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, June 6, 2014

Environmental pollution linked to autism, schizophrenia, study shows


By Amanda Woerner, June 6, 2014


 The skyline of downtown Los Angeles through a layer of smog is seen in the distance from a rooftop in Hollywood, California, May 31, 2006.

Exposure to environmental pollution may cause brain changes that make people more vulnerable to developing autism or schizophrenia, according to a new study published in Environmental Heath Perspectives.

This research falls in line with a 2013 study published in JAMA Psychiatry, which demonstrated an epidemiological link between pollution and autism; the researchers found that children who lived in areas with high levels of traffic pollution seemed to be more likely to be diagnosed with the n
Now, researchers from the University of Rochester have uncovered the biological mechanism that may explain how pollution can put people at a higher risk for both autism and schizophrenia.

“From a toxicological point of view, most of the focus of air pollution research has been on the cardiopulmonary system – the heart and lungs,” study author Deborah Cory-Slechta, professor of environmental medicine at the University of Rochester, told FoxNews.com. “But I think it’s becoming increasingly clear that the adverse things happening there are also happening in the brain, and this may be adding to risks for neurodevelopmental disorders like autism that we hadn’t thought about before.”

Cory-Slechta and her colleagues executed several experiments to examine the effects of air pollution on different groups of young mice during a critical time in the brain’s development. Each group of mice was exposed to levels of air pollution equivalent to those seen in rush hour traffic.

After four hours of pollution exposure during two four-day periods, mice exposed to pollution experienced marked changes in behavior compared to mice living in an environment with filtered air.
“We see changes in learning produced by these exposures in males and females, and in levels of activity, and we saw deficits in memory in both males and females,” Cory-Slechta said. “We also had a measure of attention, looking at impulsive-like behaviors, which we only tested in males, and there too we saw the effects of postnatal exposure.”

These effects were lasting, with researchers reporting behavioral differences between the two groups of mice even 10 months after the initial pollution exposure.

The team also examined the brains of the mice exposed to pollution, and discovered rampant inflammation and enlargement of the ventricles – the chambers on either side of the brain containing cerebrospinal fluid.

In humans, enlarged ventricles are symptomatic of a brain condition called ventriculomegaly, which is accompanied by varying degrees of neurodevelopmental impairment. Furthermore, ventriculomegaly is often associated with damage to the corpus callosum – the white matter tracts sitting above the ventricles – which connect the two sides of the brain.

“[The corpus callosum] are important for processing cognitive kinds of behaviors, social behaviors and emotional behaviors,” Cory-Slechta said. “And autism is thought to be a disease in which that kind of connectivity is lost, and you also see ventricular enlargement in autism and schizophrenia as well.”

These brain changes were seen predominantly in male mice after pollution exposure, which is significant because men are more likely to be diagnosed with both autism and schizophrenia than women.

While most research on pollution focuses on large-particle pollution – the only type monitored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – this research focused on the effects of exposure to lesser-known superfine particles.

“That kind of air pollution produces inflammation, it is going to produce inflammation peripherally and in the brain as well. And when you produce inflammation in the brain, you can kill cells there,” Cory-Slechta said.

Overall, Cory-Slechta hopes that more research into the connection between autism and pollution exposure may lead to a better understanding of the damaging effects of superfine pollution particles. Furthermore, it could offer clues as to why some people may be more susceptible to developing autism than others.

“I think in particular autism has been very difficult to discover the ideology of, so to speak, we know there are genetic underpinnings but they don’t fully account for [everything], and the leads in terms of, ‘Are there environmental exposures?’ have been relatively few,” Cory-Schleta said. “And it might be interesting if it turns out air pollution can contribute.”
eurodevelopmental disorder.

Why your commute is getting worse

One thing that will get worse as the economy improves? Your commute.


By Ben Brody, June 6, 2014

us city congestion

 In 2013, Americans on average spent more than 20 additional hours in traffic, losing two-and-a-half work days to crawling on the road, according to a report from GPS device maker TomTom (TOM2). The delay was up more than two hours from the year before.

 As more people hit the road traveling to new jobs, expect congestion to get worse.

During the economic doldrums of the past few years, congestion improved in many cities because fewer people had jobs.

"That was one way to deal with congestion -- have a recession," says Rocky Moretti, director of policy and research at The Road Information Program, an organization that studies road traffic. But, he said, "as the economy comes back, so does congestion."

Drivers in Los Angeles, long known for its traffic, suffer the worst. Angelinos spend 40 extra minutes every day dealing with clogged freeways. That amounts to 90 hours, or more than 11 work days, every year.

Only four of the major U.S. cities examined in the TomTom report -- Honolulu, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and Louisville -- have seen traffic congestion improve.

 Only four of the major U.S. cities examined in the TomTom report -- Honolulu, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and Louisville -- have seen traffic congestion improve.

The time lost to traffic has a price. Divers incurred up to $832 in extra costs last year, including fuel, according to TRIP.

Related story: The other Washington gridlock: Traffic jams
In most cities, Tuesday is the worst morning to ride in to work, and Thursday is the worst evening to head home. .

Moretti of TRIP said municipalities can improve traffic through a "balanced approach," including building roads, boosting reliance on public transportation and managing roads with better signs and signaling.

For now, though, the economy seems to be growing faster than government can improve roads.
"Economic growth is starting to pick up," Moretti said. "That's obviously a very positive trend, but you do need the transportation system to accommodate that growth."

As bad as U.S. cities are, they're a ride in the country compared to Moscow. The Russian capital is the worst of the 138 global cities examined by TomTom, with drivers losing more than 16 work days a year in the stop-and-go.

Big rig, dump truck, minivan collide in McClure Tunnel in Santa Monica


June 6, 2014

One person died and seven others were injured when two big rigs and a minivan collided in the McClure Tunnel in Santa Monica.

One person died and seven others were injured when a big rig, a dump truck and a minivan collided in the McClure Tunnel in Santa Monica.

The crash was reported in eastbound lanes in the McClure Tunnel at 12:37 p.m. Friday. Eight people were rushed to area hospitals, where one person died. One person remains in critical condition, and six others are listed in moderate condition.

"It appears one of the vehicles didn't see stopped traffic ahead in the McClure Tunnel, and that was probably the result of this collision," said a CHP officer on scene.

All lanes of the 10 Freeway were closed between Pacific Coast Highway and Lincoln Boulevard. At 2 p.m., eastbound lanes were reopened, but westbound lanes remained closed.

Authorities say the tunnel is closed for the accident investigation until further notice.

County votes to sue over high-speed rail review


By John Cox and James Burger, June 4, 2014

 An artist's conception of the bullet train speeding under the Tehachapi Pass.

The Kern County Board of Supervisors voted this week to file a high-speed rail lawsuit its attorney previously said it wouldn’t win.

Authorized Tuesday on a 4-1 vote behind closed doors, the suit is expected to allege that an environmental review approved last month by the California High-Speed Rail Authority violates provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act.
County Counsel Theresa Goldner said Wednesday the suit will target the rail authority’s review of the 114-mile alignment proposed between Fresno and Bakersfield. She said the suit will be filed no later than Friday to meet a Monday deadline.

On May 20, Goldner told the board that such a lawsuit was a bad idea. She said her office looked into the possibility of a lawsuit but at that point had not identified any information that would “indicate that such a suit would prevail in court.”

But since then, she said, her office has taken a closer look in consultation with high-speed rail opponents including Kings County and others.

Goldner said the lawsuit will allege:

• The environmental review relied on an inadequate project description that left out things like electrical infrastructure changes, the location of staging areas and parking facilities;
• Inconsistencies between the draft review and the final version, such as a 14 million cubic yard, 127 percent difference in the amount of fill material needed to complete the Fresno to Bakersfield section;
• “Improper piecemealing” of the project’s impacts — specifically, a failure to consider the combined effects of the Fresno-to-Bakersfield section and the Fresno-to-Merced portion;
• The review did not analyze the route’s cumulative impacts on air quality; and
• The draft review neglected to look at how the project would limit access to Central Park at Mill Creek and the Kern River Parkway.

The sole vote against filing the suit was cast by board Chairwoman Leticia Perez, who said Wednesday she doesn’t think a CEQA lawsuit is the best tool to use to hold the rail authority accountable.

The county is already involved in a lawsuit, now under appeal, challenging the way the authority plans to use voter-approved bonds to fund the project. Perez said the rail authority must be held accountable for the way those bonds are spent.

“I feel the bond validation (lawsuit) is really the place to put our efforts. It’s where we’re going to get the most bang for our buck,” Perez said.

The city of Bakersfield is also planning to sue the rail authority over the rail authority’s environmental review. The City Council approved the filing of such a suit on a 6-1 vote behind closed doors May 21.

City Manager Alan Tandy called the environmental review a “horribly prepared document” that was “deficient on its face.”

The rail authority did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Gold Line extension to Claremont left off funding list by MTA


By Steve Scauzillo, June 5, 2014


 A new Interconnected Corridor Management System will be tried out on the 210 freeway, that will give planners real-time traffic counts and allow them to adjust ramp meters, message signs and trains and buses in and around 210 freeway from Pasadena to Duarte Monday, May 20, 2014.

Members of the agency in charge of extending the Gold Line to Claremont were shocked this week to learn the project is not included on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Short Range Transportation Plan.

Already, the omission has rekindled the bad blood between the independent Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority and MTA, known as Metro, that began when the last 12-mile extension of the northerly portion of the rail line was left out of Metro’s long range planning in 2012.

Members of the Construction Authority board, including Metro board member John Fasana, a Duarte City Councilman, voted unanimously in May to direct Metro staff to list the full project in the plan.

So far, Metro has only given more than $851 million for the project’s first extension from east Pasadena to the Azusa/Glendora border, under construction and scheduled to be completed in September 2015. Monies for the entire project extension to Claremont and possibly beyond to Montclair or the Ontario International Airport are not mentioned.

“The board said in the motion that the Gold Line to Claremont should be included in the 10-year (short range) plan and should be on their future projects list,” explained Lisa Levy Bush, spokesperson for the Construction Authority.

The total cost of the Gold Line Foothill extension to Claremont is about $1.86 billion, a number the Metro staff does not recognize in the new document, she said.

But under Measure R, a half-cent sales tax passed by voters in 2008 for transportation projects, the full project to Claremont was listed. The fact that voters approved the entire project is ammunition being used by board members and members of the state Legislature to get Metro to amend the short-range plan by including the entire Gold Line extension along the foothills of Los Angeles County.

“I am extremely disappointed and frustrated that the plan totally ignores a regional priority — completion of the Gold Line Foothill Extension to Claremont,” wrote Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, in a letter to Metro’s Robert Calix, transportation planning manager, dated May 29.

Holden goes on to say that the extension was listed by Metro as a capital project in the 2009 Long Range Transportation Plan as “first in line for any new funding sources outside federal New Starts,” yet the latest document doesn’t include the cost of the project to Claremont nor does it mention completion of the “voter-mandated project.”

Doug Tessitor, chairman of the Gold Line Foothill Construction Authority Board, said it seems like every time the Gold Line takes a step forward, such as nearing completion of its first foothill extension, Metro wants to pull on the reins.

“We’ve always been the ugly step-child. They don’t want us to go to the dance,” he said in an interview Thursday.

Tessitor said he believes the board is more open to a regional approach to rail projects. He said new Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has tremendous power on the Metro board, has indicated his support for the foothill extension.

“I don’t think it is coming from the board. I think it is the Metro staff led probably by Art Leahy. I don’t know what his animus is against our project,” Tessitor said.

Metro CEO Leahy has been vocal about not supporting the Foothill extension to Claremont, Montclair or Ontario. At a San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments meeting in June 2012 he said: “The Gold Line is funded to Azusa. Period. There is no more money for the Gold Line (Foothill Extension).”

Metro’s short-range plan is an effort to appeal for more tax dollars, possibly through an additional tax measure for transportation set for the November 2016 ballot in Los Angeles County.

 If additional funds were available, the plan calls for speeding up the completion dates for the following Metro projects:

Green Line Extension from 2035 to 2023; Westside subway (Purple Line Extension) from 2036 to 2025; LAX Metro Connector from 2028 to 2023; Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor from 2039 to 2027.

It also calls for speeding up a planned extension of the Eastside Gold Line from East Los Angeles to either South El Monte along the 60 Freeway corridor or to Whittier along Washington Boulevard from 2035 to 2025.

Comments on the Metro short-range plan are being taken until June 18. The Metro board is scheduled to vote on the plan at its July board meeting.

Glendora and Montclair have also written letters to Metro asking that the short-range plan include the full extension, Tessitor said.