cities of South Pasadena, Sierra Madre, Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge and by countless community groups in Pasadena, El Sereno, Hermon, Mt. Washington, Glassell Park, Highland Park, Eagle Rock, La Crescenta, and Sunland-Tujunga. In addition, the Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution against portal construction in Zones 1 & 2, reflecting its opposition to building the tunnel within the boundary of the City of Los Angeles.  Metro and Caltrans have disregarded this resolution in their current plan.

Who Benefits?

The SR-710 Extension, whether by surface route or tunnel, will primarily benefit freight-transport vehicles that cross through these communities. Per a report conducted by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), there are currently 34,000 vehicles that leave the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach every day; 70% are trucks carrying cargo to locations outside the City. By 2020, it is estimated that the number will climb to 92,000 or more.  Forty percent of those trucks could choose to take the new tunnel but considerably more would if the Ports remained open 24 hours a day. By 2030, shipment by containers is expected to triple and miles driven by trucks will almost double from the year 2005 levels.


Traffic congestion is a problem in Los Angeles County but there are many other alternatives to building more freeways. One potential 21st century solution being successfully implemented throughout the United States is the development of intermodal-distribution logistic centers. These “inland ports” use rail lines to move goods from sea ports to outlying areas where the cargo is then loaded on trucks for distribution across the country. This would dramatically reduce the number of container trucks on our local streets and highways. And—for the same price as building large tunnels, the State can do 1,000 neighborhood upgrades at $5 million each, with much shorter timelines. Updating the existing transportation system through “multi-mode, low build” projects, will create jobs for local workers and reduce long-term disruption in our communities. It’s the smarter, more responsible way to go.

Please join us and say NO to the extension of the 710 Freeway. NO ONE’S back yard!

Compiled by Susan Bolan, La Crescenta and Jan SooHoo, La Cañada
Members of the No 710 Action Committee, no710extension@aol.com Updated 1-9-14