To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Plan to Make Los Angeles's Oldest Freeway Less Terrifyin


By Bianca Barragan, January 14, 2015



The hairpin exits and abrupt onramps of the historic Arroyo Seco Parkway, that part of the 110 Freeway that runs north of Downtown, are collectively one of the scariest things about driving in Los Angeles. The 1940 freeway was the first in the western US and built for 27,000 cars a day moving at 1940 speeds; today it sees 122,000 cars a day (traveling at 2015 speeds). Rather than just accepting this fate, residents who live in areas adjacent to the freeway and the offending ramps have banded together to try and gather support for an idea (previously introduced by Caltrans) that would reserve the right lanes on both sides of the freeway just for drivers exiting or entering the parkway, says Eastsider LA.

The two concerned Mt. Washington residents have collected 400 signatures on an online petition that begs for something to be done about the exit at Avenue 43; the 2012 Caltrans report their idea is based on went further, suggesting the on/off-only lanes be adopted from Orange Grove (the northernmost point of the freeway) down to Avenue 43. Serendipitously, a Caltrans rep says that the agency is already looking into possibly having exclusive on/off lanes at those entrances/exits during peak hours. The report's supposed to be finished within the next month or two.

Opinion: The MonkeyParking app could turn us into monsters


By Ted Rall, January 15, 2015

San Francisco kicked them out of Baghdad by the Bay. Now the controversial app MonkeyParking may face a similar fate in Santa Monica and Los Angeles.
Bay Area TV station KRON explains how the app works: "If you launch the free MonkeyParking app on your phone and click request a spot, monkey faces pop up. Those are street parking spots near you that other MonkeyParking app users currently have their car parked in but they are willing to sell. You can offer them $5, $10, $15 or $20 for that spot. If they accept, the two of you switch out your cars in the parking spot."

Not since Los Angeles and other cities announced that they would install sensors in on-street parking spaces that would reset the meter to zero when a car pulls out -- depriving the next motorist of the occasional extra few minutes left, and transferring the "extra" cash into city coffers -- has a parking story made my blood boil more.

Some members of L.A. City Council seem to agree with me.

They’ve proposed a ban on MonkeyParking and similar apps.

“‘This is not the sharing economy, it's the stealing economy,’ Bonin said. ‘They are taking a public asset and effectively privatizing it.’” 

On the other hand, there are certain things that, if you come up with them, you should decide not to invent. Atomic bombs. New forms of torture. How to monetize public space for private gain.
As far as I can tell, no one has brought this up yet, but I foresee a public safety threat if this app is allowed to proliferate. I'm a gentle, nonviolent guy, but even I couldn’t guarantee my reaction if I pulled up to a parking space where a dude is sitting in an idling car, clearly ready to leave but refusing to go until his $20 parking app appointment shows up and swoops in ahead of me.

This is especially true if he tries to explain it.

Me: "Who's this guy? I've been waiting for your space."

Idling driver: "This is part of the new 'sharing economy.' Like Airbnb and Lyft. This guy either needed the space more than you or is able to afford it more than you, because he was willing to pay $20 for it. I'm very sorry you're going to miss your job interview or your pitch meeting or your audition or your last chance to visit your dying mother. Life is tough, but $20 is $20.”

But this is a big world and a big city, and there are lots of people who just had a very bad day. Some of them are big and some of them have guns. This can't be a good idea.

Metro Updating Fare Vending Machines, Sheriff Fare Check Devices, and App


By Joe Linton, January 15, 2015

 New Metro vending machine screens to debut at Union Station this month. Image via Metro handout
New Metro vending machine screens to debut at Union Station this month. Image via Metro handout

Metro is in the processing of updating some of its TAP (Transit Access Pass) card technology.

Metro The Source author Steve Hymon phantom reflection selfie in Metro's new TAP vending machine screen. Via Metro Instagram.
Steve Hymon reflection selfie in Metro’s new TAP vending machine screen. Photo via Metro Instagram

Speaking before the Metro board of directors Finance, Budget, and Audit Committee yesterday, Metro TAP Deputy Executive Director David Sutton announced that, beginning later this month, Metro will debut its new vending machine interface. The new TVM (TAP Vending Machine) screen, shown above and at Metro’s Instagram, will be simpler and easier to use. This month it will be implemented at Union Station Red Line vending machines.

Sutton also announced that Metro has developed new fare checking devices, used by law enforcement to check TAP cards. Metro’s 2014 audit of the Sheriff’s (LASD) performance criticizes current mobile phone fare validators as slow and “highly prone to errors in reading TAP cards.” The new TAP validator enables “faster, more accurate fare inspection.” It is a new smart-phone based application, so it will also be easier to adapt to add new features.

The new fare check devices had been supposed to be in use last July, but had not been implemented as of late September 2014.

At this morning’s Metro Ad Hoc Policing Oversight Committee meeting, Metro Deputy Executive Officer for Protective Services Duane Martin implied that the new fare devices are now in use. In reviewing recent Metro accomplishments in response to last year’s LASD audit, Martin claimed that “we [Metro] have a new mobile phone validator.”

If readers spot the new vending machines and new TAP validators “in the field” let us know via comments.   

Also, according to Sutton, this week Metro is releasing a Request for Proposals (RFP) for development of a new smart phone app. Initially the “no- or low cost pilot” app will allow people to use their smart phone for credit card purchases to add money to a linked TAP card. In future phases, Metro riders will be able to use smart phones to pay fare. This kind of smart phone payment system is used in Seoul, South Korea. Are any readers familiar with it on transit systems in any other places?

Seattle TBM recovery shaft repair row


By Peter Kenyon, January 12, 2015

WSDOT officials were summoned to Seattle City Hall Monday (January 12) to give a full and public explanation of an internal memo that apparently warned of “the risk of a catastrophic failure” of the three-fourths completed recovery shaft that is currently being excavated just 20ft away from the SR99 viaduct.

Recovery shaft now at 98ft deep (12 January 2015)
Recovery shaft now at 98ft deep (12 January 2015)
An alarming summary of the memo – originally penned on December 11 by tunnel contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners’ (STP) appointed Engineer of Record, Brierley Associates – caused widespread panic in Seattle after the City’s transportation department (SDOT) released a highly edited version of the eight-page memo which appeared to suggest that the recovery shaft might be in danger of imminent collapse.

As a result, three of WSDOT’s most senior officials – Matt Preedy, Todd Trepanier and David Sowers – were called to City Hall to explain the situation before the full council. At the meeting it transpired that SDOT officials had accessed the contentious December 11 memo at the end of last week from a password-protected computer database of project correspondence that WSDOT makes available to partner organizations.

Recovery shaft repairs

Fig 1. Recovery shaft grout voids
Fig 1. Recovery shaft grout voids
Matt Preedy of WSDOT explains complications arising from the need to grout voids between STP’s advance underground settlement mitigation wall (built to protect the viaduct foundations from the early stages of the TBM drive) and the piles that form the compression ring walls of the recovery shaft (Fig 1). Pre-excavation grouting has not been 100% successful, and the contractor – following advice from designer Brierley Associates – is now adopting jet grouting ahead of excavation of each ‘lift’ now that the depth has reached 90ft and subject to increased pressures. Previously it had been applying grout to untreated soil zone areas after each excavation lift.
WSDOT is now accusing SDOT of “misrepresentation” of the facts of the case and of taking the relevant passage of the memo “out of context”. It is now threatening to cut off all password access to the database to prevent further “misunderstandings”. Todd Trepanier told the council meeting that the December 11 warning came from a draft memo; that the words “catastrophic failure” were never intended to refer to the current situation but rather represented a risk assessment of what might happen if a new jet grouting methodology was not adopted for the last 30ft of excavation; and that the draft was superseded by a more measured memo dated December 19.

However, members of the council – who had only seen a summary version of the actual December 11 memo going into Monday’s meeting – remained unconvinced. “This is an engineers’ report. I used to be an engineer and they are not given to hyperbole, so when one says ‘catastophic failure’ it has to mean something of importance to the public,” said Cllr Kshama Sawant.

“I remain very concerned about the safety of the viaduct, and the fact that the viaduct is less than 20ft from this 90ft deep pit and remained open while there were engineers saying that there is the possibility of ‘catastrophic failure’, and that somehow digging down to 90ft provided no risk but going to 91 held the potential for ‘catastrophic failure’ … raises some serious concerns for me,” said Cllr Mike O’Brien.

The row centers on the design and excavation of the 120ft deep x 80ft diameter recovery shaft that is being excavated by STP subcontractor Malcolm in front of stricken TBM Bertha’s cutterhead. Once the shaft is completed the 17.48m diameter machine will be driven through to enable access to its compromised seal and bearing systems.

The original December 11 memo broadly coincides with a period, starting December 12, when shaft construction work was stopped by WSDOT for four days. Ground settlement of up to 1.4in in the vicinity of the excavation works (Fig 2) had prompted a series of investigations of nearby buildings and structures, including the viaduct itself. With extensive dewatering having taken place at the site as part of the shaft excavation process, WSDOT ordered a stop to works to give STP and its Engineer of Record (Brierley Associates) time to devise a mitigation plan.

By December 16 this had been satisfactorily submitted to WSDOT and work at the recovery shaft was able to restart. Todd Trepanier explained that the WSDOT stop order on December 12 “had nothing to do with the stuctural integrity of the pit.”

He said: “It had to do with two issues – first, the settlement issues that we were all trying to coordinate. There was some assocation with the deep well pumping operations that may have contributed to the settlement, and so what we were interested in knowing was could the contractor have a method to protect the shaft in case they had to shut off those deep wells. So we asked the contractor to supply us with a process as to how they would be able to do that and not jeopardize the work that had been completed.”

He went on: “Second, we wanted a few more days to assess the data on how settlement had stabilized. The indications of the experts were that it would continue to be stable but we wanted a little more time [to be sure]. The plan came back to fill the well with either water or with material. We felt like those were viable plans in case a decision did come down that pumping would have to stop because settlement had not stabilized. As we were evaluating this plan we did collect more days’ worth of data that showed that settlement had stabilized so we turned it over to the design engineer and the design builder to go through Quality Contol processes [which eventually led to the December 16 decision to proceed].”

However, and unrelated, this all coincided with a critical period in the construction of the shaft and the repairs to its walls, which, having reached a depth of 90ft was now judged by Brierley’s inspection team to be vulnerable to collapse if a new excavation strategy was not adopted for the remaining 30ft. A draft memo to this effect – which in the last paragraph mentions the “risk of a catastrophic failure” – was issued by Brierley Associates senior consultant David Berti and its President Arthur McGinn.

Recovery shaft location in relation to the viaduct
Recovery shaft location in relation to the viaduct
However, a revised version of the memo, dated December 19 and addressed to STP senior managers, reworded this alarming passage and put it into better – and less dramatic – context, making it clearer that what was meant was that there was no current danger of collapse, and that new measures to be adopted for the remaining 30ft of excavation would mitigate against this danger.

The December 19 summary says: “To date repairs to the [recovery shaft] wall have been completed as excavation progresses, in lifts; meaning that necessary wall repairs below the base of excavation are not completed until the entire lift height is exposed. We are concerned that the walls could begin to move inward below the base of excavation where repair has not yet occurred. The liklihood of wall movement below grade increases as the depth of the excavation increase and the corresponding loads on the shaft walls approach design limits. Similarly the risk of piping through the unrepaired untreated soil zones below the base of excavation increases with depth. Once piping begins it can be difficult if not impossible to stop.

11 December ‘catastrophic failure’ memo excerpt
11 December ‘catastrophic failure’ memo excerpt
“Therefore, excavation may not proceed below 90ft until the repair of untreated soil zones below the base of excavation and the means and methods of how to complete these repairs are a topic that requires further discussion.”

Since the memos were written, excavation has resumed, and the depth as at January 12 was reported at 98ft. STP now hopes to restart the TBM, following repairs, at the end of April, more than six weeks later than envisaged under the initial recovery schedule dated June 2014. Project handover is now scheduled for August 2017, nearly two years later than originally planned, and nine months later than the November 2016 contractual deadline.

WSDOT did not respond to Tunneltalk’s queries as to why ground freezing had not been used for the excavation of the recovery shaft, but an engineer associated with development of the SR99 project said the method was not realistic in the Seattle situation. In addition to having to wait for months for the freeze to be established before shaft excavation could begin, it would be challenging for such a large TBM to excavate through the freeze wall, and the freeze operation would carry risks to the integrity of surrounding structures, explained the source and as understood by TunnelTalk.

See website for more videos.