Expo Line opponents Neighbors for Smart Rail filed a re-hearing petition today. This comes on the heels of the decision by the state Public Utilities Commission to approve crossings for Expo Line Phase II, which was thought to be the final nail in the coffin for Cheviot Hills obstructionists. (View the panel voting on the matter during an otherwise dull meeting.)
A California judge ruled against the state High Speed Rail Authority by stating that the agency failed to identify sources for most of the $31 billion required to build an initial operating segment of the HSR line. The judge referred to a provision outlined in the voter-approved Proposition 1A which calls for the state to identify the funds for said segment before starting construction. However, the judge stopped short of placing any kind of injunction against the project, saying that any solution is in the hands of the state legislature and that another hearing will be held to address possible remedies. This comes on the same day that the Authority announced it has signed a contract with the joint venture led by Tutor Perini to commence construction.
Governor Jerry Brown, an ardent champion of the project, vowed that the ruling will not stop work as scheduled and believed a remedy can be found per the judge’s belief. The Sacramento Bee editorial board asked those following the developments to keep things in perspective, since HSR construction will bring jobs in an economically depressed region. In the meantime, the Authority continues to acquire parcels for construction, including one that houses a popular burger joint in Fresno. However, the owners negotiated with the Authority to turn over the property at a price that was higher than initially offered.
Amtrak continues to receive its newest locomotives for the Northeast Corridor, with the national passenger railroad receiving its third one in Delaware. The Siemems-built electric locomotives operate up to 125 mph and feature a variety of safety and maintenance features. However, the $466 million purchase for a total of 70 locomotives has also met criticism. Amtrak’s Inspector General accused the railroad of making purchases without an assessment of how many new vehicles it actually needs. The IG concluded that Amtrak needs only 56 locomotives, while Amtrak counters that purchasing 70 locomotives right now would avoid the uncertainty of buying them in the future due to ever-inadequate funding.
The Petersen Automotive Museum is auctioning cars to fund major renovations to the museum building. However, when most museums sell items, funds are typically directed toward expanding its collections. According to museum experts, the Petersen goes against standards that are central to most museums’ missions set by accrediting associations that aim to maintain historical preservation for public interest. So far, the museum has sold $8.5 million in cars. As the Petersen is celebrating its 20th anniversary next year, Bruce Meyer, vice chairman of the Petersen board, said the building needs to undergo improvements, which requires money. Not everyone is happy about these changes.
Two new Hollywood skyscrapers may be in the works, so long as the proposed site isn’t located near a fault line. Known as the Millennium project, the towers would be constructed near the Capitol Records building. One would be 35 stories high, while the other would be 39. Opponents of this proposal have cited that the Hollywood fault may still be active. John Parrish, chief of the California Geological Survey, said the study on the fault may take up until 2014 to be completed. Caltrans is also concerned about the effect this development could have on traffic on the 101 Freeway.
Finally, graduates from the College of Charleston in South Carolina bandied together to create a new website that brings multiple bus companies together to sell seats. Known as Bustripping, the website offers online ticket sales where users can compare prices and schedules. However, two of the biggest intercity bus operators, Megabus and Greyhound, opted not to participate on account of the risks involved and will instead view things from afar, limiting travel choices.
Returning north, officials announced that the new Oakland Bay Bridge will not open on Labor Day as scheduled. Engineers last March discovered that 32 bolts used on the bridge had fractured because the steel bolts had become brittle, necessitating a $15 million retrofit on top of the $6.3 billion spent on the new bridge. The retrofit calls for installing so-called saddles to supplant 96 bolts now (including the 32 bolts that failed) and another 192 bolts after the bridge opens. The process is expected to last until December 10, meaning that the new bridge will not open until then.
The Transit Coalition has been keeping watch on the quality of life in the agricultural villages east of Indio in the southeastern Coachella Valley. Linked together by SunLine transit buses, numerous substandard mobile home parks and housing can be found throughout the area. One major development, the Desert Mobile Home Park (aka. Duroville) could be once described as a third-world slum housing up to 4,000-6,000 people all within a square mile. The federal government finally ordered the trailer park to close. Duroville and other trailer parks house the region’s agricultural workers. If you’ve ever eaten locally grown grapes or similar produce, chances are they could have been harvested by these laborers who work in blazing heat, only to come home in a hot and stuffy trailer. Their wages are low enough where renting an apartment or a room is out of the question.
Harvey Duro, Duroville’s operator, had plans to improve the living conditions of the trailer park, but claimed resources were instead spent on legal fees. According to local reports, most of Duroville’s residents relocated to a new trailer development, Mountain View Estates, with the help of Riverside County. Concerns over the mass relocation of Duroville’s residents were therefore averted, but getting to that point was far from smooth sailing in regards to securing public funding.
Fair-minded individuals recognize that taxpayer-funded redevelopment agencies are certainly debatable statewide, but there is no question that this agricultural region is neither an entitlement nor a me-myself-and-I society. The majority of residents here are hard-working farmworkers working in intense heat to provide for their children and give us the produce we eat. Numerous local non-profit organizations have been gracious enough to step in and help fix up the housing conditions in this area. To be fair, the region does need to be policed better to combat drug-related crimes and debates need to continue for solutions to improve wages with additional service-sector jobs, but nobody who works all day in 110 degree heat should be subject to come home without air conditioning or clean water.
In other automobile news, researchers now have quantifiable proof that GPS navigators are not as reliable as drivers wish them to be, while some drivers continue to use tried-and-true methods such as using a paper map and asking for directions. Los Angeles Timescontributor Maria La Ganga elaborates on her recent experiences at a brick-and-mortar traffic school. Also, the uphill climb of gas prices has come to an end after 15 days, with a gallon of gas averaging $4.11 as of yesterday.
Southern California officials are making strides in finding ways to accelerate select transit projects. However, officials representing the San Gabriel Valley are miffed that the Gold Line from Azusa to Claremont is not included in the acceleration plans. The San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments tacitly supported the local transit projects described in the plan but made it clear that they want the completion of the Gold Line included. To that effect, 12 lawmakers representing San Gabriel Valley and the Inland Empire are asking Metro to postpone a Board vote on the list by at least a month, in the hopes that the Gold Line to Claremont is added to the list before then.