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

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Roads, Rail, Infrastructure: Asking the Taxpayers to Pay ...Twice


By Ken Alpern, May 15, 2015


POLITICAL SLIGHT OF HAND-A funny thing happened to building our roads, rails, sewers, schools, parks and other infrastructure: we paid for them all, then when they didn't get built we're being asked to pay for them again.  So where did that money go, and why are we being asked to pay for it all...again? 

Part of the challenge about being both a transportation advocate and a neighborhood council boardmember is that I have been both forced and gifted (both at the same time) to be a visionary and a limit-setter, and forced and gifted (both at the same time) to be both open to new taxes and resistant to new taxes, and forced and gifted (both at the same time) to be both liberal and conservative when it comes to spending. 

Hence I'll be attacked for being too pro-transit, too anti-transit, too pro-development and too-anti-development, too much of a spendthrift and too much of a tightwad, when it comes to spending public money. 

Anyone who knows me, (and it's really not about ME but the results of the transportation efforts for which fellow transportation advocates fight), realizes that "Alpern's Law of Taxation" isn't really MY law at all--the concept of "It's not how much we get taxed, but the perception of how the taxes are being spent, that infuriates or satisfies the taxpayers" is one that is hopefully understood by most who've explored the subject. 

Hence our problem in our current place in the history of the City and County of Los Angeles:  taxes are so high, and the perception of how they're being spent is so poor, that the willingness of taxpayers to raise their taxes yet AGAIN may be at a level where we just can't do it again. 

That said, the exploratory committees of Metro for another sales tax hike are optimistic, with over two-thirds polling in favor of another proposed hike...but which type of sales tax hike, and for how long, and for which projects is still entirely to-be-determined.  And there are deeper issues that affect the voters and taxpayers: 

1) Taxpayers are tired.  Tired and working multiple jobs (often without benefits) and for very long hours, particularly if children are involved because the volunteering at school might not have an associated paycheck but it's still a job. 

2) The economy is still mired, and the outlook is still too pessimistic.  I'm sure that those adhering to the politicians in power would love to sing and dance and tell us all that things are better, but those same forces are actually prolonging the pain, and perhaps creating new sources of pain, that make it difficult to tax us more, no matter what the initiative is. 

3) Is it really the taxes, or how we're spending them, that's the issue?  Yes, I know that it's the GOP that is screaming the loudest about how "we don't have a tax/revenue problem, we've got a spending problem."  But the electorate from both parties has felt tax fatigue, to the point where caution is the main paradigm for both sides of the political aisle. 

4) So where did all the taxes we spent go?  Hard to answer that question, but the recent Illinois Supreme Court ruling is indeed chilling and foretells part of the answer.  Illinois has an explosive pension problem that is bankrupting the state, but they cannot renegotiate agreed-to pensions for those who are retired and living off a promised source of income. 

And both our state and our City are right alongside with Illinois as to how bad our pension problem is. 

We're not yet at the point where we can talk freely about how we can BOTH love our public sector workers yet note that our overbloated pensions prevent us from spending our money where we believe it's actually being spent. 

So when Angelenos are being told their DWP rates are zooming upwards, while they see decades of DWP worker pay/benefit/pension abuse spiral out of control unabated, it's tough to pay for our aged, crumbling water and sewage infrastructure a second time. 

So when Angelenos are being told they'll have to pay for their sidewalks and roads and other infrastructure as they fall apart after decades of neglect, it's tough to do that a second time knowing there are more retirees than ever who are paid six-digit figures of pension in their retirement. 

So when Angelenos are being asked to increase their sales tax to pay for a Wilshire Subway, a Sepulveda Pass Subway and a light rail connection to LAX that have been talked about for 50 years, it's tough to do that knowing how many times our taxes have already gone up to pay for those endeavors...perhaps twice or more. 

Like it or not, our economy is not so great.   

Like it or not, our economy will be worse if we don't pay for our infrastructure. 

Like it or not, bad pension deals and bad spending policies have resulted in our flushing away our hard-earned taxes, and we have the awful question to confront of whether we should pay twice for what should have been spent right the first time. 

And we'll have to either bite the bullet and pay for our needs a second time...or continue to not pay and keep our fingers crossed. 

Either way, it's hard to conclude that the taxpayers won't be unhappy losers from all this.

Closing the Gap

Now is the time — and tunnels are the way — to connect the 710 and 210 freeways 


By Lauren Holland, May 14, 2015

Closing the Gap

People for and against extending the Long Beach (710) Freeway, or “closing the gap” between the end of the 710 in Alhambra and the Foothill (210 Freeway in Pasadena, have been bickering for the last 56 years, creating a multi-generational feud that’s on a par with the Hatfields and McCoys.

If you missed a May 7 public hearing in Los Angeles on the question of whether to connect the two freeways by constructing 4.5-mile-long twin tunnels, you may still submit written comments as late as July 6 to Garrett Damrath, Caltrans District 7, Division of Environmental Planning, 100 S. Main St., MS-16, Los Angeles, Calif., 90012. 

If you have an opinion (well-reasoned and based on facts or otherwise) you may also submit an online comment at http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist07/resources/envdocs/docs/710study/draft_eir-eis/comments.php

Now that you have the information on where and how to voice your opinions on the 710 Freeway expansion proposal allow me to opine, or more accurately share my knee-jerk reaction to the age-old question: Should the gap be closed? 

If you want actual answers to your questions, the project’s 2,200-page draft environmental impact report might be helpful. That can be found at http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist07/resources/envdocs/docs/710study/draft_eir-eis/Tunnel%20Evaluation/SR%20710%20Tunnel%20Evaluation%20Report.pdf.

The options under consideration are “no build,” or do nothing; a bus rapid transit infrastructure improvement; increase light rail public transit; and two tunnel construction proposals. 

What we should be asking is who are the tunnels going to hurt or help, and what has taken so long to get to this point?

Let’s first assume that money is an imaginary construct — like Disney Dollars — and the government can and will print all it wants to. Money problems solved. 

Next, we can easily dispense with the public transit options (i.e. bus and light rail) with the following reasoning: The purpose of a freeway is to move people and stuff. The 710 Freeway originates near Long Beach Harbor where a lot of our stuff comes from. The traffic congestion through the impacted areas is in the form of people in cars and stuff in trucks. People in cars and stuff in trucks are too big to fit inside buses and trains.

If that logic doesn’t work for you, consider the general failure of public transportation in areas designed vis-à-vis urban sprawl, such as the Los Angeles basin. In order for public transit to be a viable option, it must be capable of taking people from where they live to where they work or shop or otherwise want to be, and back again. In today’s 24-7 world it must also be able to provide conveyance day and night, which it currently does not do. If it did, far more people would be using it.

That leaves us with the “do nothing” or “do something” options. The “something” in this case is to build a tunnel connecting the 710 where it ended in 1959 to the 210 Freeway. Why a tunnel? Apparently because community opposition to a ground level freeway has successfully blocked progress for the last 56 years.

My opinion is my own and not necessarily that of the Pasadena Weekly. With that said, and knowing that many people in Pasadena disagree with my opinion, I am of the mind that something needs to be done. Caltrans should proceed with one of the two tunnel options, which have the added incentive of creating jobs at a time when jobs are badly needed. 

In addition, of the available options, the tunnel would most closely meet the needs of commuters and commercial drivers impacted by the current situation. It would also ease congestion on nearby alternative routes. This option would improve the quality of life for many commuters — not just 710 drivers — and people who breathe smog-filled air in communities along the Santa Monica (10) Freeway, near the stub of the 710 at Valley Boulevard. 

Think of it: Commuters would spend less time in traffic, less time clogging city streets, and more time living their lives. Delivery of goods and services in the impacted areas would be dramatically improved. And communities currently impacted by flow-thru traffic would be much less so, resulting in lower emissions, less congestion, better health and more time for family, friends and recreation. I don’t know about you, but to me these are some of the measurable objectives of progress.

If you agree — or not — drop me a line at lmholland@gmail.com, or write to the editor at kevinu@pasadenaweekly.com

WSDOT “concern” over DRB obstruction ruling


By Peter Kenyon, May 12, 2015

The Disputes Review Board (DRB) determines that the 8in steel well casing hit by TBM Bertha in December 2013 represented a Differing Site Condition (DSC) under the terms of the contract between WSDOT and its design-build contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP).

The report says that WSDOT was in an “excellent position” to have known about the exact nature of the well, and to have included its specifics in the GBR contract documentation after lifting the well cover to carry out a pump test in 2010 just prior to the project going out to bid.

Part of the steel well casing that comprised TW-2
Part of the steel well casing that comprised TW-2
In the immediate aftermath of the ruling STP, the joint venture of Dragados and Tutor Perini, said it agreed with the recommendation. Project owner WSDOT says it is “concerned with the reasoning used by the DRB” in reaching its decision and that it “does not consider the matter resolved.”

An 18-page summary of the March hearing reveals that “none of the WSDOT personnel present […] were aware that the steel casing boring existed in TW-2 prior to the TBM encountering it.” It further reveals that STP made its own pre-excavation enquiries directly to Shannon & Wilson, which was responsible for carrying out borings and well installations on the project on behalf of WSDOT. For TW-2, the well in question, a computer listing identified its depth at 107.9 (ft) under a heading “Depth_Bottom_PVC”. This and other conflicting data “may well have satisfied STP that the casing left in TW-2 was, in fact, PVC casing,” said the Board.

The DRB was also told by a representative of Shannon & Wilson that it “did not maintain a written record of the casing (depth or material type) placed or left in place in the borings.”

No determination is made as to whether the steel casing was in any way responsible for the 17.6m diameter TBM’s subsequent breakdown, nor any cost implications arising from that – which STP put at US$125 million in project documentation obtained by Tunneltalk.

In its summary report the DRB says that under the terms of the contract, and as agreed by both WSDOT and STP, the Geotechnical Baseline Report (GBR) was to be considered the “primary document” of reference – though it was actually in the GEDR that any relevant information as to the location and construction of TW-2 was to be found.

“While the Parties have agreed to look to the GEDR […] as the basis for making a determination in this dispute, the Board believes the information, or lack of information, contained in the GBR must be considered in preparing the Board’s Recommendation.”

DRB 18-page report
DRB 18-page report
“The contract specifies that the order of precedence in the relative importance of these documents [the GBR, EBR and GEDR] shall be in the same order as listed above. The Contract further specifies that only contractual documents can be used to identify a Differing Site Condition (DSC) and that other non-contractual ‘reference documents’, although available for review, should not be relied upon.”

An indication of the likely steel construction of the casing was given in email correspondence sent to STP by Shannon & Wilson, which included information that both TW-1 and TW-2 were drilled by a cable tool drill rig, the only two out of 589 borings to be constructed by such a method. The report says that steel casing is “commonly used” cases where a cable tool is used, and that it is “frequently” the case that jacking equipment that comes with the cable tool is used to retract such casings following the completion of boring work. This, however, was not done.

The report says that although a tunneling contractor might not be expected to be familiar with the implications of using the cable tool drilling method, the Owner’s geotechnical consultant who did the work would be. “As such, the Owner's team would be in the best position to be aware of the potential that steel casing still remained in the ground at TW-2. Further, the Owner selected the large diameter tunnel construction approach and the final alignment for replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct that put TW-2 within the tunnel excavation limits.”

It continues: “WSDOT, however, has taken the position that had STP removed the existing cover plate at the TW-2 location during its site investigation responsibilities under the contract, they would have observed the steel casing in the ground. Hence, the presence of the steel casing in TW-2 is not, in WSDOT’s opinion, a ‘latent’ condition as is required for the determination of a Type 1 DSC.

Identical Well TW-1 with cap removed
Identical Well TW-1 with cap removed
“Interestingly, WSDOT conducted a pump test in TW-2 in March of 2010 that would have required not only removal of this cover plate, but actual downhole operations shortly before the RFP went out in June of 2010.

“Hence, WSDOT and its consultants were in an excellent position to identify the existence and depth of the steel casing in TW-2. Furthermore, the timing was such that this potential obstacle could have been noted in the GBR before the project went out to bid in June 2010. Yet, WSDOT has declined any knowledge that steel casing existed within TW-2 prior to being encountered by the TBM.

“In the DRB’s opinion, removal of the cover plate by STP would have disclosed the steel casing at the surface but provided no indication of how deep the casing extended. Hence, the steel casing would meet the requirements of a ‘latent’ condition as required under the terms of a Type 1 DSC.

“The DRB thus concludes that the steel casing in TW-2 meets the requirements of a Type 1 Differing Site Condition. Further that the contract requirements to investigate site conditions during STP’s design and construction efforts were satisfied by the efforts expended in pursuing information through WSDOT and S&W, Inc. which seemed to support numerous referrals in the contract to plastic PVC casing within the ‘wells.’
Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program Administrator Todd Trepanier said: “It is important to emphasize the specific question before the DRB was narrow in scope and only addressed one issue: whether an existing 8in steel well-casing is a ‘differing site condition’ under the terms of the SR99 tunnel contract.

“The hearing and subsequent recommendation did not deal with how the tunneling machine was damaged or the costs associated with repairs. The process of resolving disputes can be complicated and must follow the contract. WSDOT disagrees with the recommendation and does not consider this issue to be resolved. We are concerned with the reasoning used by the DRB in reaching the recommendation. We are reviewing it and will continue to pursue the best interests of taxpayers as we determine the appropriate next steps.”

Joe Cano Video: East Los Angeles Metro

Joe Cano Video: SR710 Presentation