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

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Metrolink's new chief looks to boost image


South Pasadena Festival of Balloons Parade

From Sylvia Plummer, June 30, 2015

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Beyond the 710 Blasts Metro Cost-Benefit Analysis as Flawed and Self-serving

Beyond the 710 Coalition, which has released a new alternative that could provide greater congestion reduction to all the affected communities than the tunnel would, at a fraction of the cost, criticizes the Analysis as disconcertingly skewed in favor of the Tunnel Alternative and includes underestimated costs and misleading conclusions


June 25, 2015

 Beyond the 710, a community effort created to reimagine how to resolve the conflicts over congestion and mobility that have divided the western San Gabriel Valley for decades, blasted the Cost-Benefit Analysis recently released by Metro to support its SR-710 draft environmental impact report as “flawed” and “skewed”.

“We’ve been asking for a Cost-Benefit Analysis that honestly compares the alternatives in the EIR, but unfortunately, the Analysis released recently just continues what appears to be a strategy by Caltrans of putting the tunnel in the best possible light while discounting other alternatives,” said Ara Najarian, mayor of Glendale, member of the LA County Metro Board, and chair of Beyond the 710.

“Essentially, this so-called analysis says that the more a project costs, the more the benefits will be. Well, that’s pretty obvious, and not the kind of analysis that can help policy-makers see what a dumb idea this tunnel really is.”

Among the criticisms of the Analysis that Beyond the 710 has identified are:

1) Valuing “Bigness” over anything else by falsely asserting that benefits “are typically examined independently of their relationship to costs.” In fact, if the alternatives were presented in terms of the ratio of benefit to cost, the results would show that the Transportation Systems Management and Transportation Demand Management (TSM/TDM) alternative provides the best ratio of benefits.

2) The Analysis inflates the operating costs of the bus rapid transit (BRT) alternative in a way that degrades its cost-benefit ratio. If the Analysis used the same numbers from the DEIR, the BRT ration would approach the TSM/TDM alternative in performance.

3) The Analysis appears to adopt a model that values the time of car riders over the time of transit riders, without any explanation, and as a result skews the results in favor of the tunnel alternative.
4) The Analysis purposely underestimates the cost of the proposed tunnel by half. Analyses of similar projects, most notably the one for the Sepulveda Pass, are using $1 billion per mile as a budgeting model, yet the 710 DEIR and CBA are using $500 million. This is another example of how the Analysis is skewed in favor of the tunnel.

5) The CBA and DEIR have no provision, plan or budget for the anticipated breakdown of the tunnel-boring machine. The same machine has been stuck in Seattle for over a year and is requiring a four-city block additional vertical tunnel to be excavated in order to free it. While of course we cannot be sure that the same machine would break down in a similar fashion here (despite geology that is, if anything, more challenging than Seattle’s), the lack of any contingency costs (again) skews the Analysis in favor of the tunnel. This is most obvious in that the Analysis uses the same discount rate for all the alternatives, which does not reflect the differential in risk among them.

6) One of the primary concept used in the Analysis, “Net Present Value,” is an inappropriate measure for public infrastructure projects.

7) The calculations used to come up with an employment benefit for the various alternatives is directly correlated to capital cost, skewing the benefits to the most costly alternatives. (Again, this is a fundamental problem of the Analysis, in that it unfairly favors “Bigness.”) Employment benefits are directly correlated to capital expenditures. The disparity in capital costs insures that the higher cost projects will generate more jobs than lower cost alternatives.

“Metro board members and other policy-makers should understand that this so-called Analysis appears to be a continuation of the skewed analysis unfairly favoring the tunnel that was obvious in the EIR,” said Marina Khubesrian, South Pasadena councilmember and Vice Chair of Beyond the 710. “It appears that an independent study of these issues may be necessary to get an unbiased view of whether this tunnel will be worth its huge projected costs. Obviously, we believe otherwise, and that instead Caltrans and Metro should study the Beyond the 710 proposal.”

The Beyond the 710 proposal was released on May 28, 2015. 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.

The Beyond the 710 plan demonstrates that 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.

About Beyond the 710

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.

Beyond the 710’s Proposal 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.

An Economic Benefits analysis produced by The Maxima Group LLC, a consulting firm specializing in real estate market and economic analysis, is located at www.beyondthe710.org/smart_growth.
Visit www.BeyondThe710.org for more information.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Why Always Us? Ask East L.A. Residents


June 25, 2015

Angered by the possibility of another transportation project devastating and dividing their community, dozens of eastside residents expressed their opposition to a SR-710 North alternative they believe would once again require East Los Angeles to pay a high price for what is a regional problem.

“For decades, we have been the dumping grounds for the problems of other communities,” said Clara Solis Saturday during a Metro meeting in East L.A.

“Now we’re being asked once again to sacrifice for the greater good,” she said in disbelief.
[Read an introduction to the SR-710 North project here]
It soon became clear that the majority of East L.A. residents at the meeting at Griffith Middle School believe the light rail train (LRT) alternative will disrupt a community already divide and surrounded by transportation projects.

Longtime East Los Angeles resident Margarita Sanchez, pictured left, scolds Metro officials for a SR-710 alternative she belives will devastate her community during a meeting Saturday at Griffith Middle School.  (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)
Longtime East Los Angeles resident Margarita Sanchez, pictured left, scolds Metro officials for a SR-710 alternative she belives will devastate her community during a meeting Saturday at Griffith Middle School.

“East L.A. has taken their burden, they have taken a fair share of projects,” said Jeffrey Hernandez, referring to the 60 (Pomona) 5 (Santa Ana/Golden State) and 710 (Long Beach) freeways and Metro Gold Line that were built to benefit traffic in the region but have splintered the eastside community.

Many said they prefer a tunnel over an elevated light rail train that would stay above ground through East L.A., but go underground in more affluent communities, such as South Pasadena, San Marino and La Canada.

Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard calls the light rail alternative an example of “environmental racism.”

“While the light rail is being proposed under the guise of a regional solution, the fact is it is nothing more than an irresponsible and unconscionable response to the more influential areas opposing the logical completion of the 710 Freeway,” she told EGP in a statement.

“Unfortunately, this light rail alternative is one more example of a minority community being sacrificed to appease more affluent neighborhoods.”

A similar statement from Roybal-Allard was read during Saturday’s meeting, drawing loud cheers from residents, heartened to hear an elected official speak so strongly in support of their community. Roybal-Allard represents East Los Angeles and Commerce, also located adjacent to the 710 freeway.
[Read her Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard’s full statement here]
The meeting was at times rowdy, as residents and business owners, often speaking loudly and passionately, demanded Metro officials give them a chance to be heard: something they said the agency failed to do during earlier scoping process.

When Metro officials refused to allow speakers who had gone over their allotted two minutes to keep speaking, the crowd at times responded angrily.

“Why not? Of course you can extend the amount of time,” one woman yelled out from the audience. Two minutes, “is not enough [time] for what we have to say.”

According to the Draft Environmental report, building the light rail would force the removal of 15 businesses.

“We in East L.A. have made a sacrifice to relieve traffic, we don’t need another Gold Line,” said Lily Hernandez. “What we need is jobs, we need progress and this alternative is going to hinder that,” Hernandez said.

Business owner Tony DeMarco, representing the Whittier Boulevard Merchants Association, said he believed the EIR/EIS process has been flawed since before it was expanded into East L.A.

“They should have allowed East L.A. to be in the discussion when there was 100 alternatives, not just when there’s 5 left.”

“The rich communities have had years to study this,” echoed Margarita Sanchez, a longtime East L.A resident. “You have the nerve to bring this to our community at the last minute.”

“It’s kind of like a take it or leave it attitude,” DeMarco said.

Many of those who oppose the light rail favor another controversial alternative.

“If you’re to give us what we need, give us a tunnel,” David Ibarra said defiantly.

However, Mark Lopez of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice warned attendees not to be so quick to support the tunnel.

“East L.A. was so late in the process, [it’s] a tactic used to instigate more support for the tunnel project,” he told EGP.

A map of East Los Angeles illustrate how the community is surrounded by freeways. (Google Maps)
A map of East Los Angeles illustrate how the community is surrounded by freeways. (Google Maps)

“We need to get back to the scoping, not picking an alternative,” he said.

Dr. Tom Williams, a Sierra Club member and El Sereno resident, said he opposes all current alternatives. He said a community group is getting ready to submit yet another community alternative. In May, the cities of Glendale, La Canada Flintridge, Pasadena, Sierra Madre and South Pasadena gave their support to the Beyond the 710 coalition’s “6th alternative,” not in the Draft EIR.
The plan calls for expanding public transportation, building a four-lane boulevard, and more pedestrian- and bike-friendly paths to reduce traffic congestion in the western San Gabriel Valley.

Construction ends south of those cities. The 710 Coalition — which includes several cities and communities along the 710 freeway that favor the tunnel alternative — criticized the new initiative as too late in the game and just a guise for tunnel opponents to “undermine Metro’s ongoing DEIR/EIS process, which took four years to be reviewed, processed and released.”

On Saturday, County Supervisor Hilda Solis said the community must continue to make sure their voices are heard during the review process. She agreed that more information about the impact to the region is warranted.

“As I have stated in more than one occasion, I do not believe that the East LA community has enough information about the health impacts of the different options for the 710 N. extension,” she told EGP in an email; stopping short of answering if she agrees with Roybal-Allard that the light rail train is another example of environmental racism.

“I do not see any of the alternatives as a natural choice, especially when considering the health, development, and economic impacts to those in my district,” Solis said. “I will continue to push Metro and Caltrans to be inclusive, transparent and responsive, until we have all the information we need to make a choice that helps … all residents of Los Angeles County.”

For East L.A. Chamber of Commerce Executive Board Member Eddie Torres, the choice is clear. He says his Chamber, the Whittier Merchants, Maravilla Business Improvement Assoc. and new East Los Angeles Advisory Board all support the tunnel alternative.

“We surveyed people leaving the meeting and about 80% said they want the tunnel, not a light rail, he told EGP. “ We’re hearing that Solis says we don’t want either, but that’s not true,” he said.
“Congresswoman Roybal-Allard has it right, she knows the community, she knows what we need and supports us.”

Joe Cano Video: CTC Meeting 6/25/2015

SR-710 Expansion: 60 Years of Discord


By EGP News

More than half a century ago, transportation officials in the Southland knew that they would have to do something to relieve the inevitable traffic congestion that would pile up along the 710 Freeway headed north. They had plans to build a freeway extension to complete the 4.5-mile gap between the terminus of the 710 Freeway in Alhambra and the 210 Freeway in Pasadena.

Fearing disruption to their neighborhoods and the taking of their homes, residents filed lawsuits, effectively stopping the expansion for nearly 60 years.

During the ensuing years, traffic has increased dramatically, both in terms of goods movement and people driving to work, school, shopping or home.

For large diesel trucks traveling from the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, hauling as much as 40% of all the goods consumed in the U.S., the 710 Freeway is a key transportation route to distribution centers and commercial markets to the east and north of Los Angeles County.

The crush of traffic has pushed more trucks and cars onto local streets, making it harder for residents to get around, and according to health experts, increasing their risk of cancer, asthma, learning disabilities and premature babies due to increased pollution.

In March, Metro released a Draft Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (DIR/EIS) with five proposed alternatives for improving traffic through the region; a freeway tunnel, a light rail train; a rapid bus line; a traffic management system and the required “no build” option.

Several public hearings on the draft report have already been held; the latest Saturday in East Los Angeles. Some groups are now calling the alternatives “outdated” for today’s transportation and environmental needs, and want to start the process over.

The two proposals getting the most attention are the 7-mile tunnel connecting the two freeways, and a light rail alternative that backers say will make it easier for people to leave their car behind.

Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard represents many of the working class, predominately Latino communities caught in the 710 traffic snarl. Last week, she issued the strongest statement to date by any public official on the project:

“The proposed light rail route is an unacceptable alternative. It is one more example of the environmental racism with which East L.A. and Southeast citizens are only too familiar … one more example of a minority community being sacrificed to appease more affluent neighborhoods.” (See her full statement here ). She supports building the tunnel.

Metro has extended the deadline to comment on the on the Draft EIR from July 6 to Aug. 5. Comments will be used to create the final report and recommendation of an alternative to Metro’s Board of Directors.

From Sylvia Plummer

June 24, 2015


    -  Last day to comment on the SR-710 Draft EIR:  August 5, 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
    -  Beyond the 710 website:   http://www.beyondthe710.org/news
    -  Link to sign the Beyond the 710 Petition:  http://www.beyondthe710.org/petition
  Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) Open House
Monday, June 29, 9:00 am -11:00 am
Monrovia Community Center
Senior Game Room,  119 W. Palm Ave.
Monrovia, CA 91016

SCAG Open House will ask for your thoughts on important issues in the region such as traffic & congestion, housing, air quality & open spaces, public health, jobs, goods movement and the economy. Your input will help SCAG develop guiding policies to be included in the Draft Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy, RTP/SCS, a long-range vision for Southern California scheduled to be released in October. 
For more information use this link:
 SR-710 Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) Meeting
 Wednesday, July 8th @ 1 pm at LA Metro. 
  SR-710 Stakeholder Outreach Advisory Committee (SOAC) Meeting
Thursday day, July 9th @ 7:30a - 9:30am

Heritage Conference Room, 13th Floor
Metro Headquarters
One Gateway Plaza
Los Angeles, CA  90012
  July 4th, 2015  -  Mark your Calendar
South Pasadena July 4th Parade.  
Come out and join us at this annual event and march with the No 710 Group.  We will meet at 10 am, the parade starts at 11 am.  More details to follow.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

MTA's report on 710 Freeway gap project accused of tunnel vision

Activists say cost-benefit analysis of 710 alternatives shows bias of project engineers.


By Sara Cardine, June 24, 2015

710 Freeway

This file photo from Thursday, January 28, 2010, shows the terminus of the 710 Freeway at Valley Blvd. in Alhambra.

For months, elected officials and local activists have asked the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for a cost-benefit analysis of five project alternatives being put forth as potential solutions to addressing a 4.5-mile gap in the 710 Freeway between Alhambra and Pasadena.

Now, less than a week after Metro released the long-anticipated document, those who oppose a multibillion-dollar underground tunnel as a means of connecting the freeway’s end points claim the evaluation reveals a pro-tunnel bias and excludes several very real costs.

“It does not instill the confidence in either impartiality or competence I was hoping for,” said former Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, who along with Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian and former La Cañada Flintridge City Councilman Don Voss, among others, urged Metro to issue the document alongside its draft environmental impact report of the alternatives, released on March 6.

Instead, Metro and California Department of Transportation officials issued the cost-benefit analysis Friday, announcing that the deadline by which the public could comment on the DEIR itself would be extended from July 6 to Aug. 5 to accommodate additional input.

The nearly 50-page document attempts to monetize the costs of each alternative, comparing them with a valuation of the benefits each would deliver, in terms of capital expenditures, travel time benefits, emissions, safety effects and job growth associated with the implementation and maintenance of the projects in a 20-year period.

According to the analysis, a 4.2-mile single-bore tunnel, including various toll and truck use scenarios, would cost from $1.95 billion to nearly $2 billion, but could provide nearly $3.6 billion in benefits to the region. It’s dual-bore counterpart, costing up to nearly $3.4 billion, might potentially produce a value of up to $3.73 billion to communities served by the 710 Freeway.

Comparatively, the report states bus infrastructure upgrades would cost $510 million but could add a value of $879 million, while light rail improvements between East Los Angeles and Pasadena would cost up to $2.2 billion, but provide $1.29 billion in estimated benefits.

Among all options, the single-bore tunnel would have the highest net present value — between $1.48 billion and $1.59 billion — according to the report. Reached Wednesday while traveling in Armenia, Najarian stated in a text message his disappointment with the document’s findings.

“To say that the tunnel provides the greatest benefit without stating that it is the most costly, by far, borders on misrepresentation,” Najarian stated, referring to previous tunnel estimates from Metro as high as $5.6 billion. “I will be bringing this dereliction of basic duties owed to the taxpayers of the county to the highest authorities who have jurisdiction over this matter — enough is enough.”

Sharing his reactions to the analysis, Voss said inclusion of the estimated “employment benefits” associated with each option creates potentially misleading discrepancies in their net values. When employment benefits are removed, he stated, a combination of traffic management and bus improvement provides more “bang for the buck” than any tunnel scenario.

La Cañada resident Jan Soo Hoo, a 710 activist opposed to the tunnel option, said the model used by engineers contracted by Metro and Caltrans reveals many limitations, while failing to factor in costs and benefits of critical importance to stakeholders, including reliability, resiliency and the potential hazardous long-term health impacts to adults and children.

“If a bus or light rail breaks down, another can be put into service, but if a tunnel shuts down, there is no replacement. And while emissions are monetized, health impacts are not,” Soo Hoo said of the report. “It’s an engineer’s model with an engineer’s perspective — we’re getting what they wanted us to see.”

710 Freeway extension: Solis says East LA residents want more health info


By Sharon McNary, June 21, 2015

  95041 full

Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis said residents of her East Los Angeles district want more information on the health  burdens that could come with an extension of the 710 Freeway.

An extensive environmental report now under public review mentions cancer risk from options like a freeway tunnel or elevated light rail line. But, Solis said, it does not  gauge the increased risk of ailments that come with living in traffic-clogged cities, like heart disease, asthma and childhood illnesses.

"I think there really was an absence of what kind of other health effects occur when you live in a surrounding area that has many environmental justice impacts," Solis said.

Solis, as a member of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority board, will be among those voting on how best to close the freeway gap between the 710 terminus in Alhambra and the 210 Freeway in Pasadena.

The freeway was originally designed to go all the way through from Long Beach to Pasadena, but debate over the 5.5 mile gap has divided the region.

The 710 ends abruptly near Cal State Los Angeles, spilling thousands of cars onto Alhambra streets. East Los Angeles gets some of that traffic. Options for extending the 710 freeway also include improved bus service and improving local traffic signals and traffic management tactics.

Solis, so far, has been publicly undecided about which option she prefers. However, she said she wanted more health impact information on two of the options, a freeway tunnel and an elevated light rail line that would end in East L.A.

East Los Angeles and other residents concerned about the health and economic burdens that might come with a new freeway tunnel or light rail line had a chance to sound off in public comment hearings. The last of five hearings was held Saturday at Griffith Middle School in East Los Angeles.
These hearings matter because any substantive questions and issues that the public raises about the project must be answered by the agencies.

Caltrans has extended the public comment period another month, through August 5 and comments may be submitted in writing and online. Also, Metro is expected to release a cost-benefit analysis report on the various options. (Note: the cost-benefit analysis report has been released.)

Posted on Facebook by A-Team Portantino, June 24, 2015

Here is my comment letter for tomorrow's CTC hearing. The staff recommendation is for the CTC to not comment on the DEIR. I thought that there are two global issues that need strong intervention.


State pulls plug on expert panel monitoring Bertha, Highway 99 tunnel


By Mike Lindblom, June 20, 2015
  Workers view Bertha’s cutting head, lifted to ground level for repairs.

 Workers view Bertha’s cutting head, lifted to ground level for repairs. With a probable legal battle brewing, officials fear the project’s Expert Review Panel poses a financial risk.

As the state of Washington and its Highway 99 tunnel contractors careen toward litigation, the Legislature has suddenly scrapped the panel that monitors the project.

The three-member Expert Review Panel (ERP) is the only source of oversight in the $2 billion project that combines independent members, megaproject experience and nearly unfettered access to debrief the tunnel’s executives and senior engineers.

But leading lawmakers fear the panel’s work could expose the state to financial risk. The project is running nearly 1½ years late after tunnel-boring machine Bertha broke down in December 2013.
“To have an ongoing three people who are out making opinions which are public — I felt that could hurt taxpayers,” House Transportation Committee Chairwoman Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, said Friday by phone.

Instead of funding a panel that offers technical and financial perspective, lawmakers would hold their own committee meetings to seek information from project leaders.

Under the design-build project method, Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) is supposed to do final engineering and building under a $1.35 billion contract and be fully responsible for costs, except for those prompted by surprise soil conditions.

If the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) blurs the line, by telling STP how to dig, that might put WSDOT on the hook for problems. A professional distance exists. For instance, WSDOT says it doesn’t possess a copy of the warranty for the tunnel-boring machine, which was built by Hitachi-Zosen in Japan and is now undergoing repairs.

The four-lane tunnel is expected to be done in early 2017, and STP has filed change-order requests exceeding $220 million. The expert panel’s latest report, on April 3, revealed the total could reach $293 million.

If the two sides can’t agree on who pays what, the courts would ultimately decide.

“Continuing the panel would only serve to muddy the waters with regards to contract change orders and who bears the risk,” Clibborn asserted in an email message. “With the strong protections we have now, that would only stand to hurt the state and our taxpayers.”

Gov. Jay Inslee and three other lawmakers also forwarded remarks to The Seattle Times late Friday.
Clibborn said lawmakers this spring began to worry about legal exposure, then sought advice from state counsel before deciding to retire the panel as of July. For her, a red flag was learning that the panelists were communicating with Seattle City Council members, which she felt went beyond their scope.

But panel Chairwoman Patricia Galloway, of Cle Elum, said Friday she’s been given no rationale.
Galloway, a former president of the American Society of Civil Engineers, said the panel has interviewed the same stakeholders for four years, and she doesn’t understand Clibborn’s notion that the panel is creating risk.

She received a letter Thursday, from state transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson, thanking the panel and informing her that “during this 2015 legislative session, the Legislature has chosen not to reauthorize the ERP work to continue.”

Asked if the panel provided helpful guidance to WSDOT, Peterson would say only that the decision was made by the Legislature and governor.

Galloway said she’s disappointed.

The panel, convened by then-Gov. Chris Gregoire in 2011, worked impartially and is unaware of complaints from either WSDOT tunnel managers or contractors, she said.

“I’m very surprised,” she said. “We did uncover facts and information neither side had gotten from each other.”

The two other panelists are John Rose, retired chief executive officer of Seattle-Northwest Securities; and Robert Goodfellow of Washington, D.C., an engineer and current board member of the Underground Construction Association.

Oversight is a sensitive issue for taxpayers.

Bertha, the world’s largest tunnel-boring machine at 57 feet, 4 inches in diameter, is undergoing repairs in the wake of a stall Dec. 6, 2013, when parts of the main bearing assembly ripped apart and overheated.

It may take years before the public learns whether construction companies, their insurance plus $124 million in state contingency funds will cover the losses — or whether drivers will absorb tunnel cost overruns at the gas pump.

Clibborn said she has no gripe with the panel’s findings, and she notes that its April 3 report overall looked good for WSDOT.

The panel expressed confidence the 1.7-mile tunnel being built to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct can be funded without further squeezing taxpayers. The state would need to reduce costs to rebuild surface streets along Elliott Bay, collect late fees from STP, and recoup insurance money.

A year earlier, the panel determined the tunnel wouldn’t be done before 2016, which has since lapsed to 2017. Members warned about “strained relations,” saying “the Project has not benefited from an open exchange of technical ideas and information between WSDOT and STP.”

On Friday, Galloway credited the panel with helping the relationship improve.

The 2015-17 transportation budget, passed in May, substitutes committee hearings, Olympia’s way of letting the expert trio die on the vine. Instead, a provision says the Joint Transportation Committee will hold at least two work sessions, “within existing resources,” to hear from WSDOT, STP and other “stakeholders.”

The budget still contains language saying the expert panel should serve until substantial completion of the tunnel — but Clibborn said committee leaders changed their minds.

Panel expenses might be an issue for lawmakers, though not a big piece of the two-year, $5.6 billion transportation budget.

“We want to avoid adding extra layers of bureaucracy by extending the panel beyond its original mission,” wrote Rep. Ed Orcutt, of Kalama, ranking Republican on the House Transportation Committee.

Galloway said she’s being paid $200,000 over two years to lead the committee, whose current contract wasn’t immediately available.

“The ERP does believe there would be continued benefit for the state as well as the contractor in assisting to complete the work efficiently and effectively,” she said, “ and to the best interests of the taxpayers.”

This is a separate group from the dispute review board, which holds closed hearings and makes recommendations. So far, it has said the state should have warned contractors about a leftover steel pipe that Bertha hit; that WSDOT should be on the hook for groundwater flow into the Sodo launch pit; and that STP should fund extra reinforcement of the viaduct.

None of these three findings was accepted by the losing side.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Some Perspective On How Angelenos Are Driving Less


By Joe Linton, June 22, 2015

 Eyes on the Street: per capita Vehicle Miles Traveled has been declining in L.A. since 20. Image via Rick Cole Twitter

Per capita Vehicle Miles Traveled has been declining in L.A. since 20. Image via Rick Cole Twitter

Last week, Los Angeles City Deputy Mayor, and soon-to-be Santa Monica City Manager, Rick Cole tweeted out a graph showing that Angelenos are driving less than we used to. In 2002, the average city resident drove 11.9 miles each day. By 2013, that daily Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) has declined to about 10.8 miles each day. I asked Cole for the source of the graph, and his only response, tweeted, was that it’s from an “L.A. City Planning Report.” Which report is not clear.

The disembodied graph got picked up by L.A. Magazine, Curbed, and LAist. Streetsblog retweeted and put it atop our headlines.

What has caused this shift in 2002? L.A. Magazine suggests that L.A. “has invested heavily in bike and transit infrastructure. Protected bike lanes have opened across the city, along with parking for cycles and sharrows painted on streets.” Curbed points to the changes having been “sped up” by the Measure R transportation sales tax.

Hmmmm… This shift started in 2002. Measure R passed in 2008, and its rail, bus, and freeway projects take a few years to build. LADOT implemented its first sharrows in 2010, its first bike parking corral in 2011, and its first and only serious protected bike lane in 2015. LADOT did greatly step up implementation of bike lanes especially from 2010-2012, but I am still waiting for that “invested heavily” stuff. So, all those causes that L.A. Magazine and Curbed are pointing out took place in the later years on the right end of this graph, or or even to the right just off-graph. L.A.’s drop-off in per-person driving started in 2002, well before the transit and bike infrastructure we see today.

I think it’s more likely that the last 5 years of somewhat-improved bike and transit facilities are a response to this trend, not a cause of it. I think that city agencies, elected officials, and experts are beginning to catch up with trends that are already happening on our streets.

What’s the cause? Anyone who says they know is probably wrong, but I will go ahead and speculate later, at the end of the article. First, a look at how L.A. compares to other places where the declining VMT trend has been observed.

Like Los Angeles, the national trend shows a declining per-capita driving for the past ten years.

Per-capita VMT in the U.S. via Streetsblog USA
Per-capita annual VMT in the U.S. via Streetsblog USA

After increasing fairly steeply for decades, the U.S. per-capita driving begins to climb less steeply in the 1990s, then begins to decline around 2002. Different studies put the peak and decline in slightly different places, but the national trend has definitely been downward for about a decade.

In the USA, per-capita drivng peaked about 2005 and has declined since. Image via Streetsblog USA

In the USA, per-capita drivng peaked about 2005 and has declined since. Image via Streetsblog USA

The national trend is mirrored by state trends. Some states saw VMT declining in the mid-1990s. California per capita driving has declined since 2002-2003.

Vehicle Miles Traveled in California has been on the decline for a couple of years. Changes in how the state manages transportation changes promise to drive it even lower. Photo: ##http://www.peaktraffic.org/graphics/vmt-california.jpg##Peak Traffic##
Vehicle Miles Traveled in California has been on the decline for a couple of years.

In California, overall driving, not just per-person driving, has been in decline since 2007.
Nobody predicted this trend. Nobody.

Sadly, though we’re at least a decade into declining per-person driving, very few transportation agencies and traffic engineers have incorporated these trends in their predictions of future car traffic. Engineers are still predicting that upticks, 1990s-style or 1970s-style, are right around the corner.

Traffic projections from Washington State, compared to actual trend. Image from Sightline Institute via Streetsblog.net
Traffic projections from Washington State, compared to actual trend. Image from Sightline Institute via Streetsblog.net

Transit expert Jarrett Walker says that these aren’t really predictions, but denial.
But it’s these kinds of nutty, unprofessional, faulty projections that result in unsafe designs for places like the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge. Car traffic has declined on that bridge for the last 10 years, but sadly L.A. City’s engineers are still predicting an uptick in car traffic through 2040.

Only in late 2014 did some transportation agencies begun to the be honest and factual in their forecasts; see these graphs from Washington State.

Will this honesty-in-predicting reach California or Los Angeles someday, more than a dozen years into the current trend?

We’ll see. Apparently there’s a yet-to-be-released Planning Department report on the subject making the rounds with mayoral staff. That’s a start. Dear City Planning Department, please cc: the Bureau of Engineering and LADOT.

So, my guess on some factors that may have contributed to L.A.’s VMT has declined recently: (see also Sightline’s speculation here)
  • demographic shifts: baby boomers are retiring and driving less at the same time as millennials are living in cities and driving less
  • modal shifts: many people who used to drive to work now walk, bike, take transit, carpool or work at home
  • shorter trips: people aren’t moving as far out into sprawling suburbs, so even ones who aren’t shifting modes are at least driving shorter trips
  • fuel prices: the general upward trend in the price of gasoline discourages driving
  • actual limits of car-centric design: not sure how this would ever be proven, but I think that there are probably physical limits of how many cars that can be crammed into a given place, and that continued growth in VMT in these locations results in gridlock that can’t be built-out-of at a reasonable cost
My hunch is that these and other factors have played out gradually over time to reduce the amount of driving we do. Readers, what do you think? Why are Angelenos driving fewer miles? What should we do about it?

710 Freeway gap economic study says tunnel would produce greatest benefits


Peggy Drouet: My comment to this article:  The 710 tunnel will feed into the 210. The 210 East, for example, is already heavily congested from about 2 p.m. on and also on weekends. Adding more congestion to it is not going to solve the vehicle mobility problem, promoted as a need by both CalTrans and Barbara Messina. What can be easily seen to be needed in conjunction with the 710 tunnel is a new east-west freeway route, one that uses the 710 stub in Alhambra as a starting point and then transverses Alhambra to the 610, then to the 57, and all the way to the 15. Wouldn't this be the logical conclusion for the next attempt to keep the car culture alive in Los Angeles? I am sure that both CalTrans and Messina would go for this idea in the name of mobility and relieving congestion on other freeways.

By Steve Scauzillo, June 22, 2015


 This March 6, 2015 staff file photo shows the end of the 710 Freeway at Valley Boulevard in Alhambra.

By saying time is money, a new study of the 710 Freeway “gap closure” project concludes the tunnel option creates the highest benefit by getting people to work or home a little faster, with fewer accidents and less money spent on fuel and car repairs.

The “Analysis of Costs and Benefits for the State Route 710 North Study Alternatives” favors a 6.3-mile single tunnel containing two traffic lanes in each direction located 250 feet under El Sereno/Los Angeles, South Pasadena and Pasadena.

By trimming 7 minutes off a commute during peak hours and almost 14 minutes the rest of the time, the single tunnel, at a cost of $3.15 billion to build, works out to a benefit of $1.5 billion to $1.6 billion over 20 years for 2 million people living in the San Gabriel Valley, parts of Los Angeles and the east San Fernando Valley, the report concluded.

“The Freeway Tunnel Alternative has the highest benefits regardless of costs,” concluded the report released by Caltrans over the weekend.

Time saved is the most valued factor in the study, followed by cost savings for car owners and savings from fewer car crashes. The report says when commuters use the single-bore tunnel to get from the end of the 710 Freeway in El Sereno at the Alhambra border up to Pasadena at the 134/210 freeway interchange — about 90,000 cars per day — it would divert traffic from nearby surface streets which tend to have higher crash rates than freeways. This saves money, time and calculates into greater benefits.

“The major issue also is that it will open up all the other freeways in the region. It frees up the interchange in downtown Los Angeles,” said Alhambra City Councilwoman Barbara Messina, a freeway tunnel proponent.

However, a single-tunnel would not produce benefits in the area of tailpipe emissions. The report said a tunnel would be a “disbenefit” or increase costs from emissions in a focused area, presumably at tunnel portals on Valley Boulevard and north of Del Mar Avenue in Pasadena, and possibly where ventilators emit tunnel fumes.

The issue of emissions has been raised by cities opposed to the tunnel: South Pasadena, Pasadena, Glendale, Sierra Madre and La Canada Flintridge. Bill Sherman, a retired physician and a member of South Pasadena’s Transportation Commission, said the cost-benefit analysis failed to consider health-care costs from tunnel pollution.

“Ninety-thousand cars per day in the single tunnel, or 180,000 cars a day in the dual-bore (double tunnel option) will be entering and leaving the portals. Those fumes will come out of the exhaust pipes and go into Old Pasadena,” he said. He’s asking for a focused analysis on air emissions, known as a hot-spot study, as well as a calculation of economic costs of hospital visits and sick time to be included in the report.

Anthony Portantino, a former state Assemblyman from La Canada Flintridge and tunnel opponent, had asked the California Transportation Commission to produce the cost-benefit analysis for more than a year.

“It is a good starting point to have a conversation. But it concerns me whether it is truly adequate,” he said.

Portantino wrote a letter to the CTC, which takes up the report on Thursday, asking that Caltrans and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority known as Metro, adjust the formula for estimating cost. Metro uses $1 billion per mile for the proposed Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor, a tunnel that would connect the San Fernando Valley with the L.A. basin, while Caltrans, in partnership with Metro, uses a half billion dollar figure for the 710 tunnel option.

By underestimating construction costs, the cost-benefit analysis overestimates the benefits, he said.
“They are not using an accurate funding model. Also, they are not anticipating the giant boring machine breaking down. What is the (economic) impact of that happening?” Portantino asked.

He is asking the CTC to send comments to Caltrans and Metro to incorporate in the EIR a notice to homeowners their properties may be taken in order to dig out a boring machine stuck underground.

Joann Nuckols, a member of the No 710 Action Committee, said Caltrans and Metro are deliberately underestimating the cost and benefits of a freeway tunnel.

“It is basically fraud. They are overvaluing and underpricing the project,” Nuckols said, saying the tunnels would really cost $6 billion to $14 billion.

Messina said the cost of either the single or double tunnel would be recouped by charging tolls, which would be used to pay back a private financier.

The $40 million draft EIR/EIS, released in March, looks at five options: a no-build option; a traffic management system that would upgrade streets and sync traffic signals at local intersections to move traffic more quickly; a dedicated busway with high-frequency service; a 7.5-mile light-rail line that would stretch from East Los Angeles to Pasadena and a 6.3-mile freeway tunnel, of which 4.2 miles would be completely underground.

While Caltrans has proposed “closing the 710 gap” for nearly 60 years, mostly as a surface route, the tunnel route has gained momentum since the release of the environmental document.

Caltrans has extended the comment period for the EIR/EIS to Aug. 5. Send written comments to: Garrett Damrath, Caltrans District 7, Division of Environmental Planning, 100 S. Main St., MS-16, Los Angeles, CA 90012 or to http://www.sr710northcomments.com.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Joe Cano Video: ELA 710 DEIR Meeting 6/20/2015

Protest a New Freeway Tunnel? How About Remove a Freeway That’s There Now?


June 29, 2015


 On Thursday June 18, the office of Councilman Jose Huizar put on a forum to inform El Sereno residents of a proposal regarding the 710 freeway issue.

Most of you are aware of South Pasadena’s 50 year old fight to stop the 710 freeway through their fair city. Many of you know that Northeast L.A. was also involved lately in fighting possible alternatives that would connect the 710 through Eagle Rock, Mt. Washington, Highland Park and Glassell Park.

However, don’t be ashamed if you hadn’t hear about a movement underway not only to stop the completion of the 710 (Long Beach) freeway, but to remove the two ends of the freeway that had already been built some 50 years ago.

Appropriately named, “Beyond the 710 Coalition,” it is an effort started through a consortium of five San Gabriel Valley cities, Pasadena, La Cañada, Glendale, Sierra Madre and South Pasadena.
You can probably include at least a 1/15 portion of the City of L.A. in that column as well, as the ideas displayed in yesterday’s El Sereno work shop (which was organized by the office of Jose Huizar) fit right in with Huizar’s recent embrace of the complete streets movement (bike lanes, pedestrian friendly, etc.).

Paul Moore, of Nelson-Nygaard, made his presentation regarding CalTrans’ recent draft environmental impact report, conceived after literally years of outreach and planning, as they were looking for “710 Alternatives.” (I must add that the presentation was completely one sided, there was no one there in any official capacity to counter the claims of Nelson-Nygaard, or their claimed facts or figures.)

The five alternatives studied and brought before the affected communities were pared down to just two, which are addressed in the report. The first is a 710 tunnel, connecting both stubs of the 710 freeway, Pasadena at the North end and El Sereno at the South. It would tunnel underneath El Sereno and South Pasadena to connect the two “stubs” of the 710 freeway.

The other is to tunnel under with a light rail subway, connecting to the Goldline, probably near the Huntington Hospital, and continuing South all the way to the other end of the Gold Line in East L.A.
None of these options seem satisfactory to the coalition, or “No on 710″ advocates, and today, Mr. Moore pulled apart CalTrans’ plans brick by brick.

First, he identified that the extra trips and traffic that would be generated by the tunnel would increase greenhouse gas emissions. Then, he argued that the connecting of that freeway would probably relieve congestion on some streets but make it worse on others. Finally, he argued that “If you build it, they will come!” Saying that building more road capacity only serves to attract more traffic, and after a short period of time, the road will be congested just the same.

He drove his points home by claiming that 6 billion, if spent this way, would not improve traffic, and indeed, would only serve to worsen traffic as well as the quality of life. He said that spending 6 billion in a way that gives people an incentive for getting out of their cars, like buying metro passes for all students, would actually improve traffic in a measurable way (As well as training a new generation to get around town with the use of the automobile).

At this point, I think I should mention that his company, Nelson Nygaard, was founded by two former transportation managers from the city of San Francisco, which, incidentally, is where Seleta Reynolds, the recently appointed head of the Los Angeles City department of transportation, is from. (Not a Portlandia reunion, but close enough!)

His next part of the meeting was showing a vision for Mission Road that includes a road diet and bike lanes, and making Huntington into a “Grand Boulevard.”

However, what came next was a real shock. We’ve heard about the “no build” alternative that Caltrans had to consider along with the other ideas of a tunnel, subway and bus route. But this went one step further in the opposite direction. Brand new was the idea of “un-freewaying” those end stubs at either end of the 710 gap (El Sereno and Pasadena).

Artist rendering of proposed park for North end of El Sereno 710 stub.
Artist rendering of proposed park for North end of El Sereno 710 stub.

He showed artist renderings of narrowing the road and eliminating those multi-lane end stubs altogether. Proposed was taking back all that real estate and turning it into a narrow, meandering, street. Included were bike paths, green space, more campus for Cal State, and possibility of bringing back El Sereno’s Arroyo Rosa, a river that was taken when that part of the freeway was built decades ago.

Artist rendering of South end of El Sereno 710 stub.
Artist rendering of South end of El Sereno 710 stub.

As this issue has been brewing as far back as when the freeway construction began, it will be years before any visible changes will start to take effect, but NOW is the time for people to be heard, no matter which way you feel!
More at http://www.beyondthe710.org/

A Quick Guide to the State of Transpo Policy on Capitol Hill


By Tanya Snyder, June 19, 2015


Coming back to Streetsblog after a few months away, I needed to get up to speed on the latest with transportation-related legislation, and I thought some of you might too. Here’s what you need to know:


House Republicans passed a pretty terrible Transportation and Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill last week, decimating the TIGER grant program, cutting $200 million from New Starts for transit, and reducing Amtrak’s budget by $240 million. Some amendments proposing even more extreme spending cuts were stripped out, thankfully.

The president has threatened to veto the bill. In days gone by, the Senate could be counted on to check the excesses of the House, but with the upper chamber now under GOP control, it’s unclear what kind of bill they’ll produce. The Senate hasn’t produced one yet. It seems possible that some of the House bill’s most painful cuts — particularly to TIGER — might be reversed, but many of them will remain. Look for a Senate proposal in the next couple of weeks.

Transportation Bill Extension

Last year, before the MAP-21 transportation law expired (and only days before the money was about to run dry), Congress extended it until May 31. Miraculously, in May, they found two months of funding still available (for the not-so-miraculous reason that Americans drove more than projected and gas tax receipts were unexpectedly high). So, when May 31 came, it was pretty easy for Congress to extend the bill by two months without finding any new money.

But the days of easy extensions are over. All the pensions have been smoothed, the LUST funds raided — there’s no more loose change under the cushions to fund transportation.

Democrats’ Challenge and a New Bill

On Tuesday, Senate Democrats challenged Republicans to come up with a long-term bill in the next 45 days, instead of just another extension. That same day, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee announced that it would mark up a six-year transportation bill on June 24.

Under the chairmanship of Barbara Boxer, EPW was able to pass bills out of committee with bipartisan support. Observers will be watching to see if current chair Jim Inhofe is as open to compromise to bring his Democratic colleagues along, or if the bill he’ll introduce will be a conservative wish list. Inhofe is in favor of raising revenues for highways — and only for highways. Jettisoning bike/ped funding is high on Inhofe’s wish list for a new bill.

But back to the Dems’ 45-day challenge. It’s a little unclear what their game plan is here. Would Democrats agree to another short extension to give them time to hammer out the EPW bill if they’re making progress? Would the Democrats really vote against a short-term extension, if killing it would shut down the transportation program? Do they have any viable ideas to fund a long-term bill?

Speaking of funding, on Wednesday the House Ways and Means Committee held its first hearing on transportation funding since before MAP-21 passed in 2012. It seemed like a sign they were going to take the issue seriously — until Chair Paul Ryan opened the meeting by insisting that under no circumstances were they going to raise the gas tax.

This Week in Livable Streets


By Joe Linton, June 22, 2015

Summer’s here – so lots of rides and festivals: the River Ride, Mask Festival, Kidical Mass, and more. On the governmental side of things, there’s Metro’s Board meeting and a special L.A. City Council hearing on sidewalk repair.
  • Tuesday 6/23 – Communities for a Better Environment and Climate Resolve Extreme present, “Heat and Vulnerability in Los Angeles: A Discussion,” from 10:30 a.m. to 12 noon at the California Endowment in downtown Los Angeles. Free, but register here.
  • Tuesday 6/23 – At special joint meeting of the Public Works and Budget committees [agenda PDF], the Los Angeles City Council begins public deliberations on who will pay to repair and maintain sidewalks. Streetsblog previewed the latest sidewalk repair plan here. The first of what was announced as a series of hearings around the city will take place Tuesday at the Harbor City Branch Library at 24000 S. Western Avenue.
  • Tuesday 6/23 – Zócalo presents a free panel discussion asking, “Can Transit Make Housing More Affordable?” (or is that just Anglo triumphalism, too?) The speakers include Joan Ling, Mike Bonin, and more. It takes place at MOCA this Tuesday night at 7 p.m. More details and make a reservation at Zócalo.
  • Thursday 6/25 – Metro’s monthly Board of Directors meeting is expected to consider eliminating transfers on fares paid by cash, extending the Sheriff’s policing contract, approving the agency’s first ever bike-share contract, and more. Board meets at 9 a.m. at Metro headquarters, right behind Union Station. Full Metro meeting agendas and reports should be posted here shortly.
  • Thursday 6/25 – Bike with C.I.C.L.E. to go see the outdoor screening of Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure at the Sunset Triangle Park. Details here.
  • Thursday 6/25 – The last in a series of meetings around L.A. on street vending will be held at the WLCAC, 10950 S. Central Avenue, at 6 p.m. The meetings are an effort by the L.A. Street Vendor Campaign — a coalition of organizations, business owners, and individuals advocating on behalf of the city’s 50,000+ vendors — to gather feedback from the community that can be used to help L.A. take the necessary steps to establish the first citywide vending ordinance. For more information, visit the campaign’s website.
  • Friday 6/26 – Dinner fundraiser by L.A. Rooted to raise money to take youth on the Gratitude Bike Tour. Details here.
  • Saturday 6/27 – Leimert Park Village hosts its 20|20 Vision Initiative Charrette from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Details here and more information in a SBLA article coming this week.
  • Saturday 6/27 – Santa Monica hosts a 4th of July themed Kidical Mass ride – from 9 a.m. to 12 noon at Reed Park. Details here.
  • Sunday 6/28 – LACBC hosts its 15th Annual River Ride – various starting points, times, and distances to suit every kind of bicyclist! Details here.
  • Sunday 6/28 – The Ride On! Bike Co-Op and Black Kids on Bikes present Free Bike Tune-up Sessions from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Leimert Park. Details here.
  • Sunday 6/28 – Leimert Park Village hosts its 5th Annual Mask Festival honoring the ancestors from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Details here.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Caltrans and Metro extend public comment period for SR-710 North Study and release cost-benefit analysis


By Steve Hymon, June 19, 2015

Here is the news release from Caltrans and Metro: 
To provide more time for study and community input, Caltrans and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) today extended the public comment period for the Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) on SR-710 North until August 5, 2015. In addition, Caltrans and Metro today released the Analysis of Costs and Benefits (CBA) for the SR-710 North study alternatives. The CBA can be read at http://media.metro.net/projects_studies/sr_710/images/attachmentb_sr710cbareport_2015-0619.pdf

The CBA was prepared in response to direction by the Metro Board. The motion directed the chief executive officer to conduct a parallel cost-benefit analysis concurrent with the Draft EIR/EIS. The CBA is a means of applying an economic value to alternatives, which enables the costs of an alternative to be compared directly to the benefits the alternative will deliver. The CBA will be considered in conjunction with the 

The Draft EIR/EIS is in the midst of public review that began March 6, 2015. 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. 

Caltrans and Metro have conducted four public hearings since the opening of the comment period and a fifth hearing is scheduled for Saturday, June 20, 2015 at the David Wark Griffith Middle School located at 4765 East Fourth Street, Los Angeles, Calif. 90022. Map viewing will be held from 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. followed by a public hearing from 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.   

Saturday’s hearing will be available as a live webcast that can be accessed in English at ustream.tv/channel/sr-710-study and in Spanish at ustream.tv/channel/sr-710-espanol

The five alternatives proposed in the Draft EIR/EIS are: 

•No Build option that would leave conditions as they are

•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.

Joe Cano Video: ELA 710 Community Meeting

Los Angeles Residents Just Keep Driving Less and Less


By Bianca Barragan, June 18, 2015




Los Angeles has a complicated relationship with the car—the city was molded throughout the mid- and late- Twentieth Century to rely on them, but as it filled up, they started to feel more and more like little metal prisons. Over the past 20 years, LA has started to rebuild its lost public transit system (and the process has been sped up over the last decade with the help of the Measure R sales tax), and Angelenos have gradually been driving less and riding buses and trains more. Future Santa Monica City Manager and outgoing Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Rick Cole tweeted the chart above, from an LA City Planning report (just exactly which one is mysterious), showing a consistent decline since 2002 in per capita vehicle miles traveled, or how much each person drives. In 2013, the average Angeleno drove over an hour less than she did in 2002. Progress!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

San Gabriel Valley COG recommends tunnel option for 710


By Steve Scauzillo, June 18, 2015


 The end of the 710 Freeway at Valley Boulevard in Alhambra on Friday, March 6, 2015. Caltrans and Metro released an environmental study examining a tunnel, a light-rail train, or a bus line to connect from Alhambra Pasadena.

After nearly three hours of debate, the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments voted to support the 710 Freeway tunnel Thursday night.

The 31-member group’s governing board voted 16-7 to endorse building a tunnel to connect the gap in the freeway, running under Alhambra, South Pasadena and Pasadena and connecting to the 210/134 freeway interchange.

A recommendation will be sent to Caltrans and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Agency for inclusion in their joint environmental impact report, ahead of the July 6 cutoff date for comments.

The SGVCOG’s governing board rejected suggestions by delegates from Pasadena, South Pasadena, Sierra Madre and La Canada Flintridge to take no position on this controversial project.

In one of his first appearances since leaving the position of mayor, Bill Bogaard of Pasadena suggested SGVCOG would be taking a premature action and urged the agency to wait until the final EIR is completed.

“This has been going on for decades. It blows my mind for you to say it is premature,” retorted Alhambra City Councilwoman Barbara Messina, who introduced the successful motion.

Messina said the support for a tolled tunnel is in line with the Southern California Association of Governments, which put the tunnel option into its Regional Transportation Plan in 2012.

“SCAG has the (710) tunnel in their RTP. It meets requirements of the federal government on air quality, mobility and congestion,” Messina told the board. Dissenters said the vote in support of a freeway tunnel would break the SGVCOG in half. Some urged a no position to preserve a unified voice in the region on transportation matters.

“I feel this is like the Middle East. Either we are damned if we do or do not. We are just splitting the cities,” said Sam Pedroza, Claremont City Councilman and SGVCOG member who did not attend Thursday’s meeting.

Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek lost an argument to stay neutral on the politically hot 710 Freeway tunnel.

“An advocacy position would have a detrimental affect on this organization. This is a knock-down, drag-out fight. It is a project that composes an existential threat to communities,” Tornek said.

Caltrans and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) spent four years at a cost of $40 million studying different ways to move traffic from one freeway stub — at Valley Boulevard in Alhambra — to the other near Del Mar Avenue in Pasadena, where the freeway would connect to the 210/134 interchange.

The resulting Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement looks at five options: a no-build option; a traffic management system that would upgrade streets and sync traffic signals at local intersections to move traffic more quickly; a dedicated busway with high-frequency service and few stops; a 7.5-mile light-rail line that would stretch from East Los Angeles to Pasadena and a 6.3-mile freeway tunnel, of which 4.2 miles would be completely underground.

While Caltrans has proposed “closing the 710 gap” for nearly 60 years, mostly as a surface route, the tunnel route has gained momentum since the release of the $40 million draft EIR/EIS. The 26,000-page report concluded building a freeway tunnel would provide the greatest amount of traffic relief and the fewest impacts of the five alternatives studied.

After years of opposition, Caltrans and Metro abandoned plans for a surface route and instead have proposed either a single-bore tunnel, with two lanes of traffic in each direction, or double-bore, twin tunnels 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. Other cities in the group include San Marino, Monterey Park, Rosemead and San Gabriel.

Opponents include the cities of South Pasadena, La Cañada Flintridge, Glendale, Sierra Madre and Pasadena, members of the “5-Cities Alliance.”

Last month, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, for the first time came out against the tunnel project. He joined with those from the 5-Cities Alliance and national preservation groups to support a combination of street widening, bike paths and bus and rail improvements worth $705 million. These improvements can be done immediately.

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.

Large trucks on all sides of 710 and its controversy: Letters


I understand the citizens of Alhambra wish to reduce traffic on Fremont Avenue. However, building the tunnel would not achieve this. The tunnel would really only provide trucks better access to the 210 Freeway, and I find it hard to believe that motorists would utilize the tunnel. While driving on the 710 Freeway I have sometimes found myself surrounded by large trucks on all four sides of my car.

I don’t suffer from claustrophobia, but it is somewhat anxiety-producing. And this is on an open freeway. I cannot imagine that people, especially those traveling with children in their car, would choose to drive surrounded by trucks in a 4-mile stretch of tunnel with no exits. What if there a crash, a fire or a natural disaster? As a nurse practitioner, I wonder how long it would take for emergency personnel to reach you, and would it be in time?

The estimated cost of building the tunnel is $5.6 billion, and what project is ever brought in on budget? Would it not be better to use that money to address any pediatric respiratory issues that arise from above-ground traffic?

— Jacqueline Ficht, South Pasadena

Closing the 710 freeway gap


By Kai Ryssdal, Produced by Daisy Palacios, June 17, 2015


 The gap between the 710 and 210 freeways near Los Angeles.

We're doing a series this week about the perilous state of the infrastructure in this country. The power grid, water supply, roads — all stuff an economy pretty much has to have to function. However, all that stuff in this country keeps breaking or doesn’t get built.

One example of this is right near Marketplace headquarters in Los Angeles. A 4 1/2-mile stretch of infrastructure that, so far, has not been built and has had people fighting over it for about 59 years.

It's dubbed the 710 Gap – just northeast of Downtown Los Angeles between Pasadena and the city of Alhambra – where two interstates, the 210 and the 710, were at some point supposed to connect. Instead, both highways just end – four and a half miles apart.

Highways are built in segments, as the 710 once was from the port of Long Beach north to Alhambra.
But when time came to build the 4 1/2 miles from Alhambra to Pasadena back in the 1990s, locals objected, sued and got an injunction.

Since then, thousands of cars dump out onto surface streets in the surrounding towns daily, causing major traffic, environmental issues and health problems. (Full disclosure: if the 710 Gap is ever closed, it's going to mean those thousands of cars are going to pass real close to my house.)

Anthony Portantino, a former state assemblyman for the district where the 710 Gap is, has been "an opponent of this project for well over a decade."

"The best way to move people through the region is through a multimodal approach: light rail, bus systems, traffic circulation," Portantino says. "Let's do all of it, not just build a $10 billion hole in the ground that's going to make all of it worse."

That "hole in the ground" is a tunnel that would connect the 710 and 210 highways. It's one of the options that CalTrans, the state transportation agency, and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority have offered the community as a solution to the region’s congestion problem.

All of the other options would leave the gap open but tackle traffic with light rail, bus lines or fixes to existing roads. There also is an option to do nothing and leave it as is.

A draft proposal on those five alternatives is out for public comment now.

"It's a project that's been studied and studied and studied, and that gap in 710 from Alhambra up through South Pasadena has been a real ole' struggle," says Bob Stevens, president of the American Society of Civil Engineers. "It may be a record on how long it's taken to go from building the road from both ends and having that gap that they can't get completed."

Marketplace is teaming up with Waze to look at transportation infrastructure across the U.S. Click here to find out how you can be a part of our series and report bad infrastructure on your own commute. 

Will I-710 ever be finished? A 4.5-mile gap dumps more than 43,000 vehicles onto the streets of Alhambra, California, every day. Neighboring South Pasadena opposes a plan, which includes a 4.9-mile tunnel, to close the gap. It doesn’t want the freeway’s noise and air pollution. Kai Ryssdal reports on the passion surrounding a highway that doesn’t exist.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

SR-710 Air Quality Impact Community Meeting Wednesday, June 17th at 6:00 PM

From Sylvia Plummer, June 16, 2017

There will be a discussion  with local health professionals on the air  quality impacts of future transportation  projects (SR-710).  This is another opportunity for outreach to East Los Angeles.

Wednesday, June 17th    6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Centro Maravilla Service Center
4716 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90022

It's been confirmed by Solis's office that the map used on the flyer is incorrect and should have been the SR-710 route.