Talks of building a football stadium in Los Angeles have been ongoing for years, but now it looks like actual groundwork could start as early as January, city officials say. Ed Roski Jr., the billionaire head of Majestic Realty Co., said he planned on bringing an NFL team to LA in 2008 with a state-of-the-art $800 million stadium, but work has not started at the tentative site off Grand Avenue near the 60 and 57 Freeways. City Manager Kevin Radecki said a major reason for the delay was the dissolution of redevelopment agencies. But even with an NFL stadium, Los Angeles is not guaranteed a football team, according to City Engineer John Ballas.
The new Oakland Bay Bridge won the hearts of Bay Area motorists, cyclists and pedestrians for its multi-modal and elegant design roughly two months after its grand opening. However, the reality is that the project was plagued with cost overruns and structural deficiencies. As a result, state Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) announced that he will head a series of meetings by the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee with the express intent of learning what went wrong during the 16 years the bridge was designed and constructed. DeSaulnier hopes that information attained from the meetings will help lawmakers craft future legislation that would increase accountability from Caltrans and improve project management.
A recent study by Cornell University’s Center for Hospitality Research has found that hotels that “go green” aren’t necessarily at an advantage when it comes to consumers making reservations. The report suggests that while environmentally conscious people may be more inclined to choose eco-friendly accommodations over those that aren’t, others may fear that “green” hotels could compromise comfort. Still, it was found that it doesn’t hurt hotels to reduce their carbon footprint.
Readers may recall how California received additional cash for HSR thanks to the actions of Florida Governor Rick Scott (R), who rejected a federal offering of $2.4 billion towards construction of an initial segment of HSR in his state. A recent report sheds more light on why Scott chose to reject the funds despite support from officials in his own party. According to a former state senator who initially supported Scott during his gubernatorial campaign, the eventual governor initially said that he would accept the funds, just days before declaring he would do otherwise. As for the duplicity, Scott believed that accepting the funds would make it look as though President Barack Obama (D), an HSR supporter, would win a moral victory. To wit, Scott followed the steps of other Republican governors in rejecting their share of federal HSR funds as a means to spite Obama.
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Thinner seats on airplanes are becoming more and more prevalent as airlines seek out ways to increase revenue. Southwest, United, and Alaska Airlines are among carriers that have added another row of five to six seats on some of their aircraft. This allows the airlines to save more on fuel (as thinner seats weigh less) and carry more paying passengers. Generally, seats are one inch closer together than they previously were. Airlines say the seats are just as comfortable and that passengers won’t notice, although some have begged to differ. Alaska Airlines will replace all of its seats by the end of 2014, but will also install power outlets for its customers. However, plane manufacturer Airbus recently chastised airlines with regards to this trend, citing research that more comfortable seats improves sleep quality for passengers by as much as 53%.
Could Lancaster become an appealing location for Chinese investment? That’s what the city’s mayor, R. Rex Parris, is trying to do. Parris has spent time visiting China and talking with Chinese investors. He said he hopes Lancaster will become the biggest area of Chinese corporations in the state. So far, the city has managed to convince Build Your Dreams (BYD), a Chinese battery and electric bus company, to open up a factory there. Hopefully, this new investment will succeed in creating jobs and bringing in revenue. BYD, however, has already been cited for violating labor laws, such as paying employees below minimum wage and not allowing workers to take their second rest breaks, as required by California law. Christopher Tang, a business professor at UCLA, said while Lancaster isn’t well known like Los Angeles or San Francisco, it is becoming more and more expensive to invest in factories in the latter cities. Should Lancaster offer concessions for such investments, it may be more attractive to build there instead.
Next week, the CAHSR Authority Board will select an alignment for the Fresno-Bakersfield segment of the high-speed rail line. Staff recommends selecting an alignment that includes numerous bypasses, including an eastern bypass of Hanford, and parallels the BNSF railway (the current route of Amtrak San Joaquin trains). Curiously, the segment would go through Wasco and Shafter, communities that have warmed to HSR even though no station will serve either town. A route into Bakersfield that consolidates two route variations and avoids the most impacts with the Kern River was also recommended. The preferred alignment would cost $7.1 billion, a $500 million savings over following the BNSF railway in its entirety, and would take 34 ½ minutes to traverse. A staff report is now available. Should the Authority Board select the preferred alternative, the compilation of the final environmental document may commence.
The Orange County Transportation Authority reported that the I-405 freeway corridor between Irvine and Long Beach is one of the most congested freeways in Orange County, carrying more than 300,000 vehicle trips in some sections each day. Based on the stats, most vehicles move between the bedroom suburbs, just to the southwest of Santa Ana, and the robust employment hubs near the Irvine Business Complex and South Coast Plaza. The freeway is generally stable at other times. Caltrans and OCTA have proposed to widen the freeway.
OCTA is looking at converting the existing pair of 2+ carpool lanes into dual 3+ high occupancy tolled express lanes each way. Federal law requires that carpool lanes operate at least 45 mph during 90% of the peak hour. The toll lane would require FasTrak toll transponders for all vehicles and possible mandatory tolls for 3+ carpoolers, much like the 91 Express Lanes. The proposal also includes adding one general purpose lane. The HOV-to-HOT conversion has caused a major public backlash at the local level with city governing bodies getting involved. Some opponents feel like they were victims of a bait-and-switch scheme with OC’s Measure M. The City of Costa Mesa has even threatened legal action. According to OCTA, the I-405 carpool lane fills to capacity and becomes congested, mainly during peak rush hours in the peak direction.
The OCTA Regional Planning and Highways Committee voted yesterday to recommend that the OCTA Board postpone a vote on the lanes until further public outreach is conducted. The Transit Coalition’s A Better Inland Empire weighs in on the debate.
Meanwhile, our blog provided some ideas on how to bring better bus transit infrastructure to the 91 Express Lanes through Corona. Even though the 91 Express Lane extension project is nearly identical to the I-405 project–convert the congested 2+ carpool lane into dual transponder-only 3+ HOT lane and add one general purpose lane–local opposition has been fairly quiet. The Coalition has long advocated that 3+ carpools travel toll free without the need for a FasTrak transponder. However, because infrastructure upgrades are long past due, many commuters are likely to welcome any sort of capacity expansion unlike the I-405 improvement project. The Coalition’s long term focus is improving the corridor’s transit infrastructure to support frequent rapid express bus lines, paying the project’s debt so that the 91 Express Lanes can financially support free non-transponder 3+ carpooling, and improving rail transit options through Metrolink MAX.
Much has been written and debated on the dangers of distracted driving, and the problem shows no signs of abating. However, there have been fewer efforts to curb distracted bicycling and walking. While pedestrians are legally protected, they and cyclists will almost always lose in a collision with an automobile thanks to the laws of physics. Columnist Sandy Banks wrote an article lamenting the death of a woman’s son who walked onto a busy street without paying attention. The responses received, however, were much more critical of the teenager and of pedestrians in general. While no one wants to sound as though the victim is the one who should be blamed, Banks concludes that a dialogue should be had as to what the responsibilities of pedestrians should be. One problem not noted in these series of articles is the lack of amenities that would increase safety for pedestrians, such as additional crosswalks to reduce jaywalking. LA Streetsblog editor Damien Newton responds.