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

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Coalition Accuses LA Transportation Authority of Tunnel Vision


By Josh Stephens, June 2, 2015


DIFFERENT SIDES OF THE ROAD-For the past few months, a coalition of transportation officials and regional leaders in the Los Angeles area have been promoting a plan to bring one of the world’s most massive highway tunnels to one of the world’s most congested freeway grids. Last week, a group that includes a member of Congress and is opposed to the tunnel idea went on a public offensive and promoted a multimodal plan of its own.   

“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,” U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff said in a statement. “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.” 

For decades, Southern California officials have dreamed of closing the infamous 710 Freeway gap. Running north-south from the Port of Long Beach to the foothills, the 710 is a crucial corridor for the goods-movement industry. Unfortunately for the region’s truckers — not to mention its commuters — the freeway stops five miles short of its logical and intended terminus, at the 210 freeway. 

When it comes to filling that gap, residents in South Pasadena and neighboring communities long ago quashed the prospect of running a conventional freeway through their upscale city. That’s why the dream of a tunnel has long tantalized the region’s transportation planners. What was once a fanciful, and perhaps infeasible, dream became real with the release of an environmental impact report that includes several versions of a tunnel among its options.  

Last Friday, Schiff’s coalition accused the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority of having tunnel vision. Metro is considering five alternatives described in the report, released in March, but has yet to announce its preference. The 120-day public comment period remains open. 

The Beyond the 710 coalition  — consisting of five cities in the San Gabriel Valley plus Schiff — fired back with a plan that, in stark contrast to the 20th-century mentality of building ever longer and wider roads, employs a variety of smaller-scale mobility strategies to accomplish many of the goals that a $5.6 billion tunnel would but for billions fewer dollars and a smaller environmental impact. 

The plan calls for a range of improvements to the 710 corridor, including the creation of a new boulevard in the mode of “complete streets”; a new network of pedestrian and bicycle paths; enhanced bus service; and transportation demand management strategies, such as giving free transit passes to students at local colleges. In the long term, expanded light rail and bus rapid transit would serve the corridor (options that are considered in one of the EIR’s alternatives). 

The plan’s most symbolically weighty element would be the demolition of the “stub” at the southern end of the gap, thus erasing much of the tangible evidence of the freeway’s intended route. The stub would be replaced by parklands, a bicycle path and a restored creek. The northern stub would remain but would be better integrated into the network of surface streets.

“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,” said John Harabedian, council member of the City of Sierra Madre, in a statement. 

The coalition estimates that high-priority projects would cost a total of $875 million. 

The idea is to serve the vast majority of drivers who are headed for local destinations rather than the handful of trucks and long-distance commuters who are simply passing through. The Beyond the 710 coalition estimates that 85 percent of commuters who exit the freeway’s current terminus at Valley Boulevard are heading for local destinations. 

To serve them, a new boulevard would be built to roughly parallel the proposed tunnel’s route. The plan’s intention of preserving South Pasadena and neighboring communities has won it the support of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which has added the communities surrounding the gap to its list of “National Treasures.” 

Though the coalition presented its plan as a progressive, reasoned alternative to the tunnel alternatives, at least two groups say that the plan is yet another example of local obstructionism. Several cities, including Alhambra, that absorb traffic coming off the 710 have long supported the completion of the freeway. 

Meanwhile, the goods-movement industry has been arguably the staunchest supporter of efforts to fill in the gap. Both groups say that anything less will only perpetuate congestion throughout the Los Angeles freeway grid.

When Children Can't Breathe

Cities must take measures to protect their young residents from air pollution—now.


By Sarah Goodyear, June 1, 2015

 Image thejuniorpartner / Flickr

If you knew your child’s health was being endangered by the place you live, what would you do? This isn’t just about how your kid feels today. We’re talking about a situation in which there is extensive scientific proof the city you live in is increasing your kid’s chances of one day having permanently reduced lung function, premature cardiovascular disease, even cancer. Would you get out of town?

That was the question raised in a New York Times op-ed over the weekend. Gardiner Harris tells the story of his son, Bram, who was eight years old when Harris got the choice job of Times South Asia correspondent, based in New Delhi. The Indian capital happens to be the most polluted city in the world, with particulate air pollution readings routinely double those of Beijing, which has gotten much more attention for its pervasive smog. (For some international perspective: The smoggiest day in Beijing is about seven times worse than the smoggiest day in Los Angeles, the U.S. city with the worst air pollution.)

Before long, Bram was suffering frightening asthma attacks, one of which landed him in the hospital for a week. Harris and his wife debated whether their son and his brother should remain in such a threatening environment, ultimately opting to keep the kids there. Things seemed to be better until, two years later, Bram endured another breathing crisis precipitated by someone burning something toxic in the neighborhood. Then the family finally left for Washington, D.C. There, Bram hopes, “My asthma will go away.”

Harris’s professional and personal dilemma sheds light on a particular subculture of expatriate Europeans and Americans living in heavily polluted Indian and Chinese cities to take advantage of opportunities in the fast-growing economies of those nations. It’s a choice that raises eyebrows among those who know the facts. One Indian pollution researcher who moved his own children to the western coastal state of Goa told Harris: “If you have the option to live elsewhere, you should not raise children in Delhi.”

If you have the option. Those are the key words. While Harris and people like him—entrepreneurs, businessmen, bankers, and media types, expatriate or no—often do have the choice to leave the most polluted places, tens of millions of people living in cities such as Delhi do not. In fact, as opportunities for subsistence in the countryside dry up, terribly polluted megacities around the world exert a strong pull on rural populations with few options in a rapidly transforming global economy.

Last year, the World Health Organization released air quality data from 1,600 cities in 91 countries around the globe. Just 12 percent of the people covered by the survey live in cities that comply with WHO standards for outdoor air pollution. Fully half live in cities where the pollutants in the air exceed WHO standards by 2.5 times or more. (Many cities in Africa and the Middle East do not monitor air pollution in a way that conforms with WHO standards, meaning the toll is likely even greater than this report suggests.) Outdoor air pollution was responsible for as many as 3.7 million deaths around the world in 2012. That’s a one-year toll.

We all know more and more people are moving to cities, including Delhi, whose population has increased by nearly a million in just the last two years. As Harris notes in his article, 4.4 million of the more than 18 million people who live in Delhi are school-age children, and a 2010 study showed that just under half are likely growing into adulthood with irreversible lung damage. The conclusions of that study, accordi
The ongoing exposure of tens of millions of the world’s children to damaging levels of air pollution amounts to a public health experiment on a massive scale. What will happen as those who breathed such polluted air begin to get older? What about children exposed in utero? What will the burden be on nations that have failed to confront the crisis now, in terms of health-care costs and reduced productivity? What is the toll on the families who, unlike Harris’s, cannot afford treatment—much less to move their children to safer places—and must watch as they struggle for every breath?

The WHO report suggests a number of policies that could begin to reverse the pollution trend: reducing industrial emissions; mandating cleaner fuels for trucks and other heavy vehicles; emphasizing walking, biking, and transit as urban transportation modes; moving to cleaner power generation; requiring more energy-efficient buildings; and reducing or eliminating incineration as a mode of waste disposal.

The results of cleaner air are real and measurable, as a study of children in Southern California has shown. That research looked at kids in five of the region’s most polluted cities, comparing children aged 11-15 during the 1990s to the same cohort from 2007 to 2011, after California had implemented stringent air quality regulations. The number of kids with dramatically reduced lung function went down by four percentage points, from 7.9 to 3.6. Their lung growth over the four-year study period improved by 10 percent.

“This study shows that California’s tough diesel and other air quality regulations protect children,” a state official told the Los Angeles Times.

That’s what all parents want to do, of course: protect their kids. A handful, like Gardiner Harris, can choose to do so by removing them altogether from places where the air simply isn’t safe to breathe. But the vast majority don’t have that option, and are reliant on larger forces to keep their children safe. “We cannot buy clean air in a bottle, but cities can adopt measures that will clean the air and save the lives of their people,” said WHO’s Dr. Carlos Dora in a statement. The choice to do so should be clear.
ng to the Indian Express, were largely ignored by policymakers.

This Week in Livable Streets


By Joe Linton, June 1, 2015

Long Beach hosts its very first open streets festival: Beach Streets! Plus Glendale-Hyperion Bridge, High Speed Rail, and bicycling in Glendale.
  • Monday – CA High Speed Rail open house – in Santa Clarita from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. – details here.
  • Tuesday – CA High Speed Rail open house – in Palmdale and webcast live from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. – details here.
  • Wednesday – Another vote, another chance to speak out in favor of a truly safe and multi-modal future for the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge. The city’s crappy sidewalk-deficient design is on the agenda for the Los Angeles City Council’s 1 p.m. Public Works Committee meeting. Details at Facebook event.
  • Saturday – From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the city of Long Beach hosts its very first open streets event: Beach Streets. It’s a free! fun! family festival, just like CicLAvia. Details at Beach Streets website and Facebook event page.
  • Saturday – Sparks will fly as the final CA High Speed Rail open house, for this round anyway, touches down in Acton from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. – details here.
  • Sunday – Walk Bike Glendale hosts the 3rd Annual Jewel City Ride departing from Verdugo Park in Glendale – multiple distances, multiple start times – details here.

Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy sends letter to CalTrans opposing Tunnel Alternative

From Sylvia Plummer, June 2, 2015

 The following Letter was approved by Unanioumos vote of the SMMC tonight: 


PHONE (310) 589-3200
FAX (310) 589-3207

June 1, 2015

Garrett Damrath
Chief Environmental Planner
Division of Environmental Planning
Department of Transportation, District 7
100 S. Main St, MS-16A
Los Angeles, California 90012

State Route 710 North Study Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental
Impact Statement and Draft Section 4(f) De Minimis Findings Comments

Dear Mr. Damrath:

The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (Conservancy) offers the following comments
on the State Route 710 North Study Project Draft Environmental Impact
Report/Environmental Impact Statement and Section 4(f) Evaluation regarding the
Freeway Tunnel Alternative. The impacts of this massive earth-moving alternative will have
serious environmental and public impacts which cannot be mitigated. Therefore we ask
Caltrans to remove the Freeway Tunnel Alternative from further consideration.

To effectively and efficiently accommodate regional and local north-south travel demands
the project should prioritize moving people, rather than vehicles. The Freeway Tunnel
Alternative is inconsistent with City of Los Angeles’ ongoing efforts to emphasize transit
over private automobile. Via the Freeway Tunnel Alternative, truck traffic will incur a 4
percent grade and will be forced to lower their gears and speeds that will produce higher
PM and NOx levels. By utilizing tunnels, the project encourages automobile traffic increasing
green house gas emissions, PM, NOx and other high criteria pollutants.

Portals and ventilation stacks along the tunnels will cause exhaust output into the
community, including El Sereno and California State University Los Angeles areas.
Additional exhaust will come from traffic on roadways leading to and from tunnels. Slow
prevailing winds will lead to greatly reduce local air quality. Additionally, the Freeway
Tunnel Alternative does not guarantee a reduction in traffic congestion and north-south
travel times. It would simply shift existing traffic onto a newly created route without
measurable improvements to the network or positive impact on local traffic.

Other important priorities the 710 North Study should focus on are enhancing travel
options for underserved communities, improving safety, minimizing environmental impacts,
reducing surface street traffic, and providing transportation choices to the public. The DEIR
is therefore deficient for not analyzing an alternative that supports these elements in
unison. The Conservancy recommends a Multi-Modal Alternative be analyzed. The Multi-
Modal Alternative should incorporate the following essential features: light rail transit,
expanded bus service, local street network improvements, and bicycle transit.

Regional or high density population areas should be served and special attention be given
to ensuring connectivity to both the existing and the planned local and regional
transportation network to address the challenge of making public transportation convenient
and accessible.

Please direct any questions and all future correspondence to Paul Edelman of our staff at
the above address and by phone at (310) 589-3200 ext. 128.