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, May 28, 2015

The 23-Lane Katy Freeway: A Monument to Texas Transportation Futility


By Angie Schmitt, May 28, 2015

Fast-growing Texas cities have an enormous traffic problem — that much isn’t in dispute. But the response has been myopic: pouring more and more money into widening highways. Even the road engineers at the Texas Transportation Institute recently acknowledged there’s no way these cities can fund and build highway lanes fast enough to keep pace with population growth. That’s in no small part because widening and expanding highways fuels sprawl that induces more car trips, TTI acknowledged.

Twenty-three lanes for the Katy Freeway and traffic is moving 51 percent slower. Photo: Houston Tomorrow
The 23-lane Katy Freeway doesn’t look like this at rush hour.

Jay Crossley at Houston Tomorrow crunched the numbers after the infamous Katy Freeway widening. U.S. Representative John Culberson recently bragged in Congress about how this $2.8 billion expansion “from eight lanes to 23 lanes” has resulted in “moving more cars in less time, more savings to taxpayers than any other transportation project in the history of Houston.”
In fact, reports Crossley, all that money seems to be doing a great job of generating more traffic:
Houston commutes continue to get worse despite billions in spending on new road capacity. Traveling from Downtown outbound on the I-10 Katy Freeway to Pin Oak took 51% more time in 2014 than in 2011, according to Houston Tomorrow analysis of Houston Transtar data. The Houston region in recent years has been spending the most per capita on new roads of the ten largest metropolitan regions in the nation.

In 2014, during peak rush hour, it took 70 minutes, 27 seconds to travel from Downtown, past Beltway 8, all the way to Pin Oak, just past the Katy Mills Mall. In 2011, this same trip took 46 minutes, 53 seconds.

The addition of single occupant vehicle capacity (SOV) and toll lanes to Katy Freeway completed in 2010 cost $2.8 billion. This was $1.63 billion more than the original 2001 price tag of $1.17 billion, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
To the north, this is why Patrick Kennedy at D Magazine has been arguing that Dallas must shift course, invest in creating walkable places and options other than driving. So far, the message has not sunk in at the state legislature. But it is beginning to make headway in Dallas.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Greater Greater Washington writes that incomes are rising in DC, but not for the people who were born there. ATL Urbanist reports that Atlanta is seeking TIGER funding to link its new streetcar to the Beltline project. And Streets.mn shares a classic cartoon about American car culture from Ken Avidor.

Anti-710 Freeway tunnel group presents new traffic-fixing plan


By Steve Scauzillo, May 28, 2015

 U.S. Congressman Adam Schiff addresses the crowd. Thursday, May 28, 2015. The group called "Beyond the 710" held a major press conference at 8 a.m. at the Union Station front entrance to Metro Gateway Plaza. Los Angeles, CA 90012.

 No 710 Action Commitee member Tom Williams stands within the crowd at the press conference. Thursday, May 28, 2015. The group called "Beyond the 710" held a major press conference at 8 a.m. at the Union Station front entrance to Metro Gateway Plaza. Los Angeles, CA 90012.

A group calling itself “Beyond the 710” on Thursday presented the county’s transportation agency with $705 million in immediate traffic fixes — a stark alternative to a proposed $5.6-billion Alhambra-to-Pasadena freeway tunnel project.

The group, made up of cities, legislators and national preservation organizations, oppose building the 6.3-mile tunnel to connect the 710 from where it dead-ends at Valley Boulevard to the ditch at Del Mar Avenue in west Pasadena at the 210/134 freeways interchange, calling it unrealistic, outdated and environmentally degrading.

“The era of building freeways in this L.A. Basin and surrounding valleys is over,” announced South Pasadena City Councilwoman Marina Khubesrian during a press conference Thursday morning.
The group also opposes a 7.5-mile light-rail alternative, one of five options presented in an SR-710 North Study draft Environmental Impact Report released in March. Instead, it suggests installing a surface-route light-rail or busway from Old Pasadena to East La College, connecting with existing Gold Line and Metrolink stations. The line — in second and third phases — would extend south through 710 corridor cities of Maywood, Bell, Cudahy and South Gate.

The group, which consists of the cities of Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, Pasadena, Sierra Madre and South Pasadena, wants the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, known as Metro, to scrap a 26,000-page study that includes different options for completing the so-called “freeway gap” and going with a more community-based plan.

The plan includes:

• Building a two-lane “Golden Eagle Boulevard” from the south stub at Valley just north of the 10 Freeway to Mission Road that could include bus lanes and a separated bike path.

• Improving Metro’s 762 bus by adding more north-south service, longer hours and dedicated bus lanes

• Quickly selling Caltrans-owned houses and properties along the old surface route in South Pasadena and Pasadena. The sales could generate $250 million and be used to buy each student at Cal State Los Angeles and East Los Angeles College a free transit pass.

• Filling in the northern ditch in Pasadena by building a “complete street” roadway that connects to the 210/134 freeways.

• Restoration of Arroyo Rosa de Castilla, a year-round creek that runs under the 710; creating 30 acres of new parkland, including three new soccer fields and a 2.5-mile bike path connecting Alhambra, El Sereno and South Pasadena.

“Caltrans and Metro need to take a new look (at the 710 connector),” said Pasadena City Manager Michael Beck. “We need to connect people to their destinations and not put them in a tunnel underground.”

Beyond 710 cities are the same that opposed the surface route in the 1990s and also include the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which won an injunction against the surface route in 1999. The group called South Pasadena and El Sereno “one of America’s 11 most endangered historic places.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, a new voice in the freeway-tunnel opposition group, said he had hoped a tunnel, instead of a surface freeway that would wipe out hundreds of homes, would bring communities together. Instead, it only brought more animosity and division. “Our communities want new and innovative ways to move people and improve air quality, not more freeways above or below ground with their smokestacks for ventilation and even more vehicles belching exhaust through their neighborhoods,” he wrote in a letter to Metro Board Chairman Eric Garcetti, L.A.’s mayor.

Barbara Messina, Alhambra city councilwoman, called the group’s plan “hairbrained” and their press conference an interruption of the EIR public comment process. “To disrupt this process is unconscionable and disrespectful to the hundreds of residents that have participated in the process throughout the years,” she said in a statement on the 710 Coalition website.

Indeed, representatives of Alhambra, Monterey Park and San Marino all spoke in favor of extending the freeway via a tunnel at recent public hearings held by Caltrans and Metro.

Caltrans and Metro abandoned plans for a surface route more than five years ago and instead have proposed either a single-bore tunnel ($3.15 billion) with two lanes of traffic in each direction, or double-bore, twin tunnels ($5.65 billion) with four lanes in each direction, as well as the other non-freeway alternatives. Neither agency has stated a preferred option.

Alhambra is a leading force in the 710 Coalition, which calls for “closing the gap” of the freeway that starts in Long Beach and is considered the missing link in the 14 Southern California freeways. Caltrans first proposed the extension in 1959.

Metro will wait until the comment period ends July 6, and for Caltrans to issue a final EIR before it votes on the project. That won’t happen until the middle of 2016, said Paul Gonzales, Metro spokesman.

Opponents of 710 Freeway extension offer alternatives to tunneling


By Dan Weikel, May 28, 2015

710 Freeway
 Trucks make their way along the 710 Freeway.

Opponents of a controversial proposal to extend the unfinished 710 Freeway unveiled a variety of options Thursday that they say would eliminate the need for an underground highway between Alhambra and Pasadena.

A coalition of community organizations, environmental attorneys and five San Gabriel Valley cities contends its Beyond the 710 plan could reset the longstanding debate over what to do about the 4.5-mile gap between Interstate 10 and the nexus of the 210 and 134 freeways.

Rather than extend the 710 by tunneling under homes and businesses at a cost of up to $5.6 billion, the group asserts that simply expanding bus service, improving surface streets, adding bicycle routes and developing more walkable communities will better address traffic congestion, air pollution and the transportation needs of the west San Gabriel Valley.
“We are hoping to move beyond the old, tired 710 Freeway debate, which is wasting lots of time, money and resources,” said South Pasadena City Councilwoman Marina Khubesrian, vice chair of the Connected Cities and Communities coalition. “Some of these ideas are new, but they have great potential.
The group presented its ideas to the board of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is evaluating a tunnel for the 710 and several alternatives. Coalition members want the MTA and Caltrans to also study their proposals, formulated with the help of Nelson Nygaard, a planning and transportation consulting firm.
Options for the 710 are now in the environmental review process. They include a bus system, a light rail line, a freeway tunnel and some upgrades to street intersections—all of them questioned by tunnel opponents. The MTA board is scheduled next year to select one or more options or leave the route as it is.

Tunnel supporters, such as the 710 Coalition formed in 1982, contend that opponents are trying to rebrand themselves in an effort to undermine the environmental review process. They say that more than 300 community and advisory meetings have been held during the past four years related to the ongoing analysis that recently released a draft environmental impact report.

“To disrupt this process is unconscionable and disrespectful to the hundreds of residents that have participated in the process throughout the years,” said Alhambra Vice Mayor Barbara Messina, whose city is a member of the 710 Coalition along with four other San Gabriel Valley cities.
“This is all politics. We can thank Congressman Adam Schiff for this,” Messina said. Schiff (D-Burbank) opposes the tunnel project.

Instead of a highway, Beyond the 710 envisions several surface street projects, including a four-lane thoroughfare called Golden Eagle Boulevard that would head north from the southern stub of the 710 to Fremont Avenue in Alhambra.

According to the plan, Golden Eagle would intersect Valley Boulevard as well as Alhambra Avenue and East Mission Road, allowing traffic to be distributed to other surface streets while protecting residential neighborhoods.
The group contends the improvements would reduce traffic congestion in the area, especially around Cal State Los Angeles, where a large number of car trips are made.

A proposal for the northern stub of the 710 in Pasadena calls for it to be filled in—an idea that could provide 35 acres of open space or developable land for homes and commercial buildings.
Another key proposal is a north-south transit corridor east of the proposed 710 route that would connect to Metrolink service, the El Monte busway and the MTA’s Gold, Green and Blue light rail lines.

This would provide access to Huntington Hospital, Cal State L.A., East Los Angeles College, St. Francis Medical Center and the communities of Bell, Maywood, Southgate and Long Beach.
Coalition members say the transit corridor could be served by a variety of bus lines, with light rail service added as ridership grows.

Khubesrian said the coalition opposes the elevated light rail option now undergoing environmental review. She said it would not connect to the Gold Line or go to many popular destinations. There is also opposition in El Sereno, she added.

Coalition planners estimate that the proposals that can be done immediately, such as street improvements, bikeways, safe pedestrian crossings and expanded bus service, would cost about $875 million. The figure is far less than the $3.1-billion to $5.6-billion cost to build the 710 extension in a tunnel.

With additional funding, the group says that the future projects, such as improvements to Metrolink, extensions of the Gold Line, bus rapid transit lines, and bike networks throughout the San Gabriel Valley could be done at a cost of almost $3 billion.

If the coalition’s proposals are approved, planners say they could create open space for recreation, generate thousands of jobs and trigger private investment in residential and commercial development in the western San Gabriel Valley.

Supporters of the tunnel claim, however, that the draft environmental impact report illustrates the benefits of putting the freeway underground. The opponents, they add, are desperate to combat growing support for the project.

“This group is beyond reasonable. They are not new. In fact, they are the same vocal minority that continues to oppose the increasingly popular tunnel alternative,” said Ron Miller, executive secretary of Los Angeles/Orange Counties Buildings & Construction Trades Council.

A recent poll commissioned by the 710 Coalition shows there is more than 2-to-1 support for the freeway tunnel in Los Angeles County and in cities near the proposed project.

Metro Board approves $5.6-billion budget


By Steve Hymon, May 28, 2015

The budget is for the fiscal year beginning July 1 and ending June 30, 2016. It calls for no fare increases in the coming fiscal year or any cuts to bus service hours. The budget can be read online here and below is the news release from Metro:

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) Board of Directors today approved a new $5.56 billion FY 2016 Budget following a public hearing that was held last week and community input as part of the budget process. 

Metro’s adopted budget is a balanced budget for FY 16 which begins on July 1, 2015 and runs through June 30, 2016. In FY 16, five major rail lines are in construction, with the Expo Line extension to Santa Monica and the Gold Line Foothill Phase 2A extension to Azusa opening before the summer of 2016. 

The budget calls for no fare changes or major service changes. Projects under planning/engineering in FY 16 include the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor, the Airport Metro Connector, the South Bay Metro Green Line Extension, the West Santa Ana Branch and the Gold Line Eastside Extension Phase II. Highway projects include the I-605 Corridor, the I-5 North Capacity Enhancements, the I-710 South and Early Action Projects, the SR 710 North Gap Closure, the SR-138 Capacity Enhancements, the High Desert Corridor, Arroyo Verdugo Operational Improvements, the South Bay Ramp & Interchange Operational Improvements and Countywide Soundwall Projects.

FY 16 Budget highlights include $1.5 billion for maintaining the current level of service, $2.1 billion for various capital projects which include major construction activity for the Regional Connector Project, the Crenshaw/LAX line and the Westside Extension of the Purple Line subway, and $1.4 billion is subsidy funding going back to transit operators and the 88 cities and unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County.

710 Freeway Debate Game Changer? Powerful Coalition Launches New Approach, New Plan


May 28, 2015


A group of cities and organizations today dramatically reshaped the debate over the 710 Tunnel today by announcing “Beyond the 710,” an effort to reimagine how to resolve the conflicts over congestion and mobility that have divided the western San Gabriel Valley for decades.

A key insight of Beyond the 710 is to understand that more than 85% of commuters exiting the 710 Freeway at Valley Boulevard are intent on reaching local destinations, and the vision of Beyond the 710’s plan is to use 21st Century planning solutions (such as well-planned transit lines, Great Streets concepts, and traffic mitigation) to reduce congestion and promote smart growth rather than 1960s freeway-oriented approaches.

“Today is a new day in the 710 debate, and we are committed to finding solutions that work for everyone,” said Ara Najarian, mayor of Glendale, member of the LA County Metro Board, and chair of Beyond the 710. “Just as my city and my neighbors will never accept a tunnel through our communities, we must recognize that a solution to the congestion created by the 710 in Alhambra and their neighbors must be addressed intelligently. That’s why we are presenting a starting point for new discussions on how to resolve these issues amicably.”

Beyond the 710 presented a plan that by removing the freeway “stubs” at both the 10 and 210 freeways, can free up land for smart development, employ transit to connect people to important local destinations and other transit lines, and employ modern strategies for increasing bikeability and walkability. The plan is available at www.beyondthe710.org/better_alternatives, located on the new Beyond the 710 website, which launched today as well.

“For too long, the debate over the 710 freeway has been fought with a 20th Century mindset that emphasizes more highways and all of the congestion and pollution that comes with them,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank). “We need to adopt a new approach – more fitting for the times – that moves past the tunnel debate, and offers a range of options that will improve both the quality of life and transportation in our region. I support a broad set of transportation and air quality solutions that emphasize more mass transit, more parks, more bikeways, and more efficient goods movement over more concrete and more exhaust.” Congressman Schiff recently wrote a letter opposing the 710 tunnel. It can be found at www.beyondthe710.org/adam_schiff.

Beyond the 710 is a project of the Connected Cities and Communities, comprised of the cities of Glendale, La Canada Flintridge, Cities of Glendale, La Canada Flintridge, Pasadena, Sierra Madre, and South Pasadena, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“Our communities have come together because while the tunnel is completely unacceptable to us due to the significant damage it would cause, we know that something must be done to relieve congestion in all the neighboring communities,” said Marina Khubesrian, South Pasadena councilmember and vice chair of Beyond the 710. “It is really unfortunate that the alternatives process that Caltrans and Metro have conducted so far has been so deeply flawed and considered nothing like what we are putting out for discussion today.”

Beyond the 710’s Plan is the result of many months of study and collaboration to seek solutions that work for all the affected communities. The effort was led by Nelson\Nygaard, a full-service transportation firm, with offices across the United States, committed to developing transportation systems that promote vibrant, sustainable, and accessible communities. The firm’s Los Angeles office is led by Paul Moore, who has led complex projects that have successfully transformed cities, neighborhoods and agencies throughout the United States.

“Pasadena has suffered the negative impacts of freeway ‘solutions,’ and we recognize that better options exist, such as great streets and smart transit,” said Michael Beck, city manager of the City of Pasadena. “Our city council recently voted to oppose the tunnel, and instead we’ve “Beyond the 710,” A Game-changing Plan to Replace SR-710 Tunnel Debate with 21st Century Smart Mobility Measures to Connect People and Relieve Congestion for All Communities, is Launched adopted a progressive approach to improving north-south connectivity that is very consistent with Beyond the 710.”

The Economic Benefits analysis was led by The Maxima Group LLC, a principal-led consulting firm specializing in real estate market and economic analysis. A summary is located at www.beyondthe710.org/smart_growth, was written by Patricia Flynn, one of the founding Principals of the Maxima Group. Flynn has over 25 years of experience in real estate and fiscal impact analysis. She has been responsible for many studies of transit-oriented development in Southern California, including two corridor-wide studies of the impact of transit-oriented development along the Gold Line Foothill Extension and several project-level studies for Metro.

“While the 710 Tunnel would cost many billions of dollars and not promote economic development at all, Beyond the 710’s plan would create thousands of long-term jobs, promote sustainable growth, and create opportunities for new housing and recreation,” said John Harabedian, councilmember of the City of Sierra Madres. “It’s based on four pillars of modern planning: community-serving transit, congestion reduction, Great Streets concepts that encourage bike use and walking, and managing traffic demand.”

“Like everyone here today, the City of La Cañada Flintridge acknowledges that the current situation is not tolerable, and something must be done, said Jonathan Curtis, mayor pro tem of the City of La Cañada Flintridge. “Unfortunately, the Caltrans / Metro approach is so deeply flawed that it cannot be a basis on which to move forward. Metro and Caltrans did not really listen to the ideas that came out of the scoping sessions, which is shown by the fact that among the 100 alternatives that they examined, none of them included eliminating either the north or south stubs. Caltrans and Metro must take a new look at how best to connect people to their destinations, and use transit and great streets to sustainably grow communities, and improve everyone’s quality of life.”

“The National Trust for Historic Preservation is proud to join the cities, institutions, and organizations supporting ‘Beyond the 710: Moving Forward’ as committed advocates for more effective and equitable regional transportation solutions suited to the 21st century needs of this dynamic, diverse, and growing metropolis,” said Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“Today, we are announcing Historic Communities of the 710 as our newest National Treasure—our signature advocacy program focusing on critically important and threatened historic places across the country. The National Trust supports and advances policies that promote urban livability, and we firmly believe that a transportation plan focused on the needs of the entire region will yield a much better solution