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, March 5, 2015

The Alarming Impact Busy Roads Have on Cognitive Development

Depressing new research on traffic-related pollution near schools is all the more reason to assign a proper price to car-reliance.


By Eric Jaffe, March 5, 2015

 Image Alexandru Panoiu / Flickr

When we think of the social costs of driving, we tend to focus first on all the money and work productivity lost to traffic congestion, and second on all the lives lost to car crashes. But there are significant developmental impacts that occur as a result of the air pollution that accumulates along roadways, too. These can be harder to identify and quantify, but as a new study of Barcelona school children shows, they're every bit as alarming.

The work comes from a big research team led by Jordi Sunyer from the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona. Sunyer and collaborators tracked the developmental progress of more than 2,700 kids age 7 to 10 attending 39 schools in the city. Some of the schools had low levels of traffic-related pollutants nearby, while others had high levels—shown in the map below:

A map of Barcelona schools by high (black) or low (white) air pollution. (PLOS Medicine)
Once every three months for about a year, the children participated in an established working memory task known as the "n-back" test. The n-back tests your ability to retain items in a list and recall them on demand; in a 2-back test, for instance, you'd be asked to recall what appeared two items ago. For the current study, the test was conducted with colors, numbers, letters, and words.

Over time, all the children in the study scored higher on the tests, with working memory improving 19 percent on average. That's not surprising when you consider the general leaps in cognitive development that occur during early school years. But Sunyer's team found that this improvement followed different trajectories depending on whether a school was located in an area with high or low levels of traffic-related pollutants such as elemental carbon, nitrogen dioxide, and ultrafine particle matter.

At baseline, the difference in working memory for high- and low-pollution schools was about 5 points, the researchers report in PLOS Medicine. After a year, that difference had widened to roughly 10 points—a statistically significant gap. Whereas children from the high-exposure schools showed cognitive improvements of about 7.4 percent, those in the low-exposure schools improved about 11.5 percent in working memory.

Over the course of a year, working memory development increased faster among school kids exposed to low traffic pollution (top line) than those exposed to high levels (bottom line). (PLOS Medicine)
These findings held up after accounting for factors like socioeconomics, school noise, education quality, residential air pollution, and smoking at home. In other words, while the researchers can't say for sure that road-related pollutants caused the cognitive impairment in high-exposure schools, every indication points to that connection. Here's their concerning conclusion:
Overall, we have shown that children attending schools with higher levels of exposure to traffic-related air pollutants had a smaller growth in cognitive development over time, suggesting that traffic-related air pollution in schools negatively affects cognitive development. This may have consequences for learning, school achievement, and behavior.
The new work adds to a long and growing list of developmental impacts tied to traffic-related air pollution (much of it tracked here by the Environmental Protection Agency). Other researchers have documented related decreases on verbal and nonverbal tests among American children, for instance, and a 2013 study reported that children with high exposures at birth showed increased hyperactivity by age 7. And it's not just children who suffer: studies have also found that road pollution might "accelerate cognitive decline" in the elderly, too.

But even as the evidence grows more definitive, the artificially low price of gasoline and driving still fails to acknowledge the huge social costs of car-reliance, especially in cities. Those costs have been estimated as high as $3.3 trillion a year, with traffic-related pollution a non-trivial chunk of that figure. If simply knowing that it's a bad idea to build high-volume roads near schools and neighborhoods isn't enough to discourage such development—which, evidently, it's not—then it's at least time that these decisions carried a heavy price.

Bertha ready for disassembly and repair


March 4, 2015

  Bertha in the recovery shaft

Bertha has moved forward a total of 57ft since resuming her short drive on February 17. In that period the 17.5m diameter machine has completed nine permanent concrete tunnel rings.

With Bertha now in position, crews have begun the challenging task of disassembling the world’s largest tunneling machine. They will move through a number of methodical steps as they prepare to lift four pieces weighing up to 2,000 tonne to the surface for repairs.

According to WSDOT completion of the repair – which involves replacement of the damaged bearing seals and the fitting of a brand new new main bearing as a precautionary measure – will take “weeks”.


SR 710 North EIR/EIS SOAC Meeting

From Sylvia Plummer:

Thursday, March 12, 2015 at 7:30 am - 9:30 am
Metro Headquarters
One Gateway
University Conference Room, 4th Floor
Los Angeles,  90012
The preliminary meeting agenda is the same as the one used for the TAC meeting, which is attached.   

Meetings are open to the public.  To gain access to the meeting you must sign in at the Information Desk on the third floor as "public."

If you plan to drive, parking is available under Metro Headquarters:  $6

You can also take the Gold Line.  Get off at Union Station, Metro Headquarters is behind Union Station. 

SR-710 Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) meeting

From Sylvia Plummer:

Wednesday, March 11, 2015 at 1 pm
Metro Headquarters
One Gateway Plaza
Mulholland Conference Room, 15th floor
Los Angeles, CA  90012
Public can attend this meeting.  You need to sign in at the 3rd floor information booth as "public".

If you plan to drive, parking is available under Metro Headquarters:  $6

You can also take the Gold Line.  Get off at Union Station, Metro Headquarters is behind Union Station. 

Please let me know if you plan to attend or would like to carpool.

State Route 710 North. Extend or Not?

 From Sylvia Plummer:

Plan to attend this important Forum on the SR-710 Tunnels

SR-710 North - Extend or Not?
Monday, March 9, 2015 from 6:00 to 8:30 PM
Cal State LA, Golden Eagle Ballroom, 3rd Floor
Parking:  Park in Lot 5, you must purchase a parking permit from the yellow permit dispensers.  The dispensers accept cash and credit cards.
You must register to attend this event. 
Please wear a red shirt if you have one.  NO710 t-shirts will not be allowed.

Invite you to an Issue Forum:

State Route 710 North
 Extend or Not?

     Monday, March 9, 2015
6:00 p.m. – Reception
7:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. – Program
Cal State Los Angeles, Golden Eagle Ballroom

Moderator: Dr. Raphael Sonenshein, Executive Director,
Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State L.A.
Panelists to be announced – check social media for updates
Contact PBI at 323-343-3770

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