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

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Short SR-710 Article

From Sylvia Plummer, April 5, 2015

Here's a humorous short SR-710 story from The Transit Coalition-Weekly Transit E-Newsletter:

Will the Proposed 710 N. Freeway Tunnel Accommodate Big Rigs Safely? March 31, 2015

The debate about extending the 710 North Freeway is now about 60 years old. Business interests want it and the community presents strong opposition. Those concerned about building the tunnel ask for simple things like cost benefit analysis and projected numbers and can never seem to get any answers, which leaves more questions unanswered. The 6.3-mile freeway tunnel could cost maybe $5.65 billion or maybe $10 billion. Then, the question about whether this tunnel can handle trucks and what would the additional costs be? One group that is pushing the project, but seems to believe that truckers would pay a toll of $14 each way from trucking firms that are known to avoid even paying their drivers. Stay tuned for the next episode of "As the Tunnel Bores", which ranks high in community churning. There are more public meetings rolling out to continue the discussion.

Pasadena Mayoral Runoff Debate

From Sylvia Plummer, April 5, 2015

Tuesday, April 7th @  7 pm
Pasadena Convention Center

There will be a debate between the two mayoral runoff candidates, Pasadena City Councilmembers Jacque Robinson and Terry Tornek.  The WPRA, a co-sponsor of the event, has provided some of the questions.  The debate will be moderated by KPCC Radio's AirTalk host, Larry Mantle,  This event will be televised live of KPAS (channel 3 on Charter and 99 on U-Verse).  It will also be streamed via cityofpasadena.net/media and pasadenamedia.tv.
The runoff election will take place on  Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Two More Public Hearings

From Sylvia Plummer, April 5, 2015

Two more Public Hearings have been added for a total of four.  Be sure to attend at least one.  You can come in at any time and leave at any time.  Map viewing will also take place during the Public Hearing time schedule.  These are not meetings.
Schedule of Public Hearings

Sunday, April 11

Map viewing: 10-11 a.m.
Public hearing: 11 a.m.- 4 p.m.
East Los Angeles College, Rosco Ingalls Auditorium,
1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez, Montery Park

Tuesday, April 14

Map viewing: 5-6 p.m.
Public hearing: 6-9 p.m.
Pasadena Convention Center, 300 E. Green St.

Wednesday, May 6

Map viewing: 5-6 p.m.
    Public hearing: 6-9 p.m.
La Cañada High School auditorium,
4463 Oak Grove Dr., La Canada

Thursday, May 7

Map viewing: 5-6 p.m.
Public hearing: 6-9 p.m.
Los Angeles Christian Presbyterian Church,
 2241 N. Eastern Ave., LA

This Week's Call to Action

 From Sylvia Plummer, April 5, 2015

We need people to call, email or write the Pasadena City Councilmembers before the April 13th City Council meeting.  Then in a separate email or letter sent a copy to the City Clerk - Mark Jomsky - to be put on the record.  Ask Mark Jomsky to put on the record for the April 13th City Council meeting regarding SR-710, also ask that your letter or email be distributed to all the Council members.  Mark Jomsky's email address:  mjomsky@cityofpasadena.net  
What is happening April 13th @ 6:30pm at the Pasadena City Council Meeting? 
There will only be one topic for the meeting, the SR-710.  No other business will be discussed. A staff report will be given on the SR-710 Pasadena Working Group Recommendations.  There will be a vote by the City Council on whether or not to accept or approve the Working Group Recommendations. 
I have personally hear from Steve Madison's office and was told that Madison will bring up a Resolution for the City of Pasadena to oppose the SR-710 tunnel(s).

Talking Points for your emails:
  1.  You support the Working Groups recommendations.
  2.  Ask them to support a  Resolution for the City of Pasadena to oppose the SR-710 Tunnels. 
  3.  Tunnel is prohibitive and a waste of resources that could be used for Public Transit projects.
  4.  Measure A issue - Some Councilmembers apparently continue to express concern that a vote to oppose the tunnel would go against the voters of Measure A to complete the gap with a Freeway surface route.  Measure A never said anything about a tunnel or a toll.  The 710 gap issue can be solved using other options.

Here is a link to the Working Group's Report and Letter which have been added to the City of Pasadena's SR710 site: 

Below is a letter from the WPRA to the Mayor and City Councilmembers regarding the City of Pasadena's Position on the SR-710 North Alternatives.  This should give you some ideas as well.

April 4, 2015

The Honorable Mayor and Councilmembers
City of Pasadena
100 N. Garfield Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91109
Re: City of Pasadena’s Position on SR-710 North Alternatives
Dear Mayor Bogaard and Councilmembers:
The West Pasadena Residents’ Association (WPRA) urges you to continue fighting the disastrous SR-710 freeway tunnel alternative proposed by Metro and Caltrans. Specifically, we ask you to:

1. Vote against the SR-710 tunnel alternative
  •  The Draft EIR/EIS demonstrates that this alternative does not improve regional traffic. It simply shifts traffic from one part of the region to another.
  • This alternative is not cost effective. Instead of spending billions on an alternative that has minimal benefit, we should invest precious taxpayer funds on environmentally responsible public transportation options.
  • This alternative will have very large negative and permanent impacts on Pasadena’s traffic, air quality, economy and quality of life.

2. Endorse the Pasadena Preferred Alternative recommended by the City’s SR-710 Alternatives Working Group.

We agree that a multi-modal alternative including light rail transit, expanded bus service, local street network improvements and bicycle transit, is the preferred alternative.

3. Endorse the Connecting Pasadena Project.

The CPP is a citizen-driven effort to develop a vision for revitalizing the SR-710 stub, a barren 35-acre area seized by the State for extension of the SR-710 freeway.
4. Demand that Metro and Caltrans provide a cost benefit analysis for the proposed SR-710 Project for public review.
  • Caltrans has publicly promised to provide such an analysis, including during the California Transportation Commission meeting on December 11, 2013.
  •  Cost estimates used in the DEIR released March 6 are general and very puzzling. The SR-710 tunnel estimate is half the cost per mile of its proposed Sepulveda Pass tunnel.

There are no contingency provisions, even though failures and cost overruns on such projects are the norm.
5. Demand that Metro and Caltrans study the environmental impacts of a tunnel-boring
machine (TBM) failure.
  • Failures of drilling equipment and tunnel flooding and collapses have plagued almost half of the world’s large tunnel projects reviewed.
  • The spectacular failure of the Seattle tunnel’s TBM is a recent and real-world example of how TBMs can and do fail. Such a failure would have severe environmental consequences and significantly increase project costs.

6. Agree that Pasadena’s Measure A should not constrain councilmembers’ ability to speak and vote on this critical issue.
Specific proposals for connecting SR-710 are before us. At the time of the Measure A vote, the SR-710 project didn’t include tunnels, tolls and trucks. Furthermore, in 1999, one year before the measure was placed on the ballot, the United States District Court for the Central District of California ruled that both the EIR and EIS upon which Measure A was based, were inadequate and issued an injunction against the 710 freeway project (City of South Pasadena et. al. v. Slater (U.S.D.C. Central CA 1999) 56 F.Supp.2d 1106).


Geoff Bill 
WPRA President 
Bill Urban
WPRA Board Member/ Past President

Audrey O’Kelley 
WPRA Board Member/Past President

Michael Udell
WPRA Board Member/Past President

Pasadena Mayor and City Council
Assemblymember Chris Holden
Senator Carol Liu
Congressman Adam Schiff

Here are the email addresses for the Mayor, City Councilmembers and City Manager:

Plan to attend on April 13th:  The City Council Meeting will be held at the Pasadena Convention Center in the Ballroom, a very large venue.  A large turnout at this meeting will make a difference.  The Council does respond to numbers. We need an audience .

Friday, April 3, 2015

NEWS FROM the cvca » Sharon Weisman


Posted by Robin Goldworthy, April 2, 2015

Thanks to Jan SooHoo and Susan Bolan of the No 710 Action Group for providing the attendees at the March 26 Crescenta Valley Community Assn. meeting information on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the 710 Extension project. Susan is also a member of the CVCA Steering Committee. They shared their preliminary impressions of the study that was released on March 6. It is roughly 26,000 pages, including all the appendices and technical reports, so it will take many eyes to scrutinize it thoroughly.

The document can be viewed, in manageable sections, on the CalTrans website: http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist07/resources/envdocs/docs/710study/draft_eir-eis/

The public has 120 days to submit comments before the July 6 deadline. Comments can go to Garrett Damrath, Chief Environmental Planner; Caltrans District 7, Division of Environmental Planning; 100 S. Main St., MS-16A; Los Angeles, CA 90012. Comments can also be sent in electronically via the CalTrans website. The No 710 Action Committee website has information on composing and submitting your comments: http://www.no710.com/deir-info.html.

The complex document considers five alternatives: no build, Transportation system management/transportation demand management, bus rapid transit, light rail transit and a freeway tunnel. The TSM/TDM alternative consists of improvements with existing transportation facilities such as traffic signal upgrades, ramp metering and local street improvements. The bus rapid transit alternative is a high-speed, high-frequency bus service along a 12-mile route from East Los Angeles to Pasadena. The light rail transit alternative is a passenger rail line along a roughly 7.5-mile route including three miles of elevated segments and approximately 4.5 miles of bored tunnel segments.

The freeway tunnel alternative would be 6.3 miles long with approximately 4.2 miles of bored tunnel and .7 miles of cut and cover tunnel, from the current end of the 710 freeway in Alhambra to the 210/134 interchange in Pasadena. Both a single-bore and dual-bore configuration are included plus different operational variations such as toll or no toll, trucks allowed or not. The use of multiple tunnel boring machines, starting from both ends of the tunnel, is being considered. That could be a total of four of the custom-built multimillion dollar machines in the case of a dual-bore construction.
Expected environmental impacts from each of the alternatives are summarized in tables and the supporting material is in the technical studies.

What is missing is a cost-benefit analysis of the alternatives despite community members and elected officials calling for it during the preparation of the DEIR.

Please take the time to read the 44 page executive summary and, considering your areas of expertise, any other segments where you may be able to contribute constructive comments to make the review process more complete. Please share all these resources with friends and relatives who have knowledge and credentials in the areas expected to have impacts. These include traffic, noise and air pollution, and issues with the tunnel boring machines like the one currently being repaired  after breaking down resulting in massive cost overruns in Seattle.

The comments should focus on environmental impacts that are not adequately considered in the document. Opinions on the appropriateness of the project in general and the lack of other alternatives in the study should be articulated in letters to the editor and communicated to your elected officials.

The next CVCA meeting will be April 23 starting at 7 p.m. at the La Crescenta Library, 2809 Foothill Blvd. We will know the results of the April 7 Glendale election by then and can discuss the ramifications of the results.

Should really a 710 Freeway tunnel enable trucks and will it be safe?

When the debate more than extending the 710 Freeway is six decades old, a new angle involving carrying out it by tunnel is grabbing most of the air time, even although four choices are becoming examined by Caltrans.For quite a few, just picturing the longest...


 April 2015

Should really a 710 Freeway tunnel enable trucks and will it be safe?

 When the debate more than extending the 710 Freeway is six decades old, a new angle involving carrying out it by tunnel is grabbing most of the air time, even although four choices are becoming examined by Caltrans.

For quite a few, just picturing the longest freeway tunnel in California can be a hard situation. Extending the freeway six.three miles from the terminus at Valley Boulevard in Alhambra to the 210 Freeway in Pasadena, with at least 4.two miles of the freeway totally underground with no exits, is surely a new idea that politicians are trying to wrap their arms about.

During a spirited discussion at a forum Monday evening at Cal State Los Angeles concerning the 710, panelists from 4 Southland cities answered questions from a political scientist about whether a four-to-6 mile freeway tunnel under Alhambra, El Sereno, South Pasadena and Pasadena would be protected, practical and price-effective.

“Tunnels have been about for hundreds of years in Europe,” answered Alhambra City Councilwoman Barbara Messina, who prefers the tunnel. “We went from downtown Paris to the Palace of Versailles in a tunnel. No problem.”

Those opposed to the extension left the audience of more than 200 people with scenarios of fire and death.

“I consider it is really dangerous to be in a tunnel. I would instruct my family members in no way to enter a 5-mile tunnel, specifically one being made use of for trucks. Imagine if you are in that. Imagine the smoke, the fumes, the fire,” said Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian, who opposes the 710 extension.

“You can get killed crossing the street,” Messina shot back. “To say a tunnel is harmful is genuinely extremely, incredibly lame.”

Michael Cacciotti, the council member from South Pasadena, which has successfully fought the surface route extension of the 710 for decades, mentioned a tunnel is a risky, hugely expensive venture. A highway tunnel project in Boston, nicknamed the Large Dig, began out at $two.8 billion but finished at $15 billion, he said, though a tunnel freeway project in Seattle resulted in ground seepage and the tunneling machine receiving stuck underground for years.

On March 6, a 26,625-web page Draft Environmental Influence Report/Environmental Impact Statement on the 710 concluded that constructing a six.3-mile freeway tunnel “would have the largest boost in freeway and arterial functionality” of any alternative, but carries the highest value tag. At a price of $three.1 billion to $5.65 billion, the tunnel would expense extra than a proposed light-rail line, estimated at $2.four billion. Some argue the real price will finish up closer to $ten billion.

Four years ago, Caltrans and the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) started studying the environmental impacts of continuing the freeway underground instead of on the surface.
In addition to the tunnel, the EIR examined four other choices: site visitors management solutions, a devoted bus line, a light-rail train or no-develop.

Najarian, also on the Metro board, opposes the tunnel. “The best choice includes a light rail. I don’t think a tunnel will resolve our troubles,” he stated.

A “single bore” double-decker tunnel, which would consist of two northbound lanes on prime of two southbound lanes in a single tunnel, would have minor impacts to land, air, noise and aesthetics compared to the impacts from creating a 7.5-mile light-rail train from East Los Angeles through Alhambra and Pasadena.

The study leaves it up to Caltrans and Metro to choose what to develop. Also, if they pick the tunnel, the question remains whether it would take trucks and cars or prohibit truck traffic.

In a nuanced stand, Duarte City Councilman John Fasana, a single of the panelists and a Metro board member, mentioned trucks really should be prohibited from the tunnel. He would favor to divert truck traffic up the five Freeway or along the 60 Freeway east. He and other folks stated the 710 tunnel would not be appropriate for trucks, in component for the reason that they would have to travel up-grade going northbound.

Najarian agreed, but stated the trucking lobby and port shipping organizations will want access to the new portion of the freeway to move goods from south to north. “It is Metro’s intention that this be a truck-freight corridor,” he stated.

Due to the fact the tunnel is highly-priced, Metro and Caltrans will require to bring in private providers to develop it. That means the tunnel will be a toll road. Najarian stated estimates of the toll could be as high as $14 a single way, a fee shipping corporations can absorb into the expense of performing business enterprise.

“Truckers will be willing to pay it. Your typical soccer mom isn’t going to spend that,” he mentioned.
Messina said Caltrans and the Southern California Association of Governments have already heard from private road builders who would place up capital. Fasana mentioned a public-private partnership is significantly harder to do for rail lines.

He also stated tunnels currently exist beneath Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles, but for subways not automobile visitors. So far, they haven’t been a difficulty.

“Where that gap is, the tunnel is the selection we must look at seriously,” Fasana stated. 𠇋ut we will will need to see no matter if the public-private partnerships materialize.”

Comments on the EIR/EIS are becoming accepted by Caltrans and Metro via July six. Send written comments to: Garrett Damrath, chief environmental planner, Division of Environmental Preparing, California Department of Transportation, District 7, one hundred S. Major St, MS-16A, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Submit comments on-line at: http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist07/resources/envdocs/docs/710study/draft_eir-eis/comments.php.

LA Metro Could Switch Rail Line Names From Colors to Letters


April 3, 2015


Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 10.19.00 AM.png

The Los Angeles rail system is growing fast—in a decade, there will be a single train running from Santa Monica to East LA, plus so much more—but will riders even be able to navigate around it all? Metro's naming scheme is all over the place; some lines are color-coded (Blue, Red, Green), while others are named after their main thoroughfares (Expo, Crenshaw). The system worked well enough when there were fives line and the map looked like this, but with all the new construction, and much more potentially on the horizon, things are poised to get very confusing. A new proposal would nip that problem in the bud by giving each line its own designated letter.

Letters would be assigned to lines based on opening date; the Blue Line
would become the A Line, the Red Line the B Line, Purple the C Line, etc. H, I, and P would not be used, to avoid confusion with signs for hospitals, information, and parking. Colors would remain as secondary identifiers to help distinguish one line from another.

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 10.18.36 AM.png

The new scheme would make navigation much easier when two lines share the same track. When a connector to the airport finally opens, the Green Line will run two paths—one to the South Bay, one to connect to LAX—and under this plan, each path would become its own distinct line: the D Line south, and the L Line north.

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 10.19.33 AM.png

Inconsistent names are especially hard on tourists, who aren't well-versed in the idiosyncrasies of Metro. "Limited English Proficiency" riders are also at a disadvantage; it may not be obvious that the Blue Line is the one with the blue circle next to it. A renaming like this will give Metro the opportunity to tie up loose ends and the entire rail network will be sewn together with one solid identity as it moves into maturity.

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 10.18.11 AM.png

Metro is still working on a plan to actually make it happen—they wants to get this process started ASAP so that riders have time to adjust before the system grows too much (the Expo extension to Santa Monica is set to open early next year, for starters). You can see entire presentation on the matter here. —Ian Grant

· Letter Designations for Fixed Guideway Lines [Metro]
· 9 Ways Metro's New CEO Can Revolutionize Los Angeles Transit [Curbed LA]
· New Metro Rail Map is Very Real and Pretty Spectacular [Curbed LA]

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Two public hearings added for SR-710 North Study


By Steve Hymon, April 2, 2015

There are now four public meetings scheduled to solicit public comment on the SR-710 North draft environmental document released last month. The first meeting is Saturday, April 11. Details on the meetings are in this news release from Caltrans and Metro:

Caltrans and Metro Add Two More Public Hearings for Community Feedback to Draft Environmental Document on SR-710

(April 2, 2015) The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) today announced the addition of two more public hearings to offer community feedback on the Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) for SR-710.

Additional public hearings have been scheduled for Wednesday, May 6, 2015, at the La Cañada High School auditorium, 4463 Oak Grove Drive, La Cañada-Flintridge, Calif. 91011 with map viewing 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. and public hearing from 6 p.m.  to 9 p.m. and Thursday, May 7, 2015, at the Los Angeles Christian Presbyterian Church, 2241 N. Eastern Avenue, Los Angeles, Calif. 90032 with map viewing 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. and public hearing from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The added meetings provide four opportunities to comment on the draft environmental document. The first two meetings are scheduled on Saturday, April 11, 2015 at the Rosco C. Ingalls Auditorium at East Los Angeles College with map viewing 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. and public hearing 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Tuesday, April 14, 2015, at the Pasadena Convention Center with map viewing 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., and public hearing 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. A 120-day public comment period began March 6 and ends July 6, 2015.

Caltrans and Metro are under a mandate from two million Los Angeles County voters that passed Measure R in 2008 to study a 100 square mile region affected by congestion and pollution caused by incomplete transportation infrastructure between the end of the I-710 freeway in El Sereno and the I-210 Freeway in Pasadena.

The Draft EIR/EIS proposes five alternatives regarding a 4.5 mile gap separating the freeways.
•No Build option that would leave conditions as they are

•A traffic management system to upgrade and synchronize signals and improvements to local street intersections to more quickly move traffic that exits the dead end freeway
•A rapid bus line featuring high frequency service with minimal stops and potentially a dedicated bus lane
•Light rail to carry passengers between East Los Angeles and Pasadena
•A freeway tunnel that would extend the SR-710

No decisions have been made on any proposed alternative in the Draft EIR/EIS.

Members of the public are encouraged to attend the public hearings and read the document at http://goo.gl/84KSgF Public comment can be made on the link provided.

The full document can be viewed by appointment at the Caltrans District Office at 100 South Main Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012 and at the Metro library, 1 Gateway Plaza, Los Angeles, Calif. 90012. Copies are also available at public libraries listed here: http://www.metro.net/projects/sr-710-conversations/

An EIR is required to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act and an EIS fulfills requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. The laws require government agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions and to avoid, minimize or mitigate any adverse effects. Information from public comments will be weighed before preparing the final environmental document.

Altogether, approximately 26 detailed technical studies are included in the Draft EIR/EIS.
Through the process of compiling the Draft EIR/EIS, Metro and Caltrans conducted 92 community meetings, participated in six city-sponsored community forums and held over 200 briefings with community stakeholders.

Controversial ads to appear on SEPTA buses


April 2, 2015

 GK tramrunner29

A federal court judge presiding over a dispute between the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) and a group seeking to purchase advertising space on SEPTA vehicles has ruled the agency must accept the ads, even if they contain messages that may be disparaging to riders and agency employees.

After careful consideration, SEPTA has decided not to appeal this ruling. The agency’s policy was revised in October 2014 to allow SEPTA to reject these types of ads without violating the First Amendment. However, this policy change was made after the American Freedom Defense Initiative's (AFDI) initial request to purchase advertising space and is not applicable in the matter.

Consequently, AFDI has executed a contact with SEPTA's advertising management agency, Titan, to purchase advertising space on the side panel of 84 SEPTA buses. The ads will contain what some may view as anti-Muslim messages. These vehicles will be placed in normal inventory rotation throughout the SEPTA service area. The ads will begin appearing on vehicles during the first week of April for a four-week period.

"We understand that our decision to not file an appeal will be disappointing to those who will be forced to view the disparaging ads," said SEPTA GM Joseph M. Casey. "We are aware that the presence of the ads could anger the public, but caution that attempts to vandalize the ads or deface SEPTA vehicles will not be tolerated."

SEPTA has apologized to its riders and urged them to comment or voice their concerns by completing a SEPTA Customer Service comment form.

Metrolink PSAs To Hit SoCal Theaters Amid Concerns Films Glamorize Dangers Of Moving Trains


March 31, 2015

See website for a video.

 LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The Hollywood blockbuster “Insurgent” is receiving some backlash from Metrolink, which claims the film and others like it glamorize the dangers of moving trains.

The rail service in response says it’s created its own public service announcements, which Metrolink plans to show in Southern California movie theaters beginning this summer.

“There are young people who see these portrayals in the entertainment industry, and they try to emulate it,” said Scott Johnson, a Metrolink spokesman.

According to Metrolink, a person or vehicle is hit by a train every three hours in the United States.
In January, George Gregory “Greg” Plitt Jr., a reality television star, was killed by a train in Burbank during a film shoot on the tracks.

Metrolink says Plitt did not have a permit to be there.

Since his death, the rail system says Hollywood has become more aware of the dangers around train tracks, but the focus is now on moviegoers who officials hope will not try to mimic movie scenes.
“We want to make certain people understand doing that in real life can kill you,” Johnson said.

Just hours ago, Metrolink officials said a woman was hurt after getting hit by a train in Baldwin Park. It’s unclear why she was standing on the tracks, but officials said it’s another example of why people need to be careful.


Reflections on the Alaskan Way mega-drive


By Lok Home, March 31, 2015

In the week that the 2,000 tonne cutterhead and drive unit was lifted to the surface, Lok Home, President of The Robbins Company, provides a personal commentary on the project as it has unfolded to date. 
Seattle is the founding city of The Robbins Company, and a place where I lived for nearly 15 years. I remember commuting on the SR99 viaduct highway while working at Robbins early in my career. The new SR99 Viaduct Replacement Tunnel Project is therefore of great personal interest to me.

The industry is all too familiar with Seattle’s SR99 Tunnel and its TBM Big Bertha. Much has been written with regards to the 17.5m diameter TBM needing repairs after about 300m of boring.

TBM Bertha’s giant cutterhead and drive unit on the repair platform (31 March, 4.30pm)
TBM Bertha’s giant cutterhead and drive unit on the repair platform (31 March, 4.30pm)

TBM tendering

Robbins was a relatively new entry into the EPB/soft ground tunneling business when tenders were called for the SR99 project in 2011, and we made a concerted effort to get the order for this particular TBM. We teamed up with Japanese TBM manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) to get the order. Robbins has had an association with MHI for more than 20 years, and there are jointly designed machines operating around the world on projects in India, China, the USA, and in more countries besides. MHI has built more than 1,000 EPB machines, and, in my opinion, the Japanese TBM manufacturers are further advanced in EPB technology than their European and American counterparts.

During the process of trying to win this order we learned a lot about the geology, as well as the contractors’ TBM specification requirements. The main contractor, Dragados [in JV with Tutor Perini] is very well experienced in soft ground tunneling technology, and it developed a high-level specification for the machine. All of the prospective TBM suppliers were required to quote and, if successful, supply to this standard. We eventually stepped out of the tendering process as the lower prices and greater assumption of contract risk offered by our competitors made the TBM supply on this occasion an impractical business option for us.
Timelapse video of the cutterhead/drive unit lift (30 March):

Tough tunneling

The current situation at the SR99 project is more positive than the media tends to paint it. The project design consultant performed a commendable job when laying out the tunnel route by building in a contingency plan. Boring through glacial till, even with modern TBMs, is never an easy task, as previous projects like the Brightwater Conveyance Tunnels have taught the city of Seattle. This is doubly so along the Seattle waterfront, which includes man-made fill, utilities, and buried refuse. In such ground, TBMs can encounter rapidly changing geology; pockets of groundwater; abrasive soil; and man-made objects such as unmapped disused pipes; foundation piles; and more.

Aware of the problems that can develop while using an EPBM in glacial till under a city with a lot of backfill, the SR99 designer wisely developed a contingency plan. The strategy, in addition to pre-planned safe havens, involved a ‘shake down’ stretch of tunnel running under no buildings. If problems did occur, repairs to the TBM could be made by sinking a surface access shaft at this location. Unfortunately the need for that repair event occurred shortly after the machine commenced excavation.

The reasons for the failure of the cutterhead seals, and, potentially, the cutterhead main bearing, are yet to be determined. I doubt there will be any signs of failure of the main bearing when the crews get a chance to inspect it. However, all parties involved are wisely taking precautions and installing a new main bearing in addition to the seals.
Alignment of the mega-diameter TBM drive under Seattle:

Bertha’s lessons

Seattle Tunnel Partners and WSDOT have in place a panel of experts to advise them on the highly technical details of the TBM design. I personally know several of these experts and they are well qualified to recommend and supervise the necessary repairs and procedures to get the TBM into a condition where it is able to finish this tunnel.

Having been in the TBM supply business for quite a few years, I unfortunately have to admit having been in a similar (fortunately not as well-published!) situation as the TBM supplier, and on more than one occasion. This situation, involving significant TBM problems at the beginning of a TBM drive, can result from many different factors and is not unique to the SR99 project. In fact, Robbins recently had a similar situation (admittedly on a smaller scale in terms of both public and financial impact) on a project in Turkey known as the Kargi HEPP. Despite extensive pre-planning, unexpected ground was encountered, which resulted in several in-tunnel stops and machine modifications in the first few hundred meters of the tunnel.

10m diameter Robbins machine suffered problems at Kargi
10m diameter Robbins machine suffered problems at Kargi
What happens in these situations is that you pull in the best minds with the most experience and immediately analyze the problem. The ultimate fix often ends up as a multi-level solution. You must ensure you have the problem under control, plus, take additional measures to monitor the vulnerable components and operating procedures. At Kargi, this process resulted in the remainder of the project being finished without significant TBM problems. Without a doubt a similar process is going on at SR99 with Hitachi Zosen engineers, the contractor’s specialists, and the city’s board of experts.
Being one who is keenly interested in this project, I believe that this TBM will soon be back to boring with a new completion date, which will be fulfilled. I am optimistic that this project will one day be seen as a positive in the tunneling industry, and one during which many lessons will have been learned and many advancements made. Such advancements will be put to use in Seattle and in other cities that will benefit greatly from the excavation of more underground infrastructure.

This article first appeared as a blog, The Light at the End of the Tunnel: The Positive Side of Seattle’s SR99 Project on the Robbins website


In effort to better manage its lots, Metro circulates new parking ordinance


By Steve Hymon, April 1, 2015

 The parking lot for the Green Line's Norwalk Station has 1,792 spaces -- and all of them are filled on most weekdays. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

 The parking lot for the Green Line’s Norwalk Station has 1,792 spaces — and all of them are filled on most weekdays. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Why? The CVC doesn’t provide Metro much flexibility in writing rules that are particular to the parking lots and garages at its stations. In turn, that makes enforcement of the rules that do exist somewhat difficultparticularly enforcement of non-transit riders parking at Metro stations parking facilities.

Thus, the draft parking ordinance posted above (it’s in Appendix A) accompanied by a Metro staff report. In the coming weeks, the ordinance will be circulated to the public for review. After any necessary changes are made, it will be sent to the agency’s Board of Directors for their approval.

If you read the ordinance, you’ll notice that a lot of attention is given to the issue of parking fees. While all non-reserved daily spaces at Metro parking lots are currently free, the ordinance provides guidelines on how the agency may impose more parking fees in the future — should it so desire.

Fees may also help manage demand for parking at some of the most notoriously difficult parking lots in the Metro system in the same way that parking meters and garages with variable pricing helps balance supply and demand. Fees may also be a source of funding expanded parking at the most impacted stations, as well as helping restrict non-transit use at some lots and making lots safer.

A decision to charge for all parking would ultimately up to the agency’s Board of DirectorsThe parking ordinance and fee resolution is currently being circulated for review and will be considered by the Board in their April round of meetings.

As part of the ordinance, there’s a Board resolution to establish daily and monthly fees for preferred parking at some stations (Appendix B on the above document). The fees are typically $4 for daily preferred parking and between $20 and $59 for monthly spots, depending on the station location. This represents no change to the existing fees.

What do you think of parking at Metro stations? Is it necessary? Or a necessary evil? Should parking fees be commonplace? Or would that (pun intended) drive away would-be riders? Comment please.

Where the transit-build costs are unbelievable


By Dana Rubinstein, March 31, 2015


 Michael Horodniceanu leads a tour of the ongoing Second Avenue construction.

It’s not often that a New York agency is accused of overestimating the cost of a major, multi-billion-dollar transportation project.

That’s what happened in March, when an advocate suggested the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey had conspired to inflate the projected cost of a new midtown bus terminal in order to kill it.

More frequently, the agencies are criticized, with justification, for low-balling the costs and timelines of major projects, which almost invariably come in late and overbudget. In New York, this problem is chronic—and almost comically severe.

One example that is topical, and will remain so for years to come, is the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s estimate, back in 2000, that a new Long Island Rail Road station beneath Grand Central Terminal would cost $4.3 billion, rather than the more than $10 billion it is expected to cost by the time it’s complete, sometime in the 2020s.

When, seven years late, the M.T.A. finally got around to completing the Fulton Center transit hub in lower Manhattan, it cost almost 100 percent more than anticipated, kind of like the Port Authority’s transit hub at the World Trade Center.

And just this year, Governor Andrew Cuomo—who had made a great issue of the cost overruns at the World Trade Center site—announced a plan to build a new, $450 million train to LaGuardia Airport. Skeptics of the price tag were quickly vindicated when, less than two weeks later, the Cuomo-appointed head of the M.T.A. put the cost at up to $1 billion.

The M.T.A. chairman, Tom Prendergast, hastily walked back his politically inconvenient estimate. But if anything, his estimate was an overoptimistic one, too: A Bloomberg-commissioned study, based on a longer (or perhaps more accurate) measurement of the same route put the cost of a similar proposal at $1.5 to $1.9 billion.

Cuomo spokeswoman Beth DeFalco said, “Gov. Cuomo has made the holistic redesign of both airports a priority and is committed to finding the most cost-effective way of constructing an Air Train.”

Nicole Gelinas, a transportation-finance expert at the Manhattan Institute, said, “We really have no idea how much this is going to cost.”

The same could be said of nearly any major project in this part of the country. All that is certain is that New York’s transportation agencies—and the political leaders who control them—have a problem with estimates, and that New York’s projects appear to be more expensive than comparable ones elsewhere in the modern world.

All of which makes it that much harder for the M.T.A. to raise money for the infrastructure that planners believe the region needs.

“We’ve got to be able to say with a straight face that ‘Hey, we want to build more subway lines,’” said Richard Barone, director of transportation programs for the Regional Plan Association. “And people say, ‘Yeah, OK, for more than $1 billion a mile—good luck with that.’”

This is not a new problem, even if it has seemed particularly acute in the past decade or two as the M.T.A. has resumed building what are known, in the infrastructure world, as megaprojects. And it is not unique to New York, though the tradition is particularly strong here.

That tradition was cemented, if not invented, by master builder (and chronic underestimator) Robert Moses.

“Year after year, the Board [of Estimate] would allocate new funds—and then would learn that still more were needed,” wrote Robert Caro in The Power Broker. “Marine Park in Brooklyn could be completed for $6,000,000, he assured the Board. When $6,000,000 had been spent on the park, Moses informed the Board that an additional $6,000,000 would be necessary. And when that was spent, the park would still be far from completed. He deceived the Board constantly.”

That legacy appears to be alive and well.

“When are they going to open the first phase of the Second Avenue Subway?” said City College civil engineering professor Robert Paaswell. “The date’s put off. East Side Access, the date’s put off. The opening of the 11th Avenue subway on the 7 line? That’s put off.”

A widely cited Danish study from 2002 found that, worldwide, “[u]nderestimation of costs at the time of decision to build is the rule rather than the exception for transportation infrastructure projects.”
That’s at least in part because “the targets for budget and time are politically motivated,” said Juliette Michaelson, vice president for strategy at the Regional Plan Association. “They’re not really based on what things cost for real.”

Transit historian Peter Derrick, who is working on a book on the M.T.A.’s contemporary rebuilding efforts, said, “It’s the normal thing for transit people to low-ball the cost of things to get them approved in the first place.”

One major motivation for this habit, the world over, is simple enough. That 2002 Danish study, by Bent Flyvbjerg, Mette Skamris Holm and Soren Buhl, put it this way: “[D]eliberate cost underestimation is lying, and we arrive at one of the most basic explanations of lying, and of cost underestimation, that exists: Lying pays off, or at least economic agents believe it does.”

When it comes to megaprojects in New York, lowballing is only half the problem.

At $1.4 billion, Fulton Center “avoided becoming the most expensive subway station on earth only because the World Trade Center PATH station next door took that crown,” wrote Stephen Smith on the urbanism-focused website Next City. “The 7 train extension won’t become the world’s most expensive subway on a per-mile basis only because that honor belongs to the Second Avenue subway.”

It is a sign of how ordinary cost overruns have become in New York that such boondoggles receive relatively little attention.

The only New York politician in recent memory who’s attempted to grapple with the issue is New York City comptroller Scott Stringer, who noted in a speech back in 2011, when he was running for mayor, “The first phase of the Second Avenue subway is costing $2.7 billion per mile of new tunnel.

The extension of the 7 line from Times Square to the Javits Center is costing $2.1 billion per mile.”
He contrasted that with the construction of the Jubilee line extension of the London Underground, which he said cost $700 million per mile.

“We cannot build a 21st-century city and compete globally if we continue to spend five, even seven times as much on construction projects as compared to our competitors,” he said.

How New York City’s megaprojects compare in cost to those in similarly developed countries around the world is a question that is, somehow, very rarely studied.

Stringer’s spokesman said the comptroller relied for his numbers, in part, on a mathematician named Alon Levy, who’s now completing his post-doc at the Royal Institute of Technology, and who notes, in his blog Pedestrian Observations, that, mass transit is a “side interest” for him and “entirely unrelated to my work.”

The experts at the Regional Plan Association, who are looking into the problem of megaproject cost overruns as part of their latest survey of regional infrastructure, directed Capital to a blog post by Levy, too.

The post, from 2011, reported that the Toei Oedo Line in Japan cost $560 million per mile. The Berlin U55 cost $400 million per mile. The Paris Metro Line 14 cost $368 million per mile.
New York’s construction costs blew all of that away, the study found.

The Second Avenue Subway is coming in at $2.7 billion per mile. The 7 train extension to the far West Side? $2.1 billion per mile.

David Schleicher, an associate professor at George Mason University School of Law, has analyzed Levy’s numbers and says that his analysis basically confirms Levy’s.

Barone, of Regional Plan Association, said, “The question is always why, why, why is it so expensive?” said Barone.

The answer always seems to come back to a limited universe of issues, in varying combination: labor costs, work rules, managerial incompetence, the spaghetti of infrastructure tangled beneath Manhattan’s streets, a political firmament without incentive to tackle hard issues.

Maybe, suggested Gelinas, the M.T.A. is just trying to do too much all at once.

“If the choice is doing a lot of things not very well or nothing at all, then what do you pick?” she asked.

There have, in fact, been some in-house efforts to examine the issue, though none that anyone seems to find particularly useful.

In 2008, the M.T.A. released the report from a “blue ribbon” panel on the topic of unwieldy megaprojects. Then it appointed a traffic engineer named Michael Horodniceanu to run those projects and “implement the ideas the panel generated.”

Seven years later, all of the M.T.A’s megaprojects are still late, and nearly all are hundreds of millions over budget.

Cuomo appointed a “reinvention commission” to tackle the problem, too. It came up with recommendations, like creating a “center of excellence” to reform procurement procedures.
Asked which of these recommendations the M.T.A. has implemented, agency spokesman Adam Lisberg said, "We have used design-build processes for billions of dollars’ worth of procurements, we solicit input from the contractor community during the design of complex projects before locking them down, we do formal risk assessments of all large procurements, and we develop mitigation strategies to manage that risk."

“It is time to recognize that the delivery model for big projects is broken and fiddling on the margins will not build the kind of projects the region needs,” said Chris Ward, the former Port Authority executive director and former East Side Access contractor, who Cuomo publicly chastised for cost overruns before replacing him at the head of the authority.

New York City in the early 21st century looks very different from New York City in the early 20th century, when much of its transportation system was built.

More people live in the outer boroughs, and more people work there, too, but the options available for traveling between boroughs other than Manhattan are limited.

New York’s main bus terminal is a tear-down.

In the next 20 years, one or perhaps both of the two tubes connecting Midtown to New Jersey may have to be closed for repairs.

At the same time, the region invests billions of dollars in projects that planners believe were prioritized for political reasons. That Long Island Rail Road terminal beneath Grand Central will serve some 160,000 people a day, while the bus terminal serves more than 230,000. The temporary PATH station at the World Trade Center now serves 44,000 passengers a day, while Penn Station serves 600,000.

When those politicized projects go wildly overbudget it gives that much more license to politicians to be miserly about transportation funding.

Last year, after the M.T.A. approved a $32 billion capital plan with a $15 billion hole, Cuomo—who effectively controls the authority—called it “bloated,” even though the vast majority of it would go toward expenses like new subway cars, new buses, new rail and new signals to replace deteriorating old versions of each.

The governor is uneven at best as a champion of the transit system he oversees, and he had every political motivation in the world to reprise his tough-on-spending routine. Yet no one affiliated with the system was in a particularly good position to complain.

“Success requires bringing these projects in on time and within budget,” said that 2008 Blue Ribbon Panel report. “The public focuses on the transportation community and draws conclusions, deserved or undeserved, about MTA’s competence based on their perception of project success. Public trust and confidence in the transportation sector as a whole often lies in the balance.”

Pasadena SR-710 Working Group

From Sylvia Plummer, April 2, 2015

The Pasadena Working Group has sent its recommendations to Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard and City Manager Michael J. Beck regarding the Metro/Caltrans State Route 710 North Study. The Working Group’s report will be discussed at the Pasadena City Council meeting April 13, 2015 at the Pasadena Convention Center, 300 E. Green Street, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Here is a link to the group's Report and Letter which have been added to the City of Pasadena's
SR710 site:


SR-710 April Events

From Sylvia Plummer, April 2, 2015

Mark your calendars.  Below is a calendar of three events taking place this month.  
If your schedule can only fit in one meeting:   You are needed at the Pasadena City Council meeting on Monday April 13th @ 6:30pm.  There will be plenty of speakers, we need an audience to support the No 710 Tunnel side as well as the Pasadena SR-710 Working Group (more information provided under item 2 below).
The City of Pasadena has an announcement postcard for the two meetings in Pasadena.  The attached postcard has been prepared by the Public Information Office and distributed to Pasadena Council members and Pasadena Public Libraries.

SR-710 Public Hearings:  It is not necessary to be there the entire time.  You can stop by and take a look at the maps and ask the SR-710 Engineers questions.  

SR-710 Upcoming Events

Mark your calendar

Host:                                                   Date                               Time                      Location

Public Hearing #1 on SR710 Draft EIR

CalTrans                                          Saturday, April 11, 2015           10 am – 4 pm         East Los Angeles College
                                                                                                                                     Rosco Ingalls Auditorium
Map Viewing 10 am – 11 am                                                                              1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez
Public Hearing 11 am – 4 pm                                                                           Monterey Park, CA  91754


Pasadena City Council Meeting

Vote will be taken on a Resolution to oppose SR-710 Tunnels,
And Pasadena’s local Alternative preference

Everyone is invited             Monday, April 13, 2015               6:30 pm                Pasadena Convention Center
                                                                                                                         300 E. Green Street
                                                                                                                         Pasadena, 91101


Public Hearing #2 on SR710 Draft EIR

CalTrans                                          Tuesday, April 14, 2015           5 pm – 9 pm           Pasadena Convention Center
Map Viewing 5 pm – 6 pm                                                                                 300 E. Green Street
Public Hearing 6 pm – 9 pm                                                                             Pasadena, 91101


Now Accepting Public Comment for the SR-710 Draft EIR/EIS:

The public is highly encouraged to submit written or electronic comments prior to July 6, 2015

The Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) for the SR-710 North Study was released on March 6, 2015 by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).


For information on how to comment go to:  no710.com

Sign the No 710 Tunnel Petition:

Go to no710.com and click on the yellow button “Sign the Petition” located on the left hand sign of the home page.  All you need is an email address to sign the petition.