There’s much happening in Inland Empire transit news from transit studies, to urban sprawl, to a teleconference with a Congressmember’s staff. Be sure to follow the Coalition’s A Better Inland Empire Twitter and Facebook pages for this week’s analyses of local Inland Empire events. The debate over the proposed World Logistics Center continues with a big local response to The Transit Coalition’s blog post last week, as shown on the Facebook pages of Save Mo Valley and Moreno Valley Residents Against Warehouse Expansion. We say the Moreno Valley City Council has not addressed any specific safeguards to protect its residents from runaway diesel truck pollution and urban sprawl caused by unchecked logistics growth even though the region badly needs a robust job market. Moreno Valley officials continue to pander to private developers.
At least one badly needed bridge replacement is now a done deal, as Bay Area commuters welcome the new span of the Oakland Bay Bridge, which opened early last week. Despite the difficulties from more than 11 years of construction and even longer time of discussion, most are quite joyous and even awe-struck of the accomplishment. One particular motorcyclist expressed his elation at the new bridge during a helmet-cam recording of his ride over the span in the eastern direction, where the difference between the old and new span is most marked. As for the famed Bay Bridge Troll mentioned last week, it has been removed from the old span and moved to a quiet place near the toll plaza for visitors to gaze at. In turn, Caltrans announced that the new Bay Bridge will have its own troll.
The transportation infrastructure crisis has not abated even as the economy recovers. To date, at least 8,000 bridges across the country are deemed “structurally deficient” and “fracture critical”. The Federal Highway Administration estimates that road and bridge repairs now cost $20.5 billion a year. However, partisan bickering has stalled federal legislation that would address the issue. Unsurprisingly, people are not enthused about the lack of political progress on the issue. However, a representative of the American Society of Civil Engineers cautions against taking the issue out of context, since the number of structurally deficient bridges is actually declining thanks mostly to state and local efforts. ASCE regularly publishes its Report Card on America’s Infrastructure, which currently grades bridges as C+.
As said, state and local governments are increasingly taking the initiative to rebuild its own infrastructure. Los Angeles is no exception, as the city considers asking voters to approve a $3 billion road repair bond for the November 2014 ballot. The measure’s single biggest obstacle, however, is to gain the trust of voters who are weary of tax increases and already wonder why there is not enough money to repair roads right now. The LA City Council voted recently to merely continue studying the bond measure and its implications.
After a contentious tug of war, state and federal officials reached a deal in the pension reform dispute that threatened the delivery of vital funds to state transit agencies. Specifically, the state will exempt public transportation workers from new pension restrictions. The state will in turn challenge the 50-year-old law that prohibits states from reducing pension benefits outside of the collective bargaining process. The compromise allows federal funds to resume their flow into state transit coffers for critical projects and operations.
The Alliance for Biking and Walking announced the six finalists for its photo contest and needs your help to decide the victorious photo! The Alliance held a summer photo contest to collect great images of biking and walking and has amassed a large amount of photos, all of which will be made available for state and local advocates to use in their work. Now, The Alliance needs to decide which photographer will win the grand prize: A brand new Tern folding bike. Please help out and vote for a winner by “liking” one of the six photos on Facebook.
Cal Worthington, the charismatic and ingenious car dealer famous for his non-indicative “Dog Spot” commercials, died Sunday at the age of 92. Worthington built an empire of car dealerships up and down the state partly through a spate of colorful and inviting commercials during the ’70s and ’80s that encased a philosophy of endearing the audience and not just peddling the deals he offered. This advertising philosophy is known to media pundits and scholars as “person brands”.
Go see Cal! Go see Cal! Go see Cal! Muahahaha! Now you’ll never get that jingle out of your head.
Angels Flight was shut down after one of its cars derailed. No one was injured, but inspectors representing the state Public Utilities Commission began their investigation in earnest. Also jumping into action is the National Transportation Safety Board, which believed its own investigation will take up to 9 months, inferring that the historic funicular would be shut down for as long. The railway had a previous closure on account of a fatal accident in 2001. Said closure lasted for 9 years, during which the railway was completely rebuilt once the related investigation was finished. Let us hope that won’t be the case.
Even as a state judge faulted the CAHSR Authority for not having all the funds for constructing an initial operating segment, the construction joint venture led by Tutor Perini is on its way to Fresno to set up shop this week. A Fresno job board is collecting applications for a new hire training program that has received intense interest despite having only 25 positions available for the moment. The San Joaquin Valley business community believes this will be the start of a major economic boost that the disadvantaged area is in dire need of. However, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association President Jon Coupal is hearing none of that. Through an op-ed piece, Coupal believes placing the HSR issue back on the ballot would entail fiscal and political benefits no matter how the voters decide.
It was more or less expected that a competitor hotel would sue the City of Los Angeles regarding the environmental clearances given to the Millennium Project in Hollywood. Now a coalition of homeowner groups has joined in the fray, as they also filed a lawsuit against the city that alleges the same thing. Particular scorn has been directed to what opponents believe was a slipshod review of earthquake faults that may run below the proposed project. Caltrans is also contemplating filing a lawsuit should its own concerns of traffic impacts on the 101 Freeway be ignored.
Another similar project, this time in Sherman Oaks, has also come under fire, albeit for different reasons. The proposed Il Villagio Toscano would abut the interchange of the 101 and 405 Freeways at a distance of 35 feet, when the state air quality board usually recommends at least 300 feet for residential developments. Federal air regulators have barely started to permanently monitor pollution stemming from freeways, though potential solutions are uncertain. Critics are concerned that vehicle emissions from the interchange would negatively affect the health of prospective residents. Despite these concerns, the LA City Council approved the project.
Despite the exponential growth in the Arts District of Downtown LA, the lack of even small-scale transit options means that residents and customers must drive to the area, resulting in serious parking shortages. It has become so bad that clothes manufacturer American Apparel has gone as far as instituting a valet service so that workers can arrive to work on time even as valets finds parking in their stead. The history of previous transit service is not so great: Metro once ran Line 58 along Alameda Street for a few years before cancelling the line due to, well, low ridership. A new Little Tokyo light rail station is on the way thanks to the Metro Regional Connector, but it’s still a good walk away to the Arts District, while a Red Line station near the Sci-Arc campus has been discussed for years.
Meanwhile, Larchmont Village, located within the Wilshire District, will have its central parking pay station replaced with individual meters. Users complained that the station created long lines that actually led to more citations. As with other new meters installed by the city, the meters will each be able to accept credit cards.