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, July 24, 2014

Other actions taken by the Board of Directors today, including motion on Orange Line upgrades


By Steve Hymon, July 24, 2014

Other actions taken by the Metro Board at their meeting today:
•The Board approved a motion by Board Members Paul Krekorian, Eric Garcetti, Michael Antonovich, Zev Yaroslavsky, John Fasana and Ara Najarian directing Metro staff to study potential upgrades to the Orange Line, including adding more articulated buses, grade-separated crossings, improved traffic signal priority and rail conversion. The motion also calls for the study of extending the Orange Line to Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena, where it would connect or offer a transfer to the Gold Line.

As I’ve noted before, this is an unfunded project and that converting the Orange Line to rail is not in Metro’s short- or long-range plans at this time.Metro Board Member Paul Krekorian noted that only two of Metro’s 80 rail stations are in the San Fernando Valley, where nearly 20 percent of county residents live. He said that the Orange Line’s ridership demonstrates that Valley residents are willing to take transit. Metro staff said they will return to the Board this fall with more details on how they plan to proceed with the Orange Line study. Motion

An amendment to the motion by Board Members Pam O’Connor and Don Knabe directs Metro staff to develop protocols for adding unfunded projects to the long-range plan — a need brought in part by Metro studying future ballot measure that could potentially fund new projects. As the amendment notes, some Measure R road and transit projects remain underfunded or are facing higher expenses to build, adding to the difficulty of building projects that are not set to receive Measure R funds. Amendment
•A separate motion by Board Members Michael Antonovich, Ara Najarian, Mark Ridley-Thomas and Ara Najarian directs Metro to continue the planning process for expanding bus rapid transit to eligible corridors, including Vermont Avenue and a line connecting the Orange Line to the Gold Line. The motion asks for a report from Metro staff this fall with a staffing, funding and implementation plan on expanding BRT. Motion

In an amendment to that motion by Metro Board Chair Eric Garcetti, Metro was directed to make such BRT projects the first priority when Metro pursues federal Small Starts or Very Small Starts funding. The amendment also asked for a center-running alternative where feasible in the study of the Vermont and Burbank-Pasadena BRT.

•The Board approved a motion by Board Members Eric Garcetti, Mike Bonin, Mark Ridley-Thomas, Diane DuBois, John Fasana and Jackie Dupont-Walker to begin environmental studies of adding ExpressLanes to the 105 freeway between the 605 and 405 freeways. Motion and earlier Source post

•The Board approved Metro’s short-range transportation plan, which looks at transportation funding over the next decade. The plan basically echoes the same priorities and timelines laid out in the 30-year long-range plan approved by the Board in 2010. It’s important to understand that the plan does not fund any transit projects that are not already funded.

The Board also approved a motion by Board Members Mike Bonin, Pam O’Connor, John Fasana and Mark Ridley-Thomas directing Metro to build a strategy that would provide a regular funding stream for active transportation projects — i.e. pedestrian improvements and bike lanes and other infrastructure. Motion

•The approved a Small Business Pilot Assistance Program for merchants between 48th and 60th streets along the Crenshaw/LAX Line alignment. The motion “Authorize[s] the CEO to execute a Memorandum of Understanding with the City of Los Angeles Economic and Workforce Development Department to create a Business Solutions Center providing staff and one-on-one case management for technical assistance and access to capital services for approximately 120 small businesses between 48th and 60th Streets, as well as information and referrals for businesses along the entire alignment at a walk-in location.” Staff report

•The Board approved a motion by Board Members Eric Garcetti, Gloria Molina, Don Knabe and Jackie Dupont-Walker to allocate $4 million within the Regional Connector’s existing budget to build a pedestrian bridge from the 2nd/Hope Station to street level at Grand Avenue. The motion asks Metro staff for a report back this fall on efforts to ensure the bridge is built. The Board approved the bridge concept as part of its approval in April of a contractor to build the 1.9-mile underground light rail line in downtown Los Angeles that will connect the Blue, Expo and Gold Lines. Motion

•The Board approved a contract amendment up to $3 million with Walsh/Shea Corridor Constructors to make modifications to the Crenshaw/LAX Line to accommodate the eventual construction of a new station at Aviation/96th Street. The station would be built to connect to the LAX people mover that will take passengers to the airport’s terminals. Staff report. The Board also approved a motion by Board Members Don Knabe and Mark Ridley-Thomas asking for a plan by Metro to accelerate construction of the new station to 2019.

LA and SF: Dueling Transport Visions


By James Poulos, July 22, 2014


DIFFERENCES-In San Francisco, a bus project over a decade in the making finally receives its massive environmental impact report. In Los Angeles, the mayor announces his first executive directive, launching a “Great Streets” program. It’s a tale of two cities — and two visions of the future of urban planning. 
In both San Francisco and LA, the political leadership harbors a strong interest in moving away from car-first living and working. The similarities and differences between the two cities, however, have set up an important contrast between the policies officeholders wish to use to get there. 

Public transportation is already central for many San Franciscans; Angelenos typically rely far more on automobiles. San Francisco is notoriously dense; LA, famously sprawling.  Partly because of those different growth patterns, and partly because of tradition, although San Francisco neighborhoods have their own distinct identity, LA’s neighborhoods are bigger, more autonomous, and more self-contained. 

Residents often choose to spend much of their time near their homes, not shuttling from one side of town to the other unless their work requires it. 

Los Angeles, in other words, is relatively distinct among America’s largest cities. Rather than an industrial-age city planned out block by block, constrained by geography, contemporary L.A. is a post-modern patchwork — a veritable network of villages that lacks a single core where residents routinely cluster on foot. 

Back to basics for Los Angeles 

That’s why many have taken notice of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “Great Streets” initiative, which is billed specifically as a natural outgrowth of LA’s special urban geography and culture. In a speech debuting the program, Garcetti took pains to include “car, bike, foot and transit” among the forms of transportation he hoped to encourage in focusing on revitalizing key LA boulevards. 

Garcetti has framed the initiative as a showcase of some of his biggest goals as mayor: beefing up both LA’s mass transit and its city streets. In describing his would-be legacy, Garcetti told The Washington Post he envisioned Los Angeles as “a place that has a great public transportation system, a world-class airport, that has made a huge dent and is on the way to ending homelessness, that paved its streets and that built up great neighborhoods.” 

Relative to San Francisco, augmenting LA’s transit system is low-hanging fruit. Garcetti’s most substantial rail project would include improvements to LAX, in particular a new metro line extension. 
Those plans were recently approved by the board of directors of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, which expects to fund the work with over $300 million raised through sales taxes voted in five years ago under Measure R. 

Garcetti has found himself in an unusual political position. In taking over from Antonio Villaraigosa’s largely disappointing tenure, he has been able to focus on smaller, more practical measures than his predecessor. 

Critics have expressed boredom over his approach, but Garcetti has shown an understanding of its advantages. Having run on a “back to basics” pledge, Garcetti now has the ability to advance projects favored by Democrats, like mass transit, on a scale modest enough to avoid the kind of widespread backlash that Gov. Jerry Brown’s cherished high-speed rail project has attracted statewide. 

Red tape for San Francisco 

New transportation projects face a different fate in San Francisco. There, a planned bus system upgrade spanning just two miles has racked up an expected cost of $126 million, including associated street modifications. The so-called Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit plan was approved back in 2003 through the city’s Proposition K. The scheme anticipated a 2009 build date. 

But San Francisco’s bureaucratic hurdles wound up consuming six years and over $7 million; only now has the project received its required environmental impact report, which exceeds several thousand pages in volumes and supplements. 

Ironically, the Van Ness project triggered the city’s most demanding level of reportage because arcane rules factor a project’s impact on drive times into the definition of environmental impact. That has environmentalists frustrated — but an upcoming change to California regulations will substitute the drive-time criterion with a so-called “vehicle miles traveled” metric. 

Environmentalists believe the change will shift the regulatory agenda away from reducing drive delays and toward reducing driving altogether. 

It’s a development that could embolden the kinds of urban planners who embrace the currently fashionable vision of cities as centralized, high-density places dependent on mass transit. That, in turn, would likely bring Los Angeles to the fore as proof that cities need not conform to top-down, idea-driven planning in order to update and expand their infrastructure.

Metro Board approves $1.6-billion contract to construct first phase of the Purple Line Extension subway


By Steve Hymon, July 24, 2014

After a long discussion, the Metro Board of Directors voted 9 to 3 to approve a $1.6-billion contract with Skanska, Traylor and Shea, a Joint Venture (STS), on Thursday morning to construct the 3.9-mile first phase of the Purple Line Extension subway. The first phase — with a total budget of $2.7 billion — is currently forecast to open in 2023.

No votes were from Metro Board Members Michael Antonovich, Don Knabe and Mark Ridley-Thomas. Board Member Gloria Molina was absent for the vote.

The contract approval was a key step forward for one of the cornerstone projects to be funded in part by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008. A $1.25-billion federal New Starts grant is also paying for the project.

The extension will push the subway from its current terminus at Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue to Wilshire and La Cienega Boulevard in Beverly Hills. Three new stations will be constructed at Wilshire/La Brea, Wilshire/Fairfax and Wilshire/La Cienega.

The procurement process began in June 2013; details are in the above Metro staff report. Three firms bid on the contract. Proposals were evaluated based on project management, technical approach and price. There was considerable discussion by the Metro Board on the issue of how the bids were evaluated and the weight that should — or should not — be given to price.

The two firms that did not win the contract have filed protests with Metro. The Board is allowed to award the contract pending the timely resolution of the protests.

Metro staff noted that while the Skanska, Traylor and Shea bid was the most expensive bid by almost $193 million, Metro staff also believes “this team offers best opportunity to deliver the project on time and on budget” — a promise reiterated by the winning bidder’s future project manager. The companies involved have also worked on the second phase of the Expo Line, the Gold Line Foothill Extension and the city of Los Angeles’ North East Interceptor Sewer tunnel.

Metro Board Member Don Knabe said that $192.5 million was too much “to leave on the table” without getting more information on the bids and the protests. Other Board Members indicated that they had faith in the agency’s technical evaluations and/or they did not want to potentially delay the project by taking too long to approve a construction contract.

Utility relocations for the Purple Line Extension’s have been underway since last year. The most recent construction timeline is below. The timeline assumes that the cities of Los Angeles and Beverly Hills grant Metro the work hours that it needs.

Metro continues to explore ways to accelerate the second phase to Century City and third phase to Westwood via America Fast Forward, which would increase federal funding for transit if Congress were to embrace the entire concept and fully fund it. Metro is also exploring a possible ballot measure in 2016 that could potentially accelerate Measure R projects.

Metro already has an unprecedented four rail projects under construction: the six-mile second phase of the Expo Line between Culver City and downtown Santa Monica, the 11.5-mile Gold Line Foothill Extension between eastern Pasadena and the Azusa/Glendora border, the 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX Line between the Expo Line and Green Line and the 1.9-mile Regional Connector that will connect the Blue, Expo and Gold Lines in downtown Los Angeles. All four projects are receiving funding from Measure R.

Flexibility key to battling poor geology in Turkey


By Peter Kenyon, July 23, 2014

(Jan SooHoo on Facebook, July 24, 2014: About 6 miles, but only 33 feet in diameter. The difficulties with this tunnel in Turkey demonstrate that the unpredictable is predictable (a la Seattle), and that schedule overruns are the norm, not the exception.)

 Twenty-seven months after TBM launch, breakthrough into the mined cavern marks completion of hard-fought tunnelling on the Kargi Hydroelectric Project in the remote hills several hours drive north from the Turkish capital Ankara. In this special report, Peter Kenyon talks to Robbins Field Service Representative Yunus Alpagut in Turkey about how multiple challenges were overcome by the contractor and the machine manufacturer working as a team.

  TBM breakthrough after 27 months

It is the nature of tunnelling that the tunnel is always finished – eventually. But almost from the first turn of the cutterhead on the 10m diameter Robbins double shield machine selected for excavation of 11.8km of headrace tunnel on the Kargi Kizilirmak Hydroelectric Project, it became evident to both the contractor and the machine manufacturer that geology along the alignment would be much worse than predicted.

Completion of tunnelling following breakthrough of the TBM on July 5 (2014) has been all the sweeter for this, despite coming six months behind the originally scheduled completion date, though within a rescheduled extension agreed between contractor Gülermak of Turkey, and the client, Statkraft.

Major machine modifications, extensive hand-mining of bypass tunnels to repeatedly free the TBM from collapsed ground during the very early days of the drive, a complete change of tunnelling strategy in mid-drive, alongside sheer determination to get the job done, all proved necessary to get a tough task back on track.

“Both Robbins and Gülermak gained valuable experience here in the difficult geology,” said Yunus Alpagut, the Country Representative of Robbins in Turkey and one of the members of the team. “It has been a good lesson for tunnelling in such conditions. The important thing here has been that if all parties click – the contractor, the client and the TBM manufacturer – everything goes well, but if there is a discrepancy there is a headache: this we learned."

Things started to go wrong at the start of the drive in April 2012, when after the first 80m of progress the machine became stuck in a section of collapsed ground. This required the first of an eventual six hand-mined bypass tunnels in the first 2,000m of the drive. With conditions alternating between solid rock and running ground, the machine stalled on a number of occasions and by Spring 2013 barely 2,800m had been excavated.

Breakthrough into the mined cavern
Breakthrough into the mined cavern
“At the start it was foreseen that the first 2.5km would be mixed ground conditions of self-supported but fractured rock. After 80m, and with the backup still mostly outside the tunnel, the TBM hit an unexpected fault line,” said Alpagut. “It was blocky rock in clay and sand, and it was difficult to control the TBM. It was thought afterwards that this was just bad luck and so the team continued in the same manner. But in the coming six months five more bypass tunnels would be needed because of running ground, squeezing ground, and in the worst cases, the cutterhead was coming up against a mixed face of half solid rock and half soil, sand and water. This caused delay and forced some major modifications to the machine.”

Chief among the modifications was installation of reducers to give a two-speed gearbox, thus enabling normal speed rotation of the cutterhead at 7 rpm for rock sections, but with the capacity to switch to a kind of EPB mode by reducing cutterhead rotation, increasing torque, and converting to single shield mode to pass successfully through sections of loose or squeezing ground. “We would advance in this configuration for several metres, before reverting back to normal double shield mode. There were many such interruptions for switching over to handle soft soils,” said Alpagut.

Lining redesign

In the face of such variable ground conditions came a decision, mid-drive, to change the specification of the primary lining.

Robbins 10m diameter double shield
Robbins 10m diameter double shield
11.8km headrace tunnel alignment
11.8km headrace tunnel alignment
Initially the lining of the TBM tunnel was divided into two methods. First a precast segmental lining in rings 400mm thick for an o.d. of 9.5m and in a 6+1 configuration for the first 2.5km of the TBM heading through anticipated mixed conditions; and rockbolting and shotcreting support for the remaining 9.3km through more competent conditions. In the event it was decided to install the segmental lining for the full length of the TBM-mined tunnel. This was a decision that caused further delays when the segment production facility, situated 2km from the portal, could not keep up with the higher advance rates that would be achieved during the second year of the TBM drive, when speeds ramped up through more favourable conditions.

According to Alpagut, problems associated with the curing of the cast segments were largely to blame.

Cleaning the invert after TBM breakthrough
Cleaning the invert after TBM breakthrough
“This was a huge change to the project, especially cost-wise, but there always seemed to be sections where the ground was fractured or loose,” said Alpagut. “Excavation here is very close to the North Anatolian fault line in Turkey’s predominantly fresh geology. There were a lot of small and wide faults along the alignment, and although this had been expected, their occurrence was far more frequent than had been predicted.” Site investigation boreholes were limited along the alignment that runs under a maximum overburden of some 600m and an average cover of about 200m.

To maintain progress a second major modification was made to the TBM. A custom-built canopy drill and positioner was engineered and installed on the machine by Robbins to allow pipearch pre-support through the forward shield. Drilled to a distance of up to 10m ahead of the cutterhead, 90mm diameter pipe tubes provided extra support across the 120-140° degrees of the tunnel crown. Injection of resins and grouting through the injection pipes protected against collapse at the crown while excavating through soft ground.

Entire 7.8km of TBM heading segmentally lined
Entire 7.8km of TBM heading segmentally lined
“After these modifications it is fair to say that there was no need for construction of any further bypass tunnels,” said Alpagut, and the drive progressed more smoothly. Successful use of probe drilling techniques, especially during regular stops for maintenance, proved “very helpful” in detecting loose soil seams and fractured rock ahead of the face. In fact, Gülermak measured cavity heights above the cutterhead in some fault zones at more than 30m.

But the slow progress of the first 2,800m – each bypass tunnel taking an average 14 days to construct followed by up to three further weeks for maintenance and cleaning of the machine and cutterhead – ultimately forced the second of two major project changes. A decision by the owner, in conjunction with Robbins and the contractor, converted excavation of the last 4km of alignment to drill+blast advancing from the tunnel’s opposite portal and constructing a cavern under the hills into which the TBM would break through. This effectively cut the length of the TBM drive, mid-drive, from 11.8km to 7.8km, and enabled progress on a reverse heading while simultaneously coping with the many challenges at the opposite end of the tunnel. “Stable rock conditions at the other end of the alignment were favourable for NATM excavation,” said Alpagut, although problems with water ingress were encountered along both headings.

Mined cavern at the end of 4km of NATM excavation
Mined cavern at the end of 4km of NATM excavation
The struggles of the first 2,800m of TBM advance however, were not to be repeated, largely as a result of the greater experience levels gained, and the successful application of the modifications made to the TBM. In March 2013 a monthly advance of 600m was achieved, while in April this year (2014), a project-best of some 723m was delivered in a month that included the daily best of 39.6m.
“This has been the toughest job in my tunnelling career,” said Alpagut, “and it is a testament to the skill and dedication of the Robbins team and the Gülermak contractor team that it has ended successfully.” Following assembly of the machine using the on-site first-time assembly method (OFTA), the Robbins field service team was cut to four personnel, headed by Glen Maynard. This was cut to two after the worst of the conditions thrown at the team was over, and since the beginning of the year the contractor’s team was judged to have gained enough experience to man the drive independently.

Once complete, the Kargi Kizilirmak Hydroelectric Project will generate 470 GWh annually. The 11.8 km tunnel will source water from the Corum River in central Turkey and convey it to a new generating station operated by owner Statkraft AS of Norway.


This Country Is Planning Its Entire Transportation System Around Electric Tricycles


By Aurora Alemendral, July 1, 2014

Tricycles form the bulk of public transportation in the Philippines. 

There are 3.5 million tricycles in the Philippines, and they’re mostly ridden by adults. Conventional motorbikes with metal passenger sidecars welded to their sides, the trikes are one of the many quirky aspects of public life here that delight tourists and, for locals, provide the bulk of public transportation in provincial cities across the country.

They’re also loud and dirty, roaring through the streets and spewing black smoke from rattling tailpipes. But the ubiquitous Manilan tricycle may soon get a makeover. In March the Philippine government, in partnership with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and backed by Meralco, the country’s electricity monopoly, announced the first stages of a 505.6 million pesos ($11 million) project that would put 100,000 electric tricycles on the streets of Manila and other provinces by 2017.
With silent, no-emission engines, the fleet of e-bikes would cut down on noise pollution and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by an estimated 260,000 tons per year.

According to an ADB study, electric-powered tricycles would also reduce dependence on foreign fuel and cut operating costs for tricycle drivers by up to 60 percent. With strong government backing and eager private-sector support, the program could turn the Philippines into a regional hub for electric public transportation.

The proposal seems like a solid win for the environment, and an opportunity for the country to poise itself as a leader in sustainable transport. But the project has some detractors, including what would seem like some natural allies: environmentalists.

Red Constantino, executive director for the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, says the e-tricycle program “sustains the prevailing chaos rather than helping rationalize transport in the country.” Tricycles are single-serving public transport, inefficiently carrying one passenger from door to door, and money would be better spent supporting larger vehicles that can transport people en masse, like buses or the country’s iconic jeepneys.

What’s more, the Philippines already has some of the highest electricity-usage rates in Asia, and Constantino points out that energy crises have become common in parts of the country. Pouring resources into an EV program could make the problem even worse, and distract from the more fundamental challenge of creating stable sources of renewable energy.

The electric tricycles will run on rechargeable lithium ion batteries, the same technology that powers smart phones and laptops, which, as any aging-iPhone owner knows, gets sluggish after just a few years. Currently there’s no viable aftercare support for lithium ion batteries in the Philippines, nor in Europe, Japan or the United States. Constantino says to suggest that the Philippines will simply come up with a system to address the long-term shortfalls of battery technology “is just silly.”

Advocates say the new e-trikes will cut down on pollution, but they may cause other problems.

He’s also wary of some details of the project’s implementation. For instance, rather than working directly with tricycle drivers and fleet owners, the ADB project will collaborate with local government units, not known for their squeaky-clean reputations. Subsidized credit also distorts the market for electric vehicles, and imposing a single electric tricycle design — irrespective of terrain, road quality or passenger demand — across the vastly varying landscape of the Philippines doesn’t make sense.

In essence, Constantino worries that what could be hailed as an innovative leap forward in sustainable transport might actually be greenwashing. “Just because it’s electric it doesn’t mean it has to be supported,” he says.

While the Philippine government and the division of the ADB in charge of the program are pushing electric trikes, Ko Sakamoto, a transport economist for the ADB has a more tempered view of what the e-bikes can do for the region. “We’d like to avoid the notion that e-vehicles are the solution to everything,” says Sakamoto.

Supporting cleaner energy is part of the ADB’s sustainable transport goals, according to Sakamoto. However, he says, “We do not advocate as an institution one energy type over another.” He points out alternatives, like Thailand’s tuktuks, some of which have switched to clean natural gas, a cheaper technology than electric engines.

Electric tricycles may contribute to solving certain problems like air pollution and climate change, but could inadvertently make other problems worse, like congestion. “There needs to be a fundamental change in the way cities are built,” Sakamoto says. Which means planning cities that reduce the need for unnecessary transport — two-hour-long commutes, for example — and shifting to more sustainable modes of transport, like biking and walking.

“The project is still in its early stages, and we don’t want to overstate the possibility,” Sakamoto says. Despite the draw of the quick-fix and the enthusiasm in some circles for e-bikes, at most they are one piece of a longer climb to making Manila’s transportation infrastructure genuinely clean and sustainable.

How Tunnel contractors and their political conspirators pick the pockets of taxpayers

Email received on July 23, 2014:

After reading recent articles in the news regarding PPP (Public Private Partnerships), I've come to the conclusion that not only do the private companies involved in tunnel construction probably live by the motto “Do we, cheat him, and how!” but there is a big possibility the politicians that sign off on these projects are conspiring to hide the true costs.

Summary of articles

The issues of Seattle's Big Bertha stoppage, lowball bid, cost overruns were foreshadowed in our own Red Line tunnel construction. It appears a clever way has been devised by Municipalities and construction co's to circumvent an honest bidding process.  One commentator on an article stated that Govt. entities "pair down the job scope in a effort to keep the budget in line with funding.... the contractor knows what it will take to do the job right...but if he bids the job accordingly he loses the bid. So he bids according to minimum scope and waits for the engineers to fix the problems to make the project right...."change orders" come flooding in". Tunnel companies invest in lawyers who work with these type of loopholes in this process.

As one of the articles points out, some politicians heading entities like Metro monetarily benefit via political contributions etc. It was also pointed out that in the case of Boston's Big Dig, there was a conspiracy by the "project officials and Bechtel-Parsons" with "state officials and the Federal Highway Administration" to hide the the true cost of the project from the public. It sounds like this "minimum job scope" approach for the bidding phase is intentionally created or allowed by corrupt politicians/Metro boards/entities involved in overseeing the projects for the benefit of the tunnel contractors who take full advantage of the loopholes provided, upping the final costs to many times over their original ridiculously low bid...all along, using the legal system to deflect liabilities onto others (taxpayers).

In their lawsuits, the tunnel companies also seek reimbursement for delays and interest on late payments from the tax payers, which in past cases like the Big Dig and the LA Red line, has doubled the cost overages.

This is my prediction for the 710: The company that bids on the 710 tunnel conspires with political/Metro entities and wins it for the low ball (fantasy) bid of $2.81 (maybe 5b, but definitely under 8 billion)...then taxpayers will probably pay an extra $17b to 21.2 billion in change orders, legal expenses and interest, by the the end of the project and the lawsuits that follow.

This formula for corruption (excuse me, I meant business) works so well they get away with repeating it project after project. Should a lawsuit go to a jury trial and be decided against the construction co., no problem, the co keeps appealing till it reaches a superior court judge who decides the case in the contractor's favor.

In other words if you want a project built that the taxpayers would never approve based on how expensive it will be, use private companies instead that can eventually sue taxpayers as a way to pay for the project - hence the real reason PPP's were created.

The articles below cover the topics of:

1) MTA, and tunnel contractor history.
2) Follow the money into political pockets.
3) Actual conspiracy to hide the true cost, "pair down the job scope" and "lowball bids" a.k.a. one tunnel, not two ;)
4) How Tunnel construction co's use "change orders" to reimburse themselves for the "true amount" the bid should have been. Then tack on reimbursement for "delays and interest" on late payments - doubling the cost of the "overages".
5) How private contractors aggressively use the legal system against taxpayers deflecting the liabilities onto them. 

L.A. County Sheriff's Department not meeting Metro policing goals



LA Times Editorial: Councilmembers Should Not Be Tinkering with Bike Plan


By Joe Linton, July 23, 2014

 Bicyclists on North Figueroa Street. Photo via Fig4All Flickr
 Bicyclists on North Figueroa Street.

I was excited to read yesterday’s pro-bike Los Angeles Times editorial entitled Some bumps in the road on the way to a bike-friendly L.A. The piece calls out Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo for stopping the approved North Figueroa bike lanes. The Times supports the “worthwhile objective” of  implementing bicycle infrastructure to make “the city safe and hospitable for cyclists… [to] reduce carbon emissions and overall congestion.”

Most critically, the Times highlights the regional importance of completing the city-wide bicycle network:
Unless some demonstrable miscalculation was made in the bike plan, or unless there’s a real safety issue, individual City Council members should not be tinkering with the plan, which was designed carefully with the whole city in mind. (italics added)
When the city approved its bike plan, it affirmed the importance of bicycling as a valid and worthwhile component of the city’s transportation systems. If individual councilmembers opted out of crosswalks, curb-cuts, bus stops, or, heaven forbid, freeway on-ramps, in individual districts, would the mayor and LADOT be so compliant? What if councilmembers start opting out of sewers or flood protection infrastructure? Should councilmembers be nixing regionally interconnected projects? I am glad that the Times doesn’t think so.

Unfortunately, even in this welcome editorial, I think that there are a few ways in which the Times misses the mark.

The Times repeats Cedillo’s debunked claims that bike lanes somehow delay police and fire vehicles, though it later implies that this might not be a “real safety issue.”

Even in a short pro-bike editorial, the Times manages to take the driver’s point of view seven times:
  1. “southbound drivers would spend only an extra 41 to 46 seconds in traffic”
  2. “Adding bike lanes reduces space for cars and irritates drivers; that’s undeniable.”
  3. “luring Angelenos out of their cars”
  4. “make legions of drivers … relinquish a fraction of their lanes”
  5. “No driver wants to be slowed down by even 47 seconds.”
  6. “It’s understandable that drivers are frustrated”
  7. “maybe some drivers will get out of their cars”
It’s encouraging that two of the above mentions are about getting drivers out of their cars. But contrast this with bicyclists. The editorial only mentions cyclists twice.

Drivers are important. They will remain a big part of L.A.’s streets for the foreseeable future. Even when the bike plan is fully implemented, cars are slated to continue to receive the lion’s share of L.A. road space. LADOT’s road diet plan for North Figueroa leaves cars three travel lanes, a turn lane, and two parking lanes: 62 feet out of a 72-foot-wide roadway. Bicycles would get two 5-foot-wide bike lanes.

Isn’t it about time that the Times stops weighing all transportation infrastructure based on how it impacts drivers? Even Caltrans is moving beyond measuring transportation this way.

The Times might take a cue from its own architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne who wrote that “it’s time to stop measuring new transit initiative[s] and other changes to the city in terms of how they’ll affect [car] traffic.” It would be great if the Times editorial writers would support bike plan implementation because bicycle facilities (using Hawthorne’s words describing transit benefits) “expand options” and “offer new ways to get around.”

The Times’ bike plan editorial concludes, stating: “The hope is that over time, those [bike] lanes will begin to fill up.”

Memo to the Times: that bike-lane-filling has already begun.

Please look around. L.A.’s streets have long been shared streets. Despite many decades of car-centric, safety-adverse transportation priorities, there are still plenty of transit riders, pedestrians, and, yes, bicyclists getting around on L.A.’s great streets. Hundreds and thousands of us.

Building Cloverleafs Won’t Inspire Americans to Pay More for Transportation


By Ben Ross, July 23, 2014

The federal transportation fund is running out of money, threatening the country with potholes, stopped construction, and economic downturn. Congress, which has kept the program solvent with short-term patches for years, now finds itself unable to do more than buy a few months’ time.

Mainstream opinion pins the blame for this state of affairs on partisanship and anti-tax extremism. But the crisis has a deeper cause. In transportation, as in so many areas of American politics, the terms of debate are controlled by an elite that has lost touch with the rest of the country.

Voters on both the Tea Party right and the urban left have lost the desire to pay higher taxes for new roads. Yet powerful highway bureaucracies and their political allies insist that added revenues must go toward ever more cloverleafs and interstates. They keep searching for money to build what voters don’t want to pay for, a quest doomed to end in futility.

The roots of the congressional deadlock are best seen far from Washington.

When Texas Governor Rick Perry took office in 2000, he found himself caught between campaign contributors’ yearning to build expressways and conservative hostility to tax increases. He sought a way out with an aggressive program of toll-road building.

But when the highways opened, drivers rebelled against the stiff fees. Revenue fell far below forecasts, and grassroots activists launched an anti-toll campaign. At last month’s state Republican convention, the insurgents triumphed. The state party platform now calls for no new tolls (as well as no new taxes).

The leaders of Clayton County, Georgia, also felt the public’s wrath. This impoverished Atlanta suburb currently has no transit service at all, and it’s not unusual to see people carrying their groceries home on foot along busy highways without sidewalks. In June, the county commission voted 3–2 not to hold a referendum on a one-cent sales tax hike, the price of joining Atlanta’s bus and subway network. A vote on a half-penny increase was approved instead.

When the regional transit agency turned down the half-cent offer, the commission convened in special session over the July 4 weekend. Community leaders — among them 92-year-old civil rights leader Joseph Lowery — called for a mass turnout, and angry local voters thronged the meeting. Young urbanists from Atlanta backed them up. Two commission members reversed course, and the county will vote on the full penny in November.

The policy-making establishment gets ambushed like this because it has lost touch with the grassroots. During most of the twentieth century, owning an automobile of any kind was a mark of prosperity. Drivers took pride in their cars. They felt the lure of the open road and paid willingly to indulge that desire. Taxing gasoline was an unobjectionable way to raise revenue, and building roads was a popular way to spend it.

That political formula has gone out of date. In today’s suburbs, driving is mandatory. A mid-price car is no status symbol; it is the vehicle of the killer commute. The mental image associated with filling up the tank is a traffic jam.  No one wants more of them, and the tax on gasoline is deeply disliked.

Meanwhile, people under 40 are driving less. They prefer to go where sidewalks are wide, streets narrow, and parking scarce. Best of all are places you can reach by train. The young, and many older drivers too, want better transit, and they are willing to pay for it. Los Angeles, long wedded to the automobile, approved a sales tax increase by a two-to-one referendum vote to pay for an ambitious subway-building plan. In the Washington, D.C. area, a 2010 poll found a 62 percent majority favored expanding transit rather than roads, even though 77 percent travel by car most or all the time.

The disconnect between voters and the political elite surfaced last year when Maryland raised its gas tax by 20 cents. The state needed money to build a pair of light rail lines in Baltimore and the Washington suburbs. Balky legislators demanded new cloverleafs in their districts in exchange for their votes — and then pointed to the rail lines when justifying the tax hike to their constituents.

Elsewhere, road builders counter public skepticism by coating their plans with a transit veneer. Costly widenings of interstate highways, they argue, are good for the environment because buses will share toll lanes. A vague promise of “bus rapid transit” decorates New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s $4 billion plan to replace the still-sturdy Tappan Zee Bridge with a wider span.

Such cosmetics will not fool the public for long. Nor will a more cooperative atmosphere in Congress overcome deadlock. The funding crisis will end when the transportation on offer is what the voters who are open to higher taxes want.

This requires shifting priorities to address the demands of the 21st century. The young people who flock to city centers need ways to move around without a car. Decaying inner suburbs seek a transit-based revival. Without high-speed rail, travelers are forced onto overcrowded airlines.

A program that meets these needs by building railroads instead of highways could win wide support. It would benefit Democratic city dwellers and Republican real estate builders. It would promote the widely desired revival of American manufacturing. It offers obvious environmental benefits. But it will not happen until our elites catch up with the grassroots.

In remarks, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti outlines his goals as Metro Board Chair


By Steve Hymon, July 24, 2014

Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Eric Garcetti delivering his remarks on Thursday morning. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

 Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Eric Garcetti delivering his remarks on Thursday morning. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

As noted earlier, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is the Chair of the Metro Board of Directors for the next year. At the start of today’s Board meeting, Garcetti briefly outlined his goals as Board Chair. Here are some highlights from his comments.

•”When you’re talking about transportation, the top priority has to be reducing traffic.   Traffic, especially in Los Angeles, defines our lives. It keeps us from being with our loved ones and enjoying life’s daily moments. But it’s equally important that we provide good service for our customers and build for the future.

“The only way we can do that well is by working together as a region. We all know that traffic doesn’t care about borders. And none of us can serve our constituents well if we only care about what happens inside our city limits.”

•”How we do that? Innovation and technology. That’s not only the obvious things — like having cell service in our stations or creating an app where riders can load their tap cards on their phones so they don’t have to wait in line at the ticket machine.”

•”We must always be looking at where there is new demand and build projects in our most heavily traveled corridors. We must complete projects like the Exposition line all the way to Santa Monica. We must plan to build the Gold Line extension to Claremont. We must improve service between the San Fernando Valley and the Westside. We must make sure the Blue Line is fixed, and our highest [ridership] rail line runs like it once did. And we must find a way to open the train to the planes by the time the Crenshaw Line starts running.”

•”I’m committed to keeping the momentum going on our construction projects — and making sure they’re done on time and on budget. We cannot repeat the cost overruns and sinkholes of the 1990s."

“When I became Mayor, I was told the new lane on the 405 project wouldn’t be open until the fall. So I called an old friend, Nick Patsaouras, and asked him to volunteer his time and talents to get it done sooner. He came through big for us. As Chair, I am calling on him to now lend his expertise and provide construction oversight of the Crenshaw Line.”

•”Over the last year, we were successful in securing over three billion dollars from the federal government. I’m confident that success will continue if we work together across the region to get our fair share from Washington and Sacramento. But we also need to think creatively about public-private partnerships and innovative financing. People are impatient, people can’t wait.”