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

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Leg update: Highway Trust Fund still going broke but three-position bike racks bill in good shape


By Steve Hymon, July 2, 2014

Two pieces of legislative news below from Metro CEO Art Leahy and the agency’s government relations team.

The first is bad news. Due to Congress’ inability to pass a long-range transportation funding bill, the Highway Trust Fund is going broke and states on average could lose 28 percent of federal funding if nothing is done. Blah. If this keeps up, we’ll have more soon on potential impacts to Metro.
In case you’re wondering about a solution: Congress needs to either raise the federal gas tax (it hasn’t been increased in two decades) or find other revenues to keep the Highway Trust Fund in the black.
The second is good news: state legislation that would allow bike racks that could hold three bikes on 40-foot buses is moving along nicely.

The update:
U.S. Department of Transportation Announces Planned Cuts In Highway Trust Fund Payments

As shared in a Legislative Alert yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office is estimating that it will take over $8 billion in additional revenues to keep the federal Highway Trust Fund solvent through December 31, 2014.

Earlier today, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx issued letters to major transportation stakeholders around the nation outlining how the U.S. Department of Transportation anticipates Highway Trust Fund payments will be distributed if Congress does not act to make the fund solvent in the coming weeks.

Secretary Foxx stated that the Federal Highway Administration will begin implementing cash management procedures starting August 1, 2014. No specific date has yet been set to implement cash management procedures for the Mass Transit Account.

States will receive their first notice of available funds on August 11, 2014 and thereafter every two weeks as the federal gas tax receipts are deposited into the Highway Trust Fund.

According to Secretary Foxx, “on average, states will see a 28 percent drop in federal transportation dollars. Depending on how they manage the funds, each state will feel the effects differently, but everyone will feel the impact sooner or later.”

To read the correspondence from Secretary Foxx on the federal Highway Trust Fund please click here. We are currently compiling a document that will be shared with all Board members, that includes an assessment of what a slowdown in federal transportation funds would mean for our agency.

State Legislative Update

AB 2707 (Chau) – Three Position Bike Racks
 Yesterday the Assembly approved AB 2707, Metro’s sponsored bill, which would allow three position bike racks to be installed on our 40’ buses, passed the Senate floor unanimously 36 to 0. The bill now heads back to the Assembly floor for concurrence vote.

Murray on Tunnel: "We're Going to Have to Look at Alternatives."

Mayor Ed Murray says that if the state and its contractors can't fix the tunnel machine, the city will look at alternatives to the deep-bore tunnel.


Last night, at a taping of Seattle Channel's "Ask the Mayor" at the New Holly Gathering Hall in Southeast Seattle, Mayor Ed Murray said that if the companies that are digging the downtown deep-bore tunnel can't figure out a way to fix their Hitachi-built tunnel boring machine (AKA Bertha) and get it digging again (the machine has been stalled since December, and the state department of transportation has confirmed that tunneling won't get underway again until next March at the earliest), the city will have to "step in with alternate plans," like a cut-and-cover tunnel. 

Asked about the stalled tunnel project, Murray said, "What has happened with Bertha is a pretty significant problem. Now, megaprojects generally have pretty significant problems at some point. This is design-build, which means the companies that took it on are responsible for trying to make it work. If they can’t, we have to step in with alternate plans.

"This is a very important corridor and it’s an incredible opportunity for us to restore our waterfront. But it’s not going to be easy. It’s very complicated. I’m not going to sugar coat this. This is a significant challenge. If the companies are not able to fix Bertha then we will work cooperatively with the state to make that work.
"Is it a cut and cover? We definitely need the capacity through there. So we’re going to have to look at alternatives. But I think right now the only alternative is to work with the companies [to ensure] that they get the tunnel dug in a reasonable amount of time."

We have a call out to Murray's office.

710 Freeway opponents and supporters take action


By Kyle Garcia, July 2, 2014

Photos by Matt Siriouthay

Supporters and opponents of a 710 extension are gearing up for actions in the next week. Protesters
against the 710 Freeway tunnel extension will hold Friday a rally in South Pasadena. On July 10, Alhambra will host its second annual "710 Day" celebration.

Protesters against the 710 extension argue that the construction of a tunnel connecting the 710 Freeway in Alhambra to the 210 Freeway in Pasadena will compromise community safety and pose health risks to the region. Residents and city officials from La Canada Flintridge, La Crescenta, Sierra Madre, Glendale, Burbank, Pasadena, San Marino, Monterey Park, and Los Angeles are expected to attend the protest on Friday, according to a statement from the No 710 Action Committee
Alhambra's "710 Day" event will take place on Fremont and Valley Boulevard from 4-7 p.m., and will include games, live entertainment, food trucks, and informational presentations about the tunnel.
Councilman Luis Ayala encouraged residents to attend the event and learn more about the 710 Freeway extension. "I encourage all residents in Alhambra and any other city to become informed about the issue," Ayala said, "not just based on what any other side says."

City officials in Alhambra support closing the 710 Freeway gap with an underground tunnel. The tunnel alternative is the only extension that has secured funding and is expected to significantly reduce traffic on Fremont Avenue, said Alhambra Councilman Steve Placido in June.

“One in four cars that gets off the 710 on Valley goes down Fremont to the 210 in Pasadena," Placido said during a June 3 unveiling of pro-710 banners along Fremont. "That’s 12,000 cars a day that can be taken off the street."

The No 710 Action Committee says the tunnel will not solve a traffic problem, but cause another one. Opponents to the tunnel compare the proposal to projects in Seattle and Boston that cost billions of dollars more than estimated and have taken longer than expected to complete.

"California needs realistic projects that create jobs and not endless studies to nowhere," said the No 710 Action Committee statement.

Metro is currently conducting an environmental survey of the five extension alternatives and will report its findings in February 2015.

Contractor for 405 freeway work sues MTA over cost overruns, delays


By Dakota Smith, July 1, 2014

 The under construction Wilshire to the northbound 405 onramp in West Los Angeles on Aug. 22, 2013.

The lengthy delays and cost overruns surrounding the massive 405 Freeway widening project in the Sepulveda Pass are at the heart of a new lawsuit targeting the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Contractor Kiewit is suing Metro, alleging the county transportation agency caused “massive amounts of extra work” on the $1 billion project. Omaha, Neb.,-based Kiewit is the sole contractor on the new carpool lane, which connects the 10 and 101 freeways along the 405, and opened in May.

Kiewit is seeking in excess of $400 million for out-of-pocket costs, according to court documents. The contractor wants an independent, three-member dispute review board to evaluate its claims against Metro.

The lawsuit, filed in mid-May, cites numerous problems, including Metro’s failure to relocate utility lines from the area and to manage the Mulholland Bridge redesign. It also blames the agency for the 2011 collapse of a large retaining wall.

“Kiewit is asserting that those issues are the contractual responsibility of MTA,” said attorney Jim Moye, who represents Kiewit.

Opened in May, the 405 project added a new carpool lane to the northbound side of the freeway, part of an effort to ease traffic through the notoriously congested area.

Kiewit was hired in 2009 to oversee the project, which quickly encountered numerous hurdles. Workers had to remove at least 9 miles of unexpected utility lines, the lawsuit states. A legal claim filed last year by a Bel Air landowner forced the redesign of a freeway on-ramp near the Getty Museum, while the retaining wall collapse also delayed work.

The project finished at least a year behind schedule. Amid the setbacks, U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman in 2013 called for a review by the Federal Highway Administration. The agency named the retaining wall collapse as the biggest contributing factor to its delayed completion in a report released last summer.

While disputes over cost overruns aren’t uncommon in such large projects, in this case, an independent three-member dispute review board was supposed to be one of the mechanisms to resolve claims by Kiewit and Metro, said Kiewit spoksman Bob Kula.

Kiewit’s push for a hearing in front of the board prompted the lawsuit, Kula said. Metro staff has “made it clear that they aren’t pursuing that option,” Kula said.

In a statement, Metro spokesman Dave Sotero said that “Metro does not believe this claim complies with those contract requirements. However, Metro continues to negotiate in good faith with Kiewit to resolve specific outstanding claims under terms of its contract.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who represents this portion of Los Angeles and has publicly blamed Kiewit for the project’s delays, declined to comment Tuesday.

Kiewit is still working on the final aspects of the carpool lane, Kula said, and should be finished in the next few months.

Losing competitor for 99 tunnel making drill bigger than Bertha

Bertha won’t be the world’s largest tunneling machine much longer. Industry leaders say the Seattle stall won’t stop demand for big highway tubes.


By Mike Lindblom, June 27, 2014

Mud spills from a clamshell scoop Friday near the stalled Highway 99 tunnel-boring machine. Crews are building a ring-shaped shaft 120 feet deep and 83 feet in diameter to reach the buried drill. They push steel tubes into the soil and extract the muck within, making room for concrete to be poured down the tubes. As of Friday morning, 31 of the 80 new pillars that will form the shaft were completed. In September, the tunnel drill is supposed to grind through the south side of the shaft into open air, where a crane is to lift the entire 2,000-ton cutter drive to the surface for repairs.

 Mud spills from a clamshell scoop Friday near the stalled Highway 99 tunnel-boring machine. Crews are building a ring-shaped shaft 120 feet deep and 83 feet in diameter to reach the buried drill. They push steel tubes into the soil and extract the muck within, making room for concrete to be poured down the tubes. As of Friday morning, 31 of the 80 new pillars that will form the shaft were completed. In September, the tunnel drill is supposed to grind through the south side of the shaft into open air, where a crane is to lift the entire 2,000-ton cutter drive to the surface for repairs.

 LOS ANGELES — By the time Bertha reaches downtown Seattle, hopefully next year, it may lose the title of world’s largest tunnel-boring machine.

Despite local anxiety about the current seven-month stall — and a complicated repair ahead — the tunneling industry worldwide continues to burrow undaunted.

German company Herrenknecht is manufacturing a machine 57 feet, 9 inches in diameter near Hong Kong. That’s 5 inches wider than the $80 million Hitachi Zosen machine that stalled in December while drilling the Highway 99 tunnel.

The new champ will bore part of a road tunnel connecting the northwestern New Territories district to the Hong Kong airport, on Lantau Island.

This follows boring of the giant Sparvo tunnel in Italy, and one now being drilled under the Bosporus, to link Asia to Europe. Herrenknecht says it has even designed a 62-foot tunnel-boring machine (TBM) for a proposed bore in St. Petersburg, Russia.

“The latest innovations underscore the high potential of further development in mechanized tunneling,” said Karin B├Ąppler, a senior executive at Herrenknecht, at the North American Tunneling Conference in Los Angeles this week.

What’s driving the growth, she said, is a new demand for tunnels big enough to contain stacked highways.

In Seattle, thousands of citizens didn’t even want a tunnel, though a majority of voters said yes in a belated advisory ballot. Some cherish the views from the elevated but old Alaskan Way Viaduct. Others are bitter the city missed a chance to scrap the highway and kick the car habit.

Bertha’s repairs and delay costs could exceed $125 million, an amount contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) has sought from the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), which denied the request. It may take years before the question of who pays what share is definitively settled.

Cost overruns here won’t chill other projects, said numerous officials gathered in L.A. A few mentioned “rumors in the industry” that STP’s goal of a March restart would slip. But mainly the key point was that, eventually, just about every tunnel gets finished. One tunnel’s flaws become the next region’s lesson.

Jamal Rostami, engineering professor at Penn State, said: “You’re going to have cost overruns. It’s almost inevitable. This is normal in the project, as it would be on any capital project. When you’re pushing the envelope, there are unknowns that come in. They need to be worked out.

“If you look at the tunneling industry throughout the world, they’ve been going up to larger TBMs,” he added. Only 15 years ago, the largest was 12 meters wide (39 feet), and now they’re approaching 18 meters, he said.

So, how does Chris Dixon, STP project director, feel about his machine being surpassed?
“Haven’t heard about that,” he said Friday.

Matt Preedy, deputy Highway 99 administrator for WSDOT, said, “It’s never been about being the world’s biggest,” adding it was only a matter of time before a larger drill came along.

Regardless, the industry seems fascinated with the width record, which gives Bertha its celebrity.
Shannon & Wilson, a Seattle geotechnical firm, showed video in its L.A. booth that mapped the location where Bertha stalled.

Joe O’Carroll of Parsons Brinckerhoff, the state’s design consultant, rolled an animation of the Seattle route longer than he planned — so his talk could end with a reassuring image of the cutterhead turning.

“That picture is something we want to see happening, for everybody in our industry, as soon as possible,” he told the audience.

Martin Herrenknecht, the German firm’s founder, yearned for the Highway 99 challenge in 2010, but failed to win the job. A year ago, he publicly questioned STP’s choice of machine designs, as reported by Tunneltalk.com: “I wish you good luck, but you will have problems,” he said.

The Seattle project should have used a slurry-type machine to soften the soil, plus a rock-crushing device, he said. The article lightheartedly noted Herrenknecht was “about to lose the record for the largest machine in world.”

Meanwhile on the Seattle waterfront, crews steadily build a ring-shaped access shaft, where a crane will reach down 120 feet, and hoist Bertha’s entire 2,000-ton front end to street level for repairs. These include a new, heavier bearing, and steel plates to reinforce it.

Dixon said if everything goes perfectly, the machine might be reassembled and bore again as early as December — three months before his official March goal. But that’s possible only if the machine doesn’t require lengthy tests, he said.

WSDOT isn’t grasping at this sort of news, since STP is in the early phase of making an access shaft.
“It’s too early to say,” Preedy said.