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

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Piece of Mind: The road toward a sensible future


By Carol Cormaci, March 21, 2015

 710 Freeway gap

 The $5.6-billion 710 Freeway option calls for side-by-side, double-decker tunnels to separate northbound and southbound traffic. (October 21, 2014)

Attachments. We all form them, not only to people, pets, personal belongings and places, but also to our daily routines. Some of those bonds are vital to our happiness; some we could shed.

There’s nothing illuminating in that observation, but I bring it up because I’ve been musing on that subject these past several days, after reading and hearing local reactions to Caltrans’ release of the environmental impact report for the proposed 710 Freeway extension project.

As you no doubt have heard, there are a few options on the table, and among them is a $5.6-billion, 4.9-mile tunnel under South Pasadena that is favored by the city of Alhambra and a host of labor unions. I loved the L.A. Times headline the day the document was released: “Report: Closing the 710 Freeway gap would take years, cost billions.”

I’m completely in agreement with all the folks who say the completion of the 710 is not the answer to our regional transportation issues. I’m not swayed by the desperate banners stretched across Fremont Avenue in Alhambra demanding that the freeway be completed.

The notion of spending multiple billions of dollars to bore and construct a tunnel, should that option ultimately be the decision of Caltrans is ludicrous. It will line the pockets of the people who do the work and will cause the 210 Freeway to be so overburdened by traffic, especially during peak times, that we will all be at a standstill. Imagine that gridlock not only here, where the 210 heads north, but also along the section that crosses Pasadena and cities to its east.

As La Cañada’s outgoing Mayor Pro Tem Don Voss said during a radio interview recently, as it stands now, the 210 is already crammed. Like Voss, I cannot see how the addition of 180,000 vehicles daily, funneled to the 210 through a completion of the 710, would be an improvement to the region’s poor mobility situation.

To complete the 710 to ease Alhambra’s pain is not forward-thinking enough. There must be solutions that improve transportation issues for all of us and surely the best of those mean we should all seriously reconsider our attachments to our cars.

That’s why I love the fact that several area officials are banding together to shape sensible policy. These are mayors and council members from Glendale, La Cañada, Pasadena, South Pasadena and Sierra Madre.

Alhambra is not in that group; officials there seem to be stuck on the idea of just doing what is the most expedient course in their minds: build a tunnel to get the traffic, once and for all, off their surface streets. It seems they’ve focused so long and so hard on completing the 710 that they’re not free to think bigger, and easily imagine other solutions that could have more wide-reaching benefits.

I especially like the way South Pasadena City Manager Sergio Gonzalez put it: “There are far superior ways to improve mobility in the area. (But) people are asking the wrong questions. It shouldn't be how do you move cars more efficiently, but how do you move people more efficiently?”

My suggestion: Figure out how to detach people from their vehicles and Alhambra from its tunnel vision.

They Paved Paradise, Put Up a Parking Lot …

“Big Asphalt” has compromised our health, safety, and welfare—but we can defeat it if we try.


By Robert Steuteille, March 19, 2015

In America we have 2.5 million miles of paved roads, and an estimated 800 million parking spaces. Thanks to the "asphalt-industrial machine," which is like a Borg that exists to expand itself, we have the largest asphalt paving industry in the world, producing 400 million tons annually.

The paving promotes more driving, which in turn raises the demand for paving. In the last 100 years we paved a total area that is half the size of Pennsylvania1, and this requires ongoing service and maintenance, which feeds the industry perpetually.

American industrial and professional sectors have evolved to serve the machine. Big players are the asphalt, aggregate, and ready-mix producers, and the paving contractors. These include Oldcastle Materials and The Koch Industries—not household names, because you don't drive to the big box store to buy asphalt. You drive and park on asphalt. Our retail industry, which used to serve neighborhoods and communities, now depends on asphalt. The biggest corporation in the world, Walmart, would not exist at anywhere near its current size without Big Asphalt.

The automobile and trucking industries also are built on pavement. The oil industry feeds the asphalt-industrial machine.

Transportation engineers have long been co-opted by the machine, as have transportation planners and Departments of Transportation (DOTs). These groups apply rules and standards that supposedly promote safety, but mostly serve Big Asphalt—which harms people in many ways:

1) Road-building standards often make us less safe because wide roads promote speeding that kills thousands of people a year. Since 1899, 3.55 million Americans, mostly young and healthy, have died in motor vehicle accidents--more than all our wars combined. Injuries, many of them debilitating, have topped 150 million.

2) The big arterial thoroughfares lined by parking lots devalue communities and suppress economic activity. The values of main streets and downtowns are three times that of newer, Big Asphalt, “edge city” commercial areas, according to one recent study. This cuts into government revenue and raises the cost of services.

3) The automobile-oriented areas damage our health by adding to obesity and diabetes and reducing opportunities for exercise like walking to school or to parks.

4) Impervious surface is the biggest source of water pollution today.

5) Directly and indirectly, the asphalt-industrial machine may be the greatest generator of carbon emissions in the world. The US produces two times the carbon emissions per capita as many other fully industrial countries--such as Japan, the UK, Sweden, and Italy—largely due to the automobile-oriented lifestyle enabled by Big Asphalt.

6) Big Asphalt reduces choices in how to get around, forcing many to spend more of their hard-earned dollars on automobile expenses.

7) Big Asphalt tends to increase traffic problems, due to "induced demand."

8) Big Asphalt has fed at the government trough for 100 years, hitting taxpayers whether they drive or not. Gasoline taxes and user fees — all levied by government — pay for only half of road spending, according to the Tax Foundation. The rest comes out of general funds. Minimum parking requirements determine the size of parking lots—and that’s another direct subsidy of the machine.

The machine has its own research arm called the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI), whose annual "congestion index" is used to justify expansion of America's pavement. The machine has its paid talking-head cheerleaders, including Wendell Cox, Randal O’Toole, and Joel Kotkin.

Like the Borg in Star Trek, which controls major sectors of the universe, the machine controls the built environment in a large portion of our world. Less than half of one percent of the US is outside the realm of the machine. Historic street grids in cities and towns predate the modern asphalt industry. The machine stuck its tentacles into these places, threatening to destroy them—but was ultimately unsuccessful. Grade-separated highways tore urban neighborhoods apart and blocked them from amenities like waterways or main streets. Thousands of historic buildings were leveled for parking lots. Many more urban freeways were planned, but the people waged a great war in the last century to protect these places and beat back the machine.

The greatest leader in that war was a writer and local activist named Jane Jacobs, but unsung heroes also took part in battles that saved many neighborhoods in cities coast to coast. Other leading figures fight against the machine, including former New York City DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, architect Jan Gehl, urban designers Andres Duany and Peter Calthorpe, and parking theorist Dr. Donald Shoup.

In historic cities and towns, we still have choice in how to get around. We can walk, ride a bicycle, take a train, use Uber--or drive if we wish. In most of our nation, the asphalt-industrial machine determines how we travel. The machine that we created in America is now more powerful than any individual. It is spreading to other parts of the world such as China, the Middle East, and Latin America and paving those places, too.

In order to create a sustainable world for our children, we have to take back control from the machine. But where to begin? Just 2.3 percent of the total land area of the US is urbanized, and that's where 72 percent of the US population lives. If we can control the machine in these areas, it will no longer control us.

In these urbanized areas, we need small-scale networks of streets that allow a mix of uses and public life to thrive. We must shrink down thoroughfares, travel lanes, and intersections, and get rid of the requirements that demand more and more parking. If we can slow down traffic in urban places to 20 mph, people will stop dying on streets. We make room for more bicycle lanes, sidewalks, and outdoor cafes. Public life will thrive, giving people an alternative to driving, which will reduce demand for pavement. The machine will be furious, because this will put the ravenous creature on a diet. It doesn’t willingly diet; it doesn’t do small-scale.

We have to fight the machine strategically. The first-ring suburbs were the first places in America created by the asphalt-industrial machine, but the machine had not yet achieved its full power in the middle of the 20th Century. Residential streets were still relatively narrow and mostly connected. These areas are where the machine is most vulnerable. We make them walkable and more livable.
At the same time, we continue to revitalize cities. We tear down aging freeways and reconnect neighborhoods.

America looked much different before Big Asphalt. You could walk from coast to coast, through cities, towns, and countryside. That was before we had the same franchise restaurants and commercial strips in every built up area lining enormous unwalkable arterials. That was before the countryside around every city and town was gobbled up with cul-de-sacs that feed the machine.

We take back America and stop the machine from consuming the rest of the countryside. We peel away its support network by recruiting the unwitting foot soldiers in transportation engineering and the DOTs. It won't be easy and it won't be quick, but We The People are stronger, ultimately, than the asphalt-industrial machine.

See more images of Big Asphalt below.

Robert Steuteville is editor and executive director of Better Cities & Towns.

Above—Big Asphalt, and a vision of Big Asphalt transformed. Urban Advantage.

Houston circa the 1980s


Virginia Beach


Syracuse—the tentacles of Big Asphalt invading a downtown.


You would be hard pressed to shout at the top of your lungs to someone on the opposite corner of this intersection. The corner radii on the left are huge—smaller on the right because of the bridge over the canal. If you have ever tried to cross an intersection like this on foot, you know how scary it is. Put on your running shoes. You'd probably wait 5 or 10 minutes before being allowed to cross.

Where is the SR-710 Study - Cost Benefit Analysis?

From Sylvia Plummer, March 21, 2015

Timeline & Details:  Where is the SR-710 Study - Cost Benefit Analysis?

Here's a Time Line with details:  
December 11, 2013:
For those that did not attend the December 11, 2013 California Transportation Commission (CTC)  meeting, below is a video link to the SR-710 portion of the meeting.  During the Public comment portion of the SR-710 Presentation, both Anthony Portantino (former State Assembly Member) and Donald Voss (City Council member, La Canada) ask for a creditable Cost Benefit Analysis. Great speeches!  (Note: Portantino also points out the Tunnels are not Freeways but Toll ways.)
Then the CTC Chair calls Carrie Bowen (Caltrans District 7 Director) to the podium:
CTC Chair: "Are we not supposed to do a Cost Analysis studies on a large project before we start?" "Is there some requirement?'
Carrie Bowen:  There is a requirement during the process to do a Financial Analysis on the projects.
CTC Chair:  Is that done in advance of the EIR?  in the EIR?
Carrie Bowen:  It is part of the Project Report.
CTC Chair:  Is it part of the EIR?
Carrie Bowen:  It's adjacent to the EIR.  We can fold it into the EIR.
CTC Chair:  It comes before, right?  When do you expect it to be out?
Carrie Bowen:  It does not come before.  It's at the same time.
CTC Chair:   They will be released together?
Carrie Bowen:   YES
Doug Failing (then Head of Highway Projects for Metro) joins Carrie Bowen at the podium, and makes a statement.  It is not very clear on the video what he said.  But you can hear him say that the report does exist for/with the Officers.
H ere's the link  to the video (Thanks to Joe Cano):

Sylvia Plummer and the Fight to Stop the 710 Tunnel


(Mod: Sylvia Plummer sends out these extraordinary e-mails detailing the latest in the fight against the 710 Tunnel. They are reasoned and deeply researched. And it occurred to me that maybe you've never seen her hard work in action before. So I've combined a few of the most recent. As I hope you are aware, Caltrans' so-called process on the 710 Tunnel has reached a critical stage. The fix has always been in on the tunnel, but those who favor it are still trying to convince people that all of this was the logical conclusion of a few hundred meetings that included actual resident input. Which it never was. They just want to leave you with the impression that the 710 Tunnel is the product of a public consensus, rather than a conclusion they came by while ignoring the public. Or at best treating us as little more than a marketing problem.)

Call to Action

We are asking everyone to write a letter to Caltrans and request/demand:

(1)  More time to review the SR-710 Draft EIR - At least 60 more days for a total of 180 days

(2)  More Public Hearings - At least two additional Public Hearings for a total of five.  The Public Hearings should take place on a Saturday.

Below this paragraph you will find a sample letter.  You may copy and use the same wording, modify or add to it.  We suggest you write your letter in a Word document then copy and paste your letter into the Caltrans online comment box.  (Caltrans is not accepting any letters by email.)  Save the Word document for your records and email a copy to the addresses shown below.

Jan SooHoo:  jan@soohoos.org
No 710 Action Committee:  no710extension@aol.com

Here's the link to Caltrans online Comment box (link).

Sample letter:

(date), 2015

Garrett Damrath, Chief Environmental Planner
Caltrans District 7, Division of Environmental Planning
100 South Main Street, MS-16
Los Angeles, CA 90012

SCH #: 1982092310
File: 07-LA-710 (SR 710)
Project: EFIS 0700000191 (EA: 187900)
State Route 710 North Study

Dear Mr. Damrath,

I am currently reviewing the SR-710 North Study Draft EIR which was released on March 6, 2015, with an 120-day public comment period ending on July 6, 2015.  I am requesting a 60-day extension and two additional Public Hearings.

I would like to submit comments on the DEIR in a timely manner. However, given the size of the entire document, 26,625 pages, the complexity of the DEIR documents and technical reports, and the timing of the DEIR release during the  busy spring and summer holidays, I am requesting an extension of the comment period by an additional 60 days for a total of 180 days. This time frame is consistent with other projects of this scope such as the I-710 Expansion and the High Desert Corridor.  The additional time would allow me to study the report further and to provide better, more informed comments.

To date, only two Public Hearings are scheduled; both are in April, one month after the release of the DEIR.  That is hardly enough time to read 26,625 pages and comment effectively at either Public Hearing.  The third Public Hearing has not been scheduled yet.  I am requesting at least two additional Saturday Public Hearings, one of which must be in Pasadena.

The Public Hearings should be scheduled closer to the end of the comment period and on a Saturday, in the ground zero cities of Pasadena and El Sereno.  The Public Hearing that is currently scheduled on a Tuesday night in Pasadena is absolutely unacceptable.  A weekday meeting held at 5 pm, will be very difficult for people to get to on the clogged 210 Freeway.  It does not make sense.  Remember, this Public Hearing is not just for the citizens of Pasadena, but for anyone in the 100-square mile study area.  Additionally, the Saturday Public Hearing scheduled for East L.A. College is one hour longer than the Tuesday night Public Hearing in Pasadena.  There needs to be parity in all meetings held.

Please contact me with your response by email at:  Your email address, Your Name, Your Address


** The No710 Action Committee wants to keep track of all online comments.  Please remember to email a copy of your letter to:

Jan SooHoo:   jan@soohoos.org
No 710 Action Committee:  no710extension@aol.com


For helpful instructions on how to respond to the Draft EIR go to No710.com and click on the green " DEIR-Info" button.

Please forward this message to your friends and neighbors.

1.  Save the Date - Not to be missed

Please plan to attend this very important meeting

Monday, April 13, 2015 at 6:30pm  (This date could change)

Pasadena City Council will meet at the Pasadena Convention Center to discuss and vote on:

1.  Pasadena's local preference as an Alternative for the SR-710 project
2.  Resolution opposing the SR-710 Tunnel(s)

Here's the link to news story: (Click).

2.  Media Bashes 710 Alternatives…the Transit Ones Anyway

Here's an article worth reading from StreetBlog LA written by Damien Newton that tells it like it is.

The things that Damien discusses are just the tip of the iceberg. $40 million of the taxpayers' Measure R dollars went toward producing 26,625 pages and the public will have no better understanding of the project than they did when it began.

*A report with a Metro logo on it dismisses a light rail proposal because it would be too noisy, pollute too much, be too noisy and too ugly*.

"It’s always good to see the media jump on a story. Those six giant exhaust stacks planned for Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena? Eh, who cares? That the tunnel would increase the number of cars on the freeway and local streets, as we’ve just seen happen on the Westside? That’s just a theory. What about what happens if there’s a crash or other disaster in the tunnel? It’s “addressed in the report.”

Read the entire article as well as the comments, here's the link.

3.  SR-710 Debate on KPCC Airtalk

Last Monday March 9, 2015, KPCC Airtalk had a segment about this SR-710 project.  Mayor Pro Tem Donald Voss of La Canada Flintridge and Barbara Messina of Alhambra were guests.   It wasn't even a close match.  Voss was in command of the Draft EIR -- at much as someone could be only two days after its release -- and offered reasoned, logical responses to the questions posed to him. Messina, on the other hand offered no facts from the DEIR/EIS, and stated that the air coming out of the ventilation towers would be "virgin air".

Please take the time and listen to this 23 minute program.  It is a MUST for anyone following this SR-710 project and everyone who thought the Draft EIR/EIS would be a valuable, responsible document.

Here's the link to listen to this 23 minute debate - (click on blue bar "Listen to this Story")

4.  NO SR-710 Petition

We are currently at 2420 signatures.  If we hit 2,500 during the Draft EIR comment period, it will trigger notifications to Jerry Brown, the California Transportation Commission and the others on the list.

Let's see if we can do it.

We need you to sign the petition if you have not done so.  Ask your family, friends and neighbors...  all they need is an email account.

Here's a direct link to the petition (click):

5.  Cleveland's Highway Revolt

"1969 marked the year of strong opposition within cities to urban highways. In Cleveland, they are referred to as the highway revolts."

"Such pressure led to a pledge in April 1970 by (Republican) Governor James A. Rhodes, then locked in a primary fight for a seat in the U.S. Senate, that he would never force a highway on a community that did not want it."

"It does show the strengths that can be found when likeminded communities find common cause to question a decision that was made for them."

We need to see this happening here in Los Angeles County.

Read article here:

 Scientists warn G20 that $60 trillion infrastructure plan is "doubling down on a dangerous vision"

"Governments have tended to support monster projects that may sound impressive but don't always meet economic or social goals."

"Studies show that for the past 70 years, nine out of ten infrastructure projects have experienced cost overruns, delays, and benefit shortfalls," argues the letter's authors, who adds that "this process is beset with other problems like corruption, cost overruns, fiscal accountability, and human rights abuses."

"The G20 infrastructure framework relies heavily on public-private partnerships (PPPs) to build these mega projects. PPPs are not a responsible way to finance or operate infrastructure assets vital to public services when they aggressively downsize the workforce, defer necessary maintenance, and transfer high level risk to local or national governments."

Does it sound like the SR710 Tunnels project?? Link to article here.

Where is the SR710 Study Cost Benefit Analysis?

SR710 Study missing report that Metro does not want the public to see. Metro & Caltrans cannot justify the $5.5 billion cost to build a tunnel.

Link to YouTube video here.