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, May 31, 2015

I-405 still congested, but flowing better since expansion


By Meghan McCarty, May 29, 2015

 Cars snake through the Sepulveda Pass near the Getty Center on I-405. The stretch is one of the most congested in the country.

 Cars snake through the Sepulveda Pass near the Getty Center on I-405. The stretch is one of the most congested in the country.

About a year after Metro completed its improvements of the Sepulveda Pass section of the 405 freeway, traffic has improved, rush hour has shrunk and the number of accidents has dropped, according to a study commissioned by the agency.

The study found that while the project has not brought down wait times during rush hour (a previous study found they've actually gone up by a minute), there are reasons to celebrate.

After five years of construction — including two Carmageddons, a Jamzilla and countless detours and delays — a carpool lane was added to the Northbound side, two bridges were rebuilt and several on and off-ramps were lengthened.

According to the new study:
  • Rush hour has been reduced from seven hours to five. The peak drive period formerly lasted from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. It's now lost an hour on either side, going from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Wait times on Northbound 405 have become less variable, making for easier planning.
  • Wait times during non-peak hours have been reduced.
  • The number of accidents reported has dropped by about 15 percent.
  • Traffic on major arteries in surrounding areas (like Sunset and Sepulveda Boulevards) has dropped between 20 and 25 percent.
  • Capacity has improved: 15 percent more cars pass through on an hourly basis, and use of the carpool lane has translated to a nearly 30 percent increase in the number of people passing through every hour.
The corridor from Interstate 10 to U.S. 101 near Westwood is consistently ranked among the most congested stretches of highway in the country.

Aziz Elattar, who heads Metro's Highway programs, stressed that it's important to look at the project not only in terms of the benefits it gained, but also the hassles it avoided.

"If we had done nothing, things would have been a lot worse,” he said.

He pointed to study projections that showed a 35 percent increase in wait times had the project not been completed.

Metro’s New CEO Is Bullish About a Tunnel Under the 405


By Neal Broverman, May 13, 2015

 Phil Washington—formerly of Denver’s transit agency—is now in his first week as head of L.A.’s Metro. Washington was recently grilled by Move L.A., which asked him about the plans for a proposed double- or triple-level tunnel under the 405.

With a price tag of about $20 billion—Metro only has $1 billion to pay for it—the agency will need to get creative if they want it see the light of day (or not, it would be underground). Move L.A. asked Washington about public/private partnerships, where a private business builds a public amenity (say a freeway/subway tunnel) and then collects a portion of the tolls or fares that the project generates. PPPs are something Washington used to help expand transit in Denver.

“The big benefit for the public sector is that P3s allow for the acceleration of projects, because the private sector has money that is ready to be invested while the transit agency has to depend on a long, slow trickle of sales tax revenues and other funding over decades, during which time costs escalate and the full benefits of the transit build-out aren’t realized,” Washington said. “P3s allow us to build the projects now and pay for them over a longer period of time — sort of like the mortgage on a home — but of course there is a cost to borrowing the money.”

Very early plans for the Sepulveda Tunnel call for a 60-foot tunnel that could accommodate trains on one level and cars on one or possibly two levels; drivers would be charged tolls to access the tunnel. The underground route will link the Valley to the Westside, though where exactly it would connect is not clear.

Aside from the proposed P3, Metro is considering placing a half-cent sales tax increase on the 2016 ballot. If it gets approval from two-thirds of voters, it could bring in about $90 billion over 45 years.

Facebook comments on this article:

According to this article the 405 tunnel will cost 20 billion dollars, 60' diameter and 9 miles. The SR-710 , 60' diameter tunnels, will cost 5.65 billion dollars for two 4.7 mile tunnels. Which one is estimated correctly?

 Actually this doesn't seem like a bad idea, at least it's primarily for commuting. If the adjacent communities approve, it certainly makes more sense than 710 North which is about truck traffic. Let's see how Mr. Washington parses his tunnel projects.

 The early reports on this project offered several options. The car tunnel only option, without rail of any sort, was estimated at $10 Billion the last time I looked. Still doesn't make sense when you compare it and the SR 710 tunnel together. SR-710 is still estimated at half the cost of the 405 Corridor tunnel.

 My guess: neither is estimated correctly. Mega projects are almost always purposely underbid and go way over budget.

 Wow, that project was estimated at $10 B before, now it's $20 B. 710 tunnels originally $1 B, now it's $5.65 B and SCAG estimate $11.8 B. With all these billions of dollars flying around, one has to think irresponsible to say the least of Metro.

  Maybe the changes in estimates have to do with Bryan Pennington the director of construction who replaced Doug Failing.

 There were multiple configurations -- some with rail, some with bus lanes, etc. the price depends on which configuration you are talking about. The 10 billion was for the version that is the analog to SR 210 -- no rail and no dedicated lanes. What is described in the article includes other modes.

You are right about the inevitable cost overruns. However, for me the larger issue is the lack of internal consistency -- two tunnels of the same diameter and (total) length, and yet SR 710 is estimated to cost half of 405? It leads to the logical conclusion that SR 710 is being purposely underestimated to make it look more attractive and feasible.

Phil Washington—formerly of Denver’s transit agency—is now in his first week as head of L.A.’s Metro. Washington was recently grilled by Move L.A., which asked him about the plans for a proposed double- or triple-level tunnel under the 405.
With a price tag of about $20 billion—Metro only has $1 billion to pay for it—the agency will need to get creative if they want it see the light of day (or not, it would be underground). Move L.A. asked Washington about public/private partnerships, where a private business builds a public amenity (say a freeway/subway tunnel) and then collects a portion of the tolls or fares that the project generates. PPPs are something Washington used to help expand transit in Denver.
“The big benefit for the public sector is that P3s allow for the acceleration of projects, because the private sector has money that is ready to be invested while the transit agency has to depend on a long, slow trickle of sales tax revenues and other funding over decades, during which time costs escalate and the full benefits of the transit build-out aren’t realized,” Washington said. “P3s allow us to build the projects now and pay for them over a longer period of time — sort of like the mortgage on a home — but of course there is a cost to borrowing the money.”
Very early plans for the Sepulveda Tunnel call for a 60-foot tunnel that could accommodate trains on one level and cars on one or possibly two levels; drivers would be charged tolls to access the tunnel. The underground route will link the Valley to the Westside, though where exactly it would connect is not clear.
Aside from the proposed P3, Metro is considering placing a half-cent sales tax increase on the 2016 ballot. If it gets approval from two-thirds of voters, it could bring in about $90 billion over 45 years.
- See more at: http://www.lamag.com/driver/new-metro-ceo-bullish-on-tunnel-under-405/#sthash.KEnPxk6T.dpuf

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Joe Cano Video: Freemont Ave south of Interstate 10

This disproves any narrative about traffic issues by Barbara Messina & Steve Placido.

Beyond the 710 - (A Better Alternative to the Tunnel)

From Sylvia Plummer, May 30, 2015

If you missed the Press Conference held at Metro Headquarters on Thursday, May 28th, here is a link to the youtube video.  Thanks to Joe Cano!

For more information about the Press Conference Event and news articles, check out the Beyond the 710 website at: http://www.beyondthe710.org/news

Advocacy Alert:

The National Trust for Historic Preservation Declares the 710 Route a National Treasure

Pasadena Heritage is thrilled with the announcement that the National Trust for Historic Preservation has declared the 710 route to be one of its critical issues and a National Treasure at Thursday Press Conference held at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Headquarters in downtown LA.

Pasadena Heritage has opposed the 710 Freeway extension for all of its 38-years history, because the negative impacts to historic homes, neighborhoods and trees could be profound. We continue to be very concerned with this controversial issue. We very much appreciate the work that Christina Morris of the National Trust has been doing with us and with communities all along the route to assemble, coordinate, and help organize the many voices who are seeking better transportation solutions!

SR-710 June Events - Mark your calendars

From Sylvia Plummer, May 30, 2015

 City of Alhambra "Close the Gap" Event
Wednesday, June 10th, 5 - 7pm
Informational letter from the Responsible Alhambrans Against the 710:

Dear Friend of Alhambrans Against the 710:
Responsible Alhambrans Against the 710 would like to invite you and your friends to come to the City of Alhambra’s “Close the Gap” event. It will not be in July, but rather in less than two weeks on Wednesday, JUNE 10 (5-7pm).  The city will close off Fremont again at the height of rush hour.  (See pictures here: http://alhambransagainst710.com/close-the-gap-day-aka-gridlock-day-july-10-2014/) Last year, the city provided blue t-shirts for all city employees who then attended. Please wear your No 710 T-shirts, buttons, or at the very least a red t-shirt.
We are planning to meet starting at 5pm under by the Alhambra arch / rose garden at the corner of Valley and Fremont. For parking, consider taking Marengo down to Valley and then turning west on Valley rather than taking Fremont south; or park at Kohls at Mission and Fremont. Carpooling and other forms of transport are highly encouraged.
Please RSVP so we know you’re coming: Alhambrans_against_710@yahoo.com
We hope we can count on your support!
Thank you!
Responsible Alhambrans Against the 710

2014: Alhambra’s Grid-Lock Day (Aka: “Close the Gap” event): http://alhambransagainst710.com/close-the-gap-day-aka-gridlock-day-july-10-2014/
SR-710 Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) Meeting
Wednesday, June 10th @ Metro Headquarters
Time and room to be announced
SR-710 Draft EIR Public Hearing
Saturday, June 20  10am - 4pm
Griffith Middle School 
4765 E. 4th Street
Los Angeles, 90022


From Sylvia Plummer, May 30, 2015

  -  Last day to comment to the SR-710 Draft EIR:  July 6, 2015
    -  Resources to comment to the SR-710 Draft EIR:  Go to No710.com
    -  Link to sign the No 710 Tunnel Petition: Go to No710.com

Friday, May 29, 2015

Opponents of the 710 freeway extension offer new alternatives to the tunnel plan


By Air Talk, May 29, 2015


 106122 full


Improving public transportation, surface streets and increasing bicycle lanes were proposed by opponents of the 710 freeway extension this week. 


Go to the website to listen to the story.

Opponents of the 710 freeway extension presented alternatives to the $5.6 billion tunneling plan this week, proposing better public transportation, improving surface streets and increasing bicycle lanes. 

The 710 was created to get motorists more efficiently from Long Beach to Pasadena through the heart of Los Angeles County.  In 2013, officials narrowed options to five rail and roadway plans, one of which was a tunnel between Alhambra and South Pasadena. However, this week a community group submitted a new set of ideas, focused primarily on public transportation.

Is improved public transportation a better alternative to the tunnel plan? Which freeway plan are you in favor of?


Marina Khubesrian, M.D., vice chair of Beyond the 710, the coalition that proposed the 710 alternative. She is also a member of the South Pasadena City Council.

Steve Placido, D.D.S., Council member, City of Alhambra.

Zipcar adds more car sharing locations near Metro station


By Steve Hymon, May 29, 2015

 L.A. Mayor and Metro Board Chair Eric Garcetti at this morning's press event. Photo: Anna Chen/Metro.

 L.A. Mayor and Metro Board Chair Eric Garcetti at this morning’s press event. Photo: Anna Chen/Metro.

Here are the locations:
Blue Line Willow Lot, 2750 American Ave., Long Beach 90806
Expo Line La Cienega/Jefferson, 5664 W Jefferson Blvd., Los Angeles 90016
Gold Line Indiana Lot, 210 S Indiana St., Los Angeles 90063
Gold Line Lincoln/Cypress, 370 W Avenue 26, Los Angeles 90031
Green Line El Segundo, 2226 E El Segundo Blvd., El Segundo 90245
Orange Line Van Nuys, 6062 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys, 91411
Orange Line Pierce College, 6425 Winnetka Ave., Woodland Hills, 91367
Red Line North Hollywood, 5391 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood 91601
Red Line Universal City, 3913 Lankershim Blvd.,Studio City 91604
Red Line Westlake/MacArthur Park, 660 S. Alvarado St., Los Angeles 90057
Here is the news release from Metro:

In an effort to help enhance mobility, provide Los Angeles transit customers with more transportation options and improve first mile-last mile connectivity to Metro stops, Zipcar, the world’s leading car sharing network, and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) have entered into a partnership to provide vehicles for hourly or daily reservations at ten Metro park-and-ride locations.

Twenty Zipcars will be available, two at each of the ten locations, providing residents, businesses and visitors with access to vehicles along busy transit corridors.

“We’re helping Angelenos stay on the move by offering more options to get where they need to go. Our pilot Zipcar partnership carries on our commitment to extend the reach of our Metro Rail system by making it more convenient to travel the last mile,” said Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Eric Garcetti.

Zipcar allows members to reserve a car by the hour or the day. Membership starts as low as $7 per month and members can choose vehicles such as sedans, hybrids, luxury vehicles and cargo vans. 
“For years Zipcar has served as a convenient way to get around Los Angeles, and now, with this partnership with Metro, Zipcar can also serve as a way to get out and explore beyond the city limits,” said Zipcar Regional Vice President Dan Grossman. “The partnership with Metro allows our members to have access to more cars in even more places making it easier than ever to live car-free or car-lite.”

Zipcar will be available for reservation at the El Segundo lot, Indiana parking lot, La Cienega/Jefferson, Lincoln/Cypress, North Hollywood south lot, Pierce College, Universal City north lot, Van Nuys, Westlake/MacArthur Park lot and the Willow Street lot.

“Most people walk to or from their transit stop. Improving the first mile/last mile access to transit with initiatives such as the partnership with Zipcars is critical to making transportation more convenient,” said Metro Board member Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker. “This also helps extend the reach of transit and will help boost transit ridership throughout the county.

Metro and Zipcar Offer Vehicles at Park and Ride Lots
Zipcar gives its members on-demand access to a variety of cars in hundreds of cities and colleges and university campuses worldwide as well as major airports throughout North America and in Europe. With cars available 24/7 for reservation via Zipcar’s mobile app, through http://www.zipcar.com, or over the phone, Zipcar is a smart transportation option for those who only need a car by the hour or by the day. Each reservation includes gas, insurance and 180 miles of driving per day.

About Zipcar
Zipcar, the world’s leading car sharing network, has operations in urban areas and college campuses throughout Austria, Canada, France, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. Zipcar offers more than 50 makes and models of self-service vehicles by the hour or day to residents and businesses looking for smart, simple and convenient solutions to their urban and campus transportation needs. Zipcar is a subsidiary of Avis Budget Group, Inc. (NASDAQ: CAR), a leading global provider of vehicle rental services. More information is available at www.zipcar.com.

APTA: Public transit users save $9,524 annually


May 29, 2015

This month, the annual savings for public transit riders is $9,524, according to the American Public Transportation Association's (APTA) May Transit Savings Report. Individuals who ride public transportation instead of driving can also save, on average, more than $794 per month.

The savings are based on the cost of commuting by public transportation compared to the cost of owning and driving a vehicle, which includes the May 27 average national gas price of $2.74 per gallon — reported by AAA — and the national unreserved monthly parking rate numbers.

APTA releases this monthly Transit Savings Report to examine how an individual in a two-person household can save money by taking public transportation and living with one less car.

The national average for a monthly unreserved parking space in a downtown business district is $166.26, according to the 2012 Colliers International Parking Rate Study, which is the most recent report available. Over the course of a year, parking costs for a vehicle can amount to an average of $1,995.

Hyperloop developer wants to offer free trips during off-peak hours


By Chris Perkins, May 28, 2015


What if someday you could take a 35 minute Hyperloop trip from LA to San Fransisco for free? This may sound like a pipe dream, but one developer wants to make it a reality.

Dirk Alhborn — CEO of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), one of the companies that's trying to bring tech entrepreneur Elon Musk's Hyperloop concept to life — wants to offer Hyperloop riders free trips during off-peak hours and low fares during peak hours.

See also: Can the Hyperloop Be Crowdfunded?

Alhborn told Wired, he wants "to make it something you use every single day many times," and offering a low price point for rides is his way to do so, despite price consultants who think that a Hyperloop ride would cost twice that of a plane ticket.

Hyperloop was announced back in 2013 as a mass-transportation system that can transport passengers between San Fransisco and Los Angeles in less than 40 minutes. Passengers would ride in aluminum pods in sealed tubes, traveling at speeds of up to 800 mph. Alhborn recently said the Hyperloop will likely launch within a decade — an unquestionably ambitious goal.

To offset the price, Alhborn mentioned selling the extra energy Hyperloop makes as a part of a move to get more riders interested. While he said there would be other revenue streams to offer no-cost Hyperloop tickets, he didn't detail what those could be.

HTT is slated to build a five-mile test track running along Interstate 5 in California, which will allow them to further develop the Hyperloop concept. However, this relatively short length of the track will only allow them to test at a paltry 200 mph, rather than Musk's projected 800 mph. The track will be paid for by an initial public offering (IPO) later this year.

Alhborn said that he took inspiration for his pricing strategy from video games that use a freemium model. Video games "are free and are making more money (than ever before) through upsales in-game," he told CNBC.

So basically, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood may have had a hand in the development of the Hyperloop.

Beyond the 710

Posted by Joe Cano on Facebook, May 29, 2015

Video by Joe Cano: Beyond The 710 Press Conference

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The 23-Lane Katy Freeway: A Monument to Texas Transportation Futility


By Angie Schmitt, May 28, 2015

Fast-growing Texas cities have an enormous traffic problem — that much isn’t in dispute. But the response has been myopic: pouring more and more money into widening highways. Even the road engineers at the Texas Transportation Institute recently acknowledged there’s no way these cities can fund and build highway lanes fast enough to keep pace with population growth. That’s in no small part because widening and expanding highways fuels sprawl that induces more car trips, TTI acknowledged.

Twenty-three lanes for the Katy Freeway and traffic is moving 51 percent slower. Photo: Houston Tomorrow
The 23-lane Katy Freeway doesn’t look like this at rush hour.

Jay Crossley at Houston Tomorrow crunched the numbers after the infamous Katy Freeway widening. U.S. Representative John Culberson recently bragged in Congress about how this $2.8 billion expansion “from eight lanes to 23 lanes” has resulted in “moving more cars in less time, more savings to taxpayers than any other transportation project in the history of Houston.”
In fact, reports Crossley, all that money seems to be doing a great job of generating more traffic:
Houston commutes continue to get worse despite billions in spending on new road capacity. Traveling from Downtown outbound on the I-10 Katy Freeway to Pin Oak took 51% more time in 2014 than in 2011, according to Houston Tomorrow analysis of Houston Transtar data. The Houston region in recent years has been spending the most per capita on new roads of the ten largest metropolitan regions in the nation.

In 2014, during peak rush hour, it took 70 minutes, 27 seconds to travel from Downtown, past Beltway 8, all the way to Pin Oak, just past the Katy Mills Mall. In 2011, this same trip took 46 minutes, 53 seconds.

The addition of single occupant vehicle capacity (SOV) and toll lanes to Katy Freeway completed in 2010 cost $2.8 billion. This was $1.63 billion more than the original 2001 price tag of $1.17 billion, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
To the north, this is why Patrick Kennedy at D Magazine has been arguing that Dallas must shift course, invest in creating walkable places and options other than driving. So far, the message has not sunk in at the state legislature. But it is beginning to make headway in Dallas.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Greater Greater Washington writes that incomes are rising in DC, but not for the people who were born there. ATL Urbanist reports that Atlanta is seeking TIGER funding to link its new streetcar to the Beltline project. And Streets.mn shares a classic cartoon about American car culture from Ken Avidor.

Anti-710 Freeway tunnel group presents new traffic-fixing plan


By Steve Scauzillo, May 28, 2015

 U.S. Congressman Adam Schiff addresses the crowd. Thursday, May 28, 2015. The group called "Beyond the 710" held a major press conference at 8 a.m. at the Union Station front entrance to Metro Gateway Plaza. Los Angeles, CA 90012.

 No 710 Action Commitee member Tom Williams stands within the crowd at the press conference. Thursday, May 28, 2015. The group called "Beyond the 710" held a major press conference at 8 a.m. at the Union Station front entrance to Metro Gateway Plaza. Los Angeles, CA 90012.

A group calling itself “Beyond the 710” on Thursday presented the county’s transportation agency with $705 million in immediate traffic fixes — a stark alternative to a proposed $5.6-billion Alhambra-to-Pasadena freeway tunnel project.

The group, made up of cities, legislators and national preservation organizations, oppose building the 6.3-mile tunnel to connect the 710 from where it dead-ends at Valley Boulevard to the ditch at Del Mar Avenue in west Pasadena at the 210/134 freeways interchange, calling it unrealistic, outdated and environmentally degrading.

“The era of building freeways in this L.A. Basin and surrounding valleys is over,” announced South Pasadena City Councilwoman Marina Khubesrian during a press conference Thursday morning.
The group also opposes a 7.5-mile light-rail alternative, one of five options presented in an SR-710 North Study draft Environmental Impact Report released in March. Instead, it suggests installing a surface-route light-rail or busway from Old Pasadena to East La College, connecting with existing Gold Line and Metrolink stations. The line — in second and third phases — would extend south through 710 corridor cities of Maywood, Bell, Cudahy and South Gate.

The group, which consists of the cities of Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, Pasadena, Sierra Madre and South Pasadena, wants the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, known as Metro, to scrap a 26,000-page study that includes different options for completing the so-called “freeway gap” and going with a more community-based plan.

The plan includes:

• Building a two-lane “Golden Eagle Boulevard” from the south stub at Valley just north of the 10 Freeway to Mission Road that could include bus lanes and a separated bike path.

• Improving Metro’s 762 bus by adding more north-south service, longer hours and dedicated bus lanes

• Quickly selling Caltrans-owned houses and properties along the old surface route in South Pasadena and Pasadena. The sales could generate $250 million and be used to buy each student at Cal State Los Angeles and East Los Angeles College a free transit pass.

• Filling in the northern ditch in Pasadena by building a “complete street” roadway that connects to the 210/134 freeways.

• Restoration of Arroyo Rosa de Castilla, a year-round creek that runs under the 710; creating 30 acres of new parkland, including three new soccer fields and a 2.5-mile bike path connecting Alhambra, El Sereno and South Pasadena.

“Caltrans and Metro need to take a new look (at the 710 connector),” said Pasadena City Manager Michael Beck. “We need to connect people to their destinations and not put them in a tunnel underground.”

Beyond 710 cities are the same that opposed the surface route in the 1990s and also include the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which won an injunction against the surface route in 1999. The group called South Pasadena and El Sereno “one of America’s 11 most endangered historic places.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, a new voice in the freeway-tunnel opposition group, said he had hoped a tunnel, instead of a surface freeway that would wipe out hundreds of homes, would bring communities together. Instead, it only brought more animosity and division. “Our communities want new and innovative ways to move people and improve air quality, not more freeways above or below ground with their smokestacks for ventilation and even more vehicles belching exhaust through their neighborhoods,” he wrote in a letter to Metro Board Chairman Eric Garcetti, L.A.’s mayor.

Barbara Messina, Alhambra city councilwoman, called the group’s plan “hairbrained” and their press conference an interruption of the EIR public comment process. “To disrupt this process is unconscionable and disrespectful to the hundreds of residents that have participated in the process throughout the years,” she said in a statement on the 710 Coalition website.

Indeed, representatives of Alhambra, Monterey Park and San Marino all spoke in favor of extending the freeway via a tunnel at recent public hearings held by Caltrans and Metro.

Caltrans and Metro abandoned plans for a surface route more than five years ago and instead have proposed either a single-bore tunnel ($3.15 billion) with two lanes of traffic in each direction, or double-bore, twin tunnels ($5.65 billion) with four lanes in each direction, as well as the other non-freeway alternatives. Neither agency has stated a preferred option.

Alhambra is a leading force in the 710 Coalition, which calls for “closing the gap” of the freeway that starts in Long Beach and is considered the missing link in the 14 Southern California freeways. Caltrans first proposed the extension in 1959.

Metro will wait until the comment period ends July 6, and for Caltrans to issue a final EIR before it votes on the project. That won’t happen until the middle of 2016, said Paul Gonzales, Metro spokesman.

Opponents of 710 Freeway extension offer alternatives to tunneling


By Dan Weikel, May 28, 2015

710 Freeway
 Trucks make their way along the 710 Freeway.

Opponents of a controversial proposal to extend the unfinished 710 Freeway unveiled a variety of options Thursday that they say would eliminate the need for an underground highway between Alhambra and Pasadena.

A coalition of community organizations, environmental attorneys and five San Gabriel Valley cities contends its Beyond the 710 plan could reset the longstanding debate over what to do about the 4.5-mile gap between Interstate 10 and the nexus of the 210 and 134 freeways.

Rather than extend the 710 by tunneling under homes and businesses at a cost of up to $5.6 billion, the group asserts that simply expanding bus service, improving surface streets, adding bicycle routes and developing more walkable communities will better address traffic congestion, air pollution and the transportation needs of the west San Gabriel Valley.
“We are hoping to move beyond the old, tired 710 Freeway debate, which is wasting lots of time, money and resources,” said South Pasadena City Councilwoman Marina Khubesrian, vice chair of the Connected Cities and Communities coalition. “Some of these ideas are new, but they have great potential.
The group presented its ideas to the board of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is evaluating a tunnel for the 710 and several alternatives. Coalition members want the MTA and Caltrans to also study their proposals, formulated with the help of Nelson Nygaard, a planning and transportation consulting firm.
Options for the 710 are now in the environmental review process. They include a bus system, a light rail line, a freeway tunnel and some upgrades to street intersections—all of them questioned by tunnel opponents. The MTA board is scheduled next year to select one or more options or leave the route as it is.

Tunnel supporters, such as the 710 Coalition formed in 1982, contend that opponents are trying to rebrand themselves in an effort to undermine the environmental review process. They say that more than 300 community and advisory meetings have been held during the past four years related to the ongoing analysis that recently released a draft environmental impact report.

“To disrupt this process is unconscionable and disrespectful to the hundreds of residents that have participated in the process throughout the years,” said Alhambra Vice Mayor Barbara Messina, whose city is a member of the 710 Coalition along with four other San Gabriel Valley cities.
“This is all politics. We can thank Congressman Adam Schiff for this,” Messina said. Schiff (D-Burbank) opposes the tunnel project.

Instead of a highway, Beyond the 710 envisions several surface street projects, including a four-lane thoroughfare called Golden Eagle Boulevard that would head north from the southern stub of the 710 to Fremont Avenue in Alhambra.

According to the plan, Golden Eagle would intersect Valley Boulevard as well as Alhambra Avenue and East Mission Road, allowing traffic to be distributed to other surface streets while protecting residential neighborhoods.
The group contends the improvements would reduce traffic congestion in the area, especially around Cal State Los Angeles, where a large number of car trips are made.

A proposal for the northern stub of the 710 in Pasadena calls for it to be filled in—an idea that could provide 35 acres of open space or developable land for homes and commercial buildings.
Another key proposal is a north-south transit corridor east of the proposed 710 route that would connect to Metrolink service, the El Monte busway and the MTA’s Gold, Green and Blue light rail lines.

This would provide access to Huntington Hospital, Cal State L.A., East Los Angeles College, St. Francis Medical Center and the communities of Bell, Maywood, Southgate and Long Beach.
Coalition members say the transit corridor could be served by a variety of bus lines, with light rail service added as ridership grows.

Khubesrian said the coalition opposes the elevated light rail option now undergoing environmental review. She said it would not connect to the Gold Line or go to many popular destinations. There is also opposition in El Sereno, she added.

Coalition planners estimate that the proposals that can be done immediately, such as street improvements, bikeways, safe pedestrian crossings and expanded bus service, would cost about $875 million. The figure is far less than the $3.1-billion to $5.6-billion cost to build the 710 extension in a tunnel.

With additional funding, the group says that the future projects, such as improvements to Metrolink, extensions of the Gold Line, bus rapid transit lines, and bike networks throughout the San Gabriel Valley could be done at a cost of almost $3 billion.

If the coalition’s proposals are approved, planners say they could create open space for recreation, generate thousands of jobs and trigger private investment in residential and commercial development in the western San Gabriel Valley.

Supporters of the tunnel claim, however, that the draft environmental impact report illustrates the benefits of putting the freeway underground. The opponents, they add, are desperate to combat growing support for the project.

“This group is beyond reasonable. They are not new. In fact, they are the same vocal minority that continues to oppose the increasingly popular tunnel alternative,” said Ron Miller, executive secretary of Los Angeles/Orange Counties Buildings & Construction Trades Council.

A recent poll commissioned by the 710 Coalition shows there is more than 2-to-1 support for the freeway tunnel in Los Angeles County and in cities near the proposed project.

Metro Board approves $5.6-billion budget


By Steve Hymon, May 28, 2015

The budget is for the fiscal year beginning July 1 and ending June 30, 2016. It calls for no fare increases in the coming fiscal year or any cuts to bus service hours. The budget can be read online here and below is the news release from Metro:

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) Board of Directors today approved a new $5.56 billion FY 2016 Budget following a public hearing that was held last week and community input as part of the budget process. 

Metro’s adopted budget is a balanced budget for FY 16 which begins on July 1, 2015 and runs through June 30, 2016. In FY 16, five major rail lines are in construction, with the Expo Line extension to Santa Monica and the Gold Line Foothill Phase 2A extension to Azusa opening before the summer of 2016. 

The budget calls for no fare changes or major service changes. Projects under planning/engineering in FY 16 include the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor, the Airport Metro Connector, the South Bay Metro Green Line Extension, the West Santa Ana Branch and the Gold Line Eastside Extension Phase II. Highway projects include the I-605 Corridor, the I-5 North Capacity Enhancements, the I-710 South and Early Action Projects, the SR 710 North Gap Closure, the SR-138 Capacity Enhancements, the High Desert Corridor, Arroyo Verdugo Operational Improvements, the South Bay Ramp & Interchange Operational Improvements and Countywide Soundwall Projects.

FY 16 Budget highlights include $1.5 billion for maintaining the current level of service, $2.1 billion for various capital projects which include major construction activity for the Regional Connector Project, the Crenshaw/LAX line and the Westside Extension of the Purple Line subway, and $1.4 billion is subsidy funding going back to transit operators and the 88 cities and unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County.

710 Freeway Debate Game Changer? Powerful Coalition Launches New Approach, New Plan


May 28, 2015


A group of cities and organizations today dramatically reshaped the debate over the 710 Tunnel today by announcing “Beyond the 710,” an effort to reimagine how to resolve the conflicts over congestion and mobility that have divided the western San Gabriel Valley for decades.

A key insight of Beyond the 710 is to understand that more than 85% of commuters exiting the 710 Freeway at Valley Boulevard are intent on reaching local destinations, and the vision of Beyond the 710’s plan is to use 21st Century planning solutions (such as well-planned transit lines, Great Streets concepts, and traffic mitigation) to reduce congestion and promote smart growth rather than 1960s freeway-oriented approaches.

“Today is a new day in the 710 debate, and we are committed to finding solutions that work for everyone,” said Ara Najarian, mayor of Glendale, member of the LA County Metro Board, and chair of Beyond the 710. “Just as my city and my neighbors will never accept a tunnel through our communities, we must recognize that a solution to the congestion created by the 710 in Alhambra and their neighbors must be addressed intelligently. That’s why we are presenting a starting point for new discussions on how to resolve these issues amicably.”

Beyond the 710 presented a plan that by removing the freeway “stubs” at both the 10 and 210 freeways, can free up land for smart development, employ transit to connect people to important local destinations and other transit lines, and employ modern strategies for increasing bikeability and walkability. The plan is available at www.beyondthe710.org/better_alternatives, located on the new Beyond the 710 website, which launched today as well.

“For too long, the debate over the 710 freeway has been fought with a 20th Century mindset that emphasizes more highways and all of the congestion and pollution that comes with them,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank). “We need to adopt a new approach – more fitting for the times – that moves past the tunnel debate, and offers a range of options that will improve both the quality of life and transportation in our region. I support a broad set of transportation and air quality solutions that emphasize more mass transit, more parks, more bikeways, and more efficient goods movement over more concrete and more exhaust.” Congressman Schiff recently wrote a letter opposing the 710 tunnel. It can be found at www.beyondthe710.org/adam_schiff.

Beyond the 710 is a project of the Connected Cities and Communities, comprised of the cities of Glendale, La Canada Flintridge, Cities of Glendale, La Canada Flintridge, Pasadena, Sierra Madre, and South Pasadena, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“Our communities have come together because while the tunnel is completely unacceptable to us due to the significant damage it would cause, we know that something must be done to relieve congestion in all the neighboring communities,” said Marina Khubesrian, South Pasadena councilmember and vice chair of Beyond the 710. “It is really unfortunate that the alternatives process that Caltrans and Metro have conducted so far has been so deeply flawed and considered nothing like what we are putting out for discussion today.”

Beyond the 710’s Plan is the result of many months of study and collaboration to seek solutions that work for all the affected communities. The effort was led by Nelson\Nygaard, a full-service transportation firm, with offices across the United States, committed to developing transportation systems that promote vibrant, sustainable, and accessible communities. The firm’s Los Angeles office is led by Paul Moore, who has led complex projects that have successfully transformed cities, neighborhoods and agencies throughout the United States.

“Pasadena has suffered the negative impacts of freeway ‘solutions,’ and we recognize that better options exist, such as great streets and smart transit,” said Michael Beck, city manager of the City of Pasadena. “Our city council recently voted to oppose the tunnel, and instead we’ve “Beyond the 710,” A Game-changing Plan to Replace SR-710 Tunnel Debate with 21st Century Smart Mobility Measures to Connect People and Relieve Congestion for All Communities, is Launched adopted a progressive approach to improving north-south connectivity that is very consistent with Beyond the 710.”

The Economic Benefits analysis was led by The Maxima Group LLC, a principal-led consulting firm specializing in real estate market and economic analysis. A summary is located at www.beyondthe710.org/smart_growth, was written by Patricia Flynn, one of the founding Principals of the Maxima Group. Flynn has over 25 years of experience in real estate and fiscal impact analysis. She has been responsible for many studies of transit-oriented development in Southern California, including two corridor-wide studies of the impact of transit-oriented development along the Gold Line Foothill Extension and several project-level studies for Metro.

“While the 710 Tunnel would cost many billions of dollars and not promote economic development at all, Beyond the 710’s plan would create thousands of long-term jobs, promote sustainable growth, and create opportunities for new housing and recreation,” said John Harabedian, councilmember of the City of Sierra Madres. “It’s based on four pillars of modern planning: community-serving transit, congestion reduction, Great Streets concepts that encourage bike use and walking, and managing traffic demand.”

“Like everyone here today, the City of La Cañada Flintridge acknowledges that the current situation is not tolerable, and something must be done, said Jonathan Curtis, mayor pro tem of the City of La Cañada Flintridge. “Unfortunately, the Caltrans / Metro approach is so deeply flawed that it cannot be a basis on which to move forward. Metro and Caltrans did not really listen to the ideas that came out of the scoping sessions, which is shown by the fact that among the 100 alternatives that they examined, none of them included eliminating either the north or south stubs. Caltrans and Metro must take a new look at how best to connect people to their destinations, and use transit and great streets to sustainably grow communities, and improve everyone’s quality of life.”

“The National Trust for Historic Preservation is proud to join the cities, institutions, and organizations supporting ‘Beyond the 710: Moving Forward’ as committed advocates for more effective and equitable regional transportation solutions suited to the 21st century needs of this dynamic, diverse, and growing metropolis,” said Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“Today, we are announcing Historic Communities of the 710 as our newest National Treasure—our signature advocacy program focusing on critically important and threatened historic places across the country. The National Trust supports and advances policies that promote urban livability, and we firmly believe that a transportation plan focused on the needs of the entire region will yield a much better solution

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

State’s share of Portsmouth bypass rises to $1.2 billion over 35 years


By Rick Rouan, May 25, 2015

Ohio’s largest road project and first public-private partnership will cost taxpayers nearly three times its announced price tag of $429 million.

The state will pay about $1.2 billion over the life of a 35-year agreement to build and maintain the Southern Ohio Veterans Memorial Highway, a 16-mile link between Rts. 23 and 52 that will help drivers skirt the Ohio River city of Portsmouth, financial documents show.

The highway, also known as the Portsmouth Bypass, is Ohio’s test case for public-private partnerships, which have been used across the country to build major transportation projects but, until recently, weren’t allowed in Ohio.

Private contractors are using their own money and taking on debt to pay for construction of the bypass and will be responsible for maintaining the road through 2053. In turn, the state has agreed to make payments that will cover principal and interest on the loans as well as maintenance costs.
The state’s 35 annual payments, along with several “milestone” payments it will make during construction, total $1.2 billion.

Previously, state officials said the project, 90 miles south of Columbus, would cost $429 million, but that figure represents only construction costs. Left out are interest, financial-transaction costs and other charges developers incur and that the state ultimately pays.

The number also doesn’t include highway maintenance over 35 years, which the $1.2 billion will cover. ODOT routinely refers only to construction costs when it talks about the amount of money spent on a project, said Matt Bruning, an ODOT spokesman.

ODOT officials say that paying for the project over time rather than waiting for enough money to become available is smart because the road will spur economic development in beleaguered southern Ohio.

But experts say that this project — and future roads built using debt — could hamper the state’s ability to maintain its construction program.

ODOT rarely uses debt to pay for projects, Bruning said. It occasionally uses bonds to fill small gaps on major projects. “I equate it to a mortgage on your house,” he said. “We’re able to build it today instead of waiting 30 years. We’re able to get some economic benefit.”

Construction starts this year and should take about four years to complete. If the state had used traditional methods, construction would have taken about 13 years to complete, and funding wasn’t guaranteed.

The contract with the Portsmouth Gateway Group also includes 35 years of maintenance and operations in addition to construction. A state financial analysis concluded that the public-private partnership was a better deal, and some economic-development benefits are expected in Scioto County.

“There’s cost with doing this a different way, but we think there’s a benefit,” Bruning said. “ This is an area of the state that needs those investments.”

Companies in Europe and South America already are contacting economic-development officials in Scioto County about developing areas near the bypass, said Jason Kester, executive director of the Southern Ohio Port Authority. Interest has grown at both the north and south ends of the bypass, he said.

But using long-term debt to pay for road projects could hurt the state’s ability to fund new construction in the future, said Robert Poole, transportation director at the Reason Foundation, a libertarian research group.

Most public-private partnerships have a dedicated revenue stream, such as tolls, that will pay for them. Increasingly, states are dedicating gas-tax money to pay for projects over time. If too much debt accumulates on their books, that could slow construction on other projects.

“There’s only so much that you can use existing gas-tax money for,” Poole said.

In 2013, the Ohio Turnpike Commission borrowed $1 billion against future revenue on the toll road to pay for northern Ohio road projects. That debt could end up costing about $3.7 billion. A second round of bonds totaling about $500 million is expected as well.

Poole said roads built through public-private partnerships tend to last longer. Contractors have an incentive to build a road that doesn’t require much maintenance because they must patch potholes and resurface lanes.

In some cases, though, traffic on such roads doesn’t really justify the cost of a project, so the state uses debt to spread out the cost, said David Hartgen, a North Carolina-based transportation-planning consultant and emeritus professor.

“What (the state is) really saying is, the road is not important enough to be built with its current money pile,” said Hartgen, who also is a fellow at the Reason Foundation.

Agenda for May meeting of Metro Board of Directors


By Steve Hymon, May 27, 2015

 View this document on Scribd

The Metro Board of Directors holds their monthly meeting on May 28 at Metro headquarters adjacent to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. The agenda is posted above including links to Metro staff reports on a wide variety of items.

Two items caught my eye:

•Item 25, asking the Metro Board to provide up to $10.8 million in matching funds to allow Metro to apply for state and federal grants for the Rail to River project, which would ultimately build a walking and bike path between the Crenshaw/LAX Line and the L.A. River via part of the Harbor Subdivision right-of-way. Staff report and earlier Source post about the project.

•Item 46, asking the Metro Board to provide stipend payments to firms that bid to build the second section of the Purple Line Extension between Wilshire/La Cienega and Century City. Bottom line: gears are really beginning to move on the second phase of the subway project, which is scheduled to open by 2026. This is a necessary step before the project can go out to bid and is being done to ensure a wide variety of bidders. Staff report and Purple Line Extension page on metro.net.

As always, the public is welcome to attend and comment on the different items. If you would like to listen to the meeting online, please click here and a link will appear when the meeting begins at 9 a.m.

The Board is scheduled at 9 a.m. to consider the proposed budget (below) for fiscal year 2015-16 that begins July 1 and runs through June 30, 2016. The regular meeting will begin after the budget is discussed and/or voted upon.

Call to Action: Press Conference

 From Sylvia Plummer, May 27, 2015

For those that plan to attend the Press Conference mentioned below, they request that we do not wear No 710 t-shirts, bring signs or banners .  Buttons are ok
Beyond the 710 - Moving Forward   (formerly called C3)  will be sponsoring a Press Conference on the steps of METRO Headquarters .

Thursday, May 28th, at 8:00 am

We are especially pleased to be joined by Congressman Adam Schiff.

You are invited to join the Press Conference which will occur  prior to the METRO Board meetings.
This is an important meeting and all of us hope that there will be a good crowd present to  enthusiastically support the many leaders from the San Gabriel Valley who will distribute a new plan of forward-thinking mobility and smart growth proposals that will better connect people to important destinations and relieve congestion throughout the San Gabriel Valley.

See below for the Press Advisory with more details about the event and also for public transit.

We hope to see you on Thursday!


  MEDIA ADVISORY CONTACT: Coby King - (310) 489-3280 coby@hpstrat.com

Congressman Adam Schiff Joins New Coalition of Cities, Communities, and Allies to Launch “Beyond the 710,” New Plan to Replace SR-710 Tunnel Debate with 21st Century Smart Mobility Measures to Connect People and Relieve Congestion for All Communities

The Connected Cities and Communities, comprised of five San Gabriel Valley cities and community allies will join Congressman Adam Schiff to announce “Beyond the 710: Moving Forward,” a new plan to replace the tired debate over the proposed 710 Tunnel with a set of forward-thinking mobility and smart growth proposals that will better connect people to important destinations and relieve congestion throughout the San Gabriel Valley, while ending the debate over a tunnel proposal that has generated widespread and passionate opposition.

Beyond the 710 will also distribute written copies of its Plan, which will be presented to the Metro Board at its meeting following the press conference, and will launch a new website to encourage community participation.

EVENT: Launch of “Beyond the 710: Moving Forward”

DATE: Thursday, May 28, 2015

TIME: 8 am

LOCATION: Front Entrance to Metro Gateway Plaza (Bus Plaza)
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Parking available in Gateway Plaza garage

WHO: The Hon. Adam Schiff, Member of Congress
The Hon. Ara Najarian, Mayor of Glendale, and Member, Metro Board
The Hon. Marina Khubesrian, Councilwoman, South Pasadena
Michael Beck, City Manager, City of Pasadena
The Hon. Jonathan Curtis, Mayor pro tem, La Cañada Flintridge
The Hon. John Capoccia, Mayor, Sierra Madre
Christina Morris, National Trust for Historic Preservation
Damon Nagami, National Resources Defense Council
Claire Bogaard, No 710 Action Committee
The Hon. Anthony Portantino, former member, Calif. State Assembly