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, February 19, 2015

4 Things to Know as Transportation Bill Negotiations Heat Up


By Angie Schmitt, February 18, 2015

Lawmakers in Washington are just beginning their latest attempt to craft the first long-term transportation bill in roughly a decade. The current bill expires in just a few months, on May 31, but in Congress that’s an eternity. While it’s a long way from go time, the contours of the debate are starting to become apparent.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Bill Shuster (center, in white) and U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx (right, in the red tie) held a Twitter town hall to promote a long-term transportation funding plan. Photo: Bill Shuster via Twitter
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Bill Shuster (center, in white) and U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx (right, in the red tie) held a Twitter town hall last week to promote a long-term transportation funding plan.
Here’s how things are shaping up.

The White House Transportation Proposal and Anthony Foxx’s “Grow America Tour”

The Obama Administration has unveiled the broad strokes of a six-year transportation proposal, the “Grow America” plan, that would dramatically increase federal funding for transit and include key incentives to reform how state DOTs spend their billions.

Transportation Secretary Anthony set out on a four-day tour of some Southern states yesterday to promote the Grow America plan. Foxx has been enlisting local leaders to help build a push for reauthorization.

The Fight Over Transit Funding

Pushing in the opposite direction, bolstered by Koch brothers money, is the Tea Party wing of the GOP, which wants to end federal funding for anything that’s not highways.

Last week, a group of rural Republicans raised the prospect of eliminating the portion of the Highway Trust Fund that supports transit. Since Ronald Reagan signed the policy into the law in 1983, 20 percent of federal gas tax revenue has gone toward the nation’s rail and bus systems.

During the last round of transportation bill negotiations in 2012, some far-right members of Congress took a swing at this too, but they were ultimately unsuccessful, as urban and moderate.

Republicans opposed the idea. This time around, dismantling federal funding for transit doesn’t have a real chance either, but the Koch brothers bloc will be a force in negotiations.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster admitted to Roll Call that last time around, Republicans had “a revolt on their hands” when they tried to end transit funding. It seems that this time, Shuster is trying to rally his party around a more moderate proposal with a greater chance of passage.

Where the Money Might Come From
Finding a source of revenue to prop up the Highway Trust Fund without raising the gas tax is going to be a big challenge for Congress. Image: America2050

Congress is trying to prop up the Highway Trust Fund without raising the gas tax. 

Congressman Dan Lipinski (D-Illinois) and Reid Ribble of (R-Wisconsin) have said they are collecting 300 signatures on a letter from their colleagues calling for a long-term transportation bill. “What the letter obviously dances around,” reported Crain’s Chicago, “is how to get the money.”

As inflation and increasing fuel efficiency have eaten away at the federal gas tax (which hasn’t been raised since 1993), the Highway Trust Fund — America’s main source of transportation funding — has been slowly going broke. Since 2008, the federal government has poured $62 billion into bailing out the fund. It currently only generates about $34 billion a year, while federal transportation spending has been closer to $50 billion.

Raising the gas tax is the most obvious and logical solution — but Congress and the White House aren’t even discussing it. Instead, Foxx has been pushing a White House proposal to close a tax loophole on overseas business transactions, a plan he says would generate a one-time $2 trillion pot of money for infrastructure spending. Republicans panned the proposal as an unacceptable new tax when it was first unveiled. Senators Barbara Boxer and Rand Paul, meanwhile, were shopping around a similar but even more outlandish idea to generate a one-time revenue burst by letting corporations move overseas profits back to America at a reduced tax rate.


It looks like Amtrak may sail to an uncharacteristically drama-free funding extension. Last week the House T&I Committee passed a bill that would provide Amtrak with $1.7 billion over the next four fiscal years, a slight increase over current levels, according to Progressive Railroading. The most significant change is that profits from the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak’s most profitable service, would be reinvested back in the route instead of absorbed by the whole system.

Shuster, who introduced the legislation, called it a “good reform bill that… forces Amtrak to operate like a true business.” (Note: Federal law requires the nation’s passenger rail service to maintain many unprofitable long-distance routes as a matter of national security, so expecting them to operate like a business is a little disingenuous.)

Not everyone was pleased with the proposal. Richard Harnish, executive director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, said in a statement the “piddling” amount would subject the agency to “five years of declining service when the system should be rapidly expanding.”

Long-stalled Bertha crawls 6 feet toward repair pit

Stalled for more than a year Bertha, the Highway 99 tunneling machine, has began churning again — toward the daylight of a deep repair pit.

By Lewis Kamb, February 18, 2015

She moved.

After more than a year, Bertha — the Highway 99 tunneling machine stalled beneath downtown Seattle — began her slow chew through 20 feet of concrete late Tuesday on her way toward the daylight of a deep repair pit.

And by Wednesday afternoon, the damaged boring device had moved more than 6 feet in all, state Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson told state lawmakers.

Project contractors Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) “managed to move Bertha forward today,” Peterson told the Senate Transportation Committee. “ ... She’s now 6 feet through.”

STP started operating Bertha at 10:15 p.m. Tuesday as part of a rescue plan that requires the machine to mine through the concrete on its way to the 120-foot-deep access pit. Once inside, crews are expected to lift the broken part of the machine to the surface for repairs.

By 7 a.m. Wednesday, Bertha had managed to mine more than 3 feet, prompting the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to issue a news release on the machine’s progress. By 4 p.m., when Peterson briefed the Senate committee, Bertha had moved another 3 feet.

“The machine is at an angle, so the first part of the move went through dirt on the lower end of the machine,” WSDOT spokeswoman Laura Newborn said in an email Wednesday afternoon. “The majority of the mining, however, has been in concrete.”

After the 2-yard trudge, contractors halted Bertha’s forward progress for the day to begin building a concrete support ring inside the tunnel — the 151st ring to be installed.

“Mining will resume after the ring has been built,” a WSDOT news release said.

Transportation officials have declined to say how long they think Bertha’s slow journey to the repair pit might take or how long it will take to fix the machine.

But because Bertha is damaged and prone to overheating, the trek is expected to go slowly. Bertha might also have to take periodic breaks along the way, should the machine become too hot, officials have said.

Contractors were keeping a close eye on Bertha’s heat levels Wednesday, Peterson told lawmakers.

“Her temperature — everybody’s worried about her temperature,” Peterson said. “They are keeping it at a very slow, even pace as they go through this to make sure she does not overheat and to ensure there is no further damage to the machine.”

Bertha’s re-start is the latest screw-turn in the saga of the troubled Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement project, started in 2012.

STP’s $1.35 billion undertaking aims to dig and construct a nearly 2-mile-long highway tunnel from Sodo to South Lake Union.

The tunnel contract is part of an overall $3.1 billion project to replace the aging, earthquake-damaged viaduct, a key segment of the north-south highway corridor through Seattle.

When digging began, Bertha’s tunneling work was expected to be finished by last October, with the new tunnel scheduled to open to traffic by the end of 2015.

But so far, Bertha has only mined about 1,000 feet.

Custom-built for the project, the world’s largest-diameter tunneling machine first overheated on Dec. 6, 2013. The machine was shut down about 60 feet underground near Pioneer Square. STP later determined Bertha had a damaged rubber-seal system and main bearing. Since then, Bertha has moved only a few feet.

To repair the machine, STP dug and constructed the access vault to perform the needed fixes. Crews completed chipping a circle into the pit’s south wall Tuesday to allow Bertha an easier breakthrough when it eventually moves into the pit.

Once inside, repair crews plan to disassemble parts of Bertha before a giant crane hoists her 4 million-pound front end to the surface, Newborn said. The crews then plan to make alterations to Bertha’s cutterhead, and replace the bearing and damaged rubber seals.

Still to be determined is who will pick up the tab. Last year, STP requested $125 million for the repair work, but the WSDOT denied that request, claiming it had “no contractual merit.”

Since then, STP has asked that the state pay an additional $22.3 million for costs tied to excavating Bertha’s repair pit. As of last Friday, the department said it was reviewing those change-order requests.

As the project runs behind schedule, the WSDOT also disclosed last week that a section of the viaduct between South Main Street and Railroad Avenue South sank another quarter-inch in the past month. Damaged in the 2001 Nisqually earthquake, the viaduct has gradually settled since then, sinking by as much as 6 inches at Yesler Way.

Transportation officials have said the viaduct remains vulnerable to future earthquakes but remains safe for everyday use.

During her briefing to lawmakers Wednesday, Peterson noted, “The viaduct is being monitored, and there has been zero movement.”

Local Elections and the 710

From Sylvia Plummer, February 18, 2015

There are three city elections coming up, Los Aneles, Pasadena and Glendale.  Pay close attend to what the candidates have to say about the 710 Tunnels and be sure to Vote for the best candidate!

To find out what the candidates are saying about the 710 tunnel, go to the No710.com website.  
Click on Voting Info (which is located near the right side on the long green bar).

Election for Los Angeles District 14 -  March 3, 2015 

Read Los Angeles Times Article:  Huizar, Molina differ sharply on development in acrimonious debate

Proof that Gloria Molina supports the completion of the SR-710 tunnels.  

Here's a link to an article written by Gloria Molina, titled Close the 710 Freeway Gap by Building the Tunnel.

Attend a Candidate Forum:

Candidate Forum in El Sereno - Thursday, Feb 19, 2015 @ 7pm
     Farmdale Elementary School
     2660 Ruth Swiggett Dr,
     Los Angeles, CA 90032

Near the intersection of Ruth Swiggett Dr and N. Eastern Ave in El Sereno

Who will be there? Jose Huizar and Gloria Molina

See below for more information:


Candidates Forum in Eagle Rock -  Wednesday, Feb, 25,  2015

Center For the Arts, 2225 Colorado Blvd., LA CA 90041 

(free parking Bank of America lot)
sponsored by TERA (The Eagle Rock Association)
Link for flyer:

Election for Pasadena Mayor -  March 10, 2015

Did you miss any of the Pasadena Mayoral Forums?
Here's a link to the WPRA Mayoral Candidate Forum held on Jan 27, 2015.
(The question of the SR-710 Tunnels is the first question asked)