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Posts from the Infrastructure Category


Eyes on the Street: Some L.A. City Sidewalk Repairs On the Way

Sidewalk repair markings in front of Shatto Park. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Sidewalk repair markings in front of Shatto Park. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

The city of Los Angeles has a $27 million set aside for sidewalk repair during the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. This is only the proverbial drop-in-the-bucket for L.A.’s estimated $1.5 billion in overall unmet sidewalk repair needs. Based on liability and property concerns, the city is only spending its $27 million repairing tree-root-damaged sidewalks along city facilities, such as parks and libraries.

Last month, Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Krekorian strongly criticized city bureaucracy for delays in spending even the relatively meager sidewalk repair monies budgeted.

Walking around my Koreatown neighborhood a few days ago, I spotted white markings on the slightly damaged sidewalks in front of Shatto Park. It looks like the city forces are at least getting some sidewalk repair work under way. I inquired to the city’s Public Works Bureau to find out where and when sidewalk repair is happening, and will do a follow-up article when I hear back from them.

Readers: is anyone else seeing these sidewalk repair markings in front of city facilities in your neighborhoods? Where? Are there other tree-root-damaged sidewalks (in front of city facilities) that the city should be repairing? Let us know in the comments below.

Update April 2: The list of city facility sidewalk repairs underway is in this March 2015 Bureau of Engineering Report [PDF]. It’s part of the sidewalk repair city council file 14-0163-S4


Advocates Push for Bike/Ped Funding From CA’s Cap-and-Trade Funds

A coalition of bike and pedestrian advocates are inviting organizations to sign on to a letter [PDF] asking the state legislature to recommend allocating $50 million of the state’s cap-and-trade revenue towards the Active Transportation Program. Currently, none of the $850 million in cap-and-trade funds are allocated specifically for walking and bicycling in this year’s budget.

Photo by Brian W. Knight from the Streetsblog "Kids + Cities Photo Contest, 2013"

Bicycles produce zero greenhouse gas emissions but get zero funds from cap-and-trade. Photo by Brian W. Knight from Streetsblog’s “Kids + Cities Photo Contest, 2013”

Caltrans recently released its first ATP call for projects, and applications are due May 21. Eligible projects support walking and bicycling, and must compete for funding that will be awarded according to a formula in the ATP guidelines, recently adopted by the California Transportation Commission. Applications are expected to request and amount exceeding the program’s current funding levels of $120 million per year.

Revenue from cap-and-trade, the system chosen by California to meet the requirements of the Global Warming Solutions Act, A.B. 32, must be spent on activities and projects that help meet its goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The governor’s proposed expenditure plan for cap-and-trade funds includes $100 million for the Strategic Growth Council for transit oriented development grants, which may include some bike and pedestrian infrastructure as part of larger projects. However, there is no cap-and-trade money specifically allocated to those modes.

The governor’s plan proposes an allocation of $250 million to high-speed rail, $200 million to the Air Resources Board for low-emission vehicle rebates, and $50 million to Caltrans to improve intercity rail, in addition to $250 million for other projects including energy efficiency, clean energy, and natural resource programs that will help reduce GHG emissions.

Building infrastructure for bicycles and pedestrians, and educating and encouraging people to use these emission-free modes, can reduce vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions in the short term. In their letter, advocates argue that bike/ped projects are crucial in meeting the state’s emission reduction goals, though they do not specify what budget line should be reduced to create the $50 million cap-and-trade allocation for active transportation.

“There is a lot of demand for the ATP program,” said Jeanie Ward-Waller, California Advocacy Organizer for the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, one of the organizations putting together a letter asking the legislature to consider the allocation from cap-and-trade funds. “There are projects that are ready to go, and ready to start reducing emissions in the short term.” Read more…

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Senators Warner and Blunt Take Another Stab at an Infrastructure Bank

You’d be forgiven for being cynical about big plans in Washington to create an infrastructure bank.

Sen. Mark Warner is behind a new attempt to create an infrastructure bank. Photo: ##

Sen. Mark Warner is behind a new attempt to create an infrastructure bank. Photo: DailyKos

President Obama has been talking about it for years. Every so often he comes out with a new big “push” for infrastructure investment, and it includes a bank of some kind. Multiple Senate bills have proposed an infrastructure bank or fund, sometimes housed under U.S. DOT and sometimes independent, sometimes with grant-making authority and sometimes without. Republican opposition has strangled all of them.

Virginia Democrat Mark Warner and Missouri Republican Roy Blunt introduced a new bill in the Senate last week, and the one really new thing about it — the thing that might give it legs — is the fact that Blunt is on board, along with four other Republicans. The only Republican to previously get behind an I-bank effort, Kay Bailey Hutchison, is no longer in the Senate.

The BRIDGE Act’s sponsor list so far is evenly split between Rs and Ds. In addition to Blunt and Warner, the bill has been co-sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).

The idea is to use federal loans and loan guarantees to incentivize private investment in infrastructure.

Read more…


Fixing a roundabout that isn’t, Just a Block from the Beach

The difference between a roundabout and a traffic circle? One misplaced stop sign.

When is a roundabout not a roundabout?

Evidently, when it’s located roundabout the beach in Santa Monica.

It’s not that the city by the sea hasn’t made great strides in recent years, particularly in justifying its designation as a Bicycle Friendly Community. The new Green Street on Ocean Park Blvd. shows Santa Monica’s commitment to re-imagining streets to accommodate all road users, as well as the environment.

On the other hand, some of the legacy streets could stand to see some improvement. Like tiny Bay Street between Neilson Way and the beach, for instance.

One of the problems for those of us who ride our bikes to the beach from points further inland is how to access the popular Santa Monica and Venice sections of the beachfront Marvin Braude bike path (pdf) that runs along the coast from Pacific Palisades to Palos Verdes.

The bluffs that protect the city from the sea also limit direct access to the coast, as does the dangerously high-speed traffic that careens along PCH all day and night throughout the week.

For some, the answer is the walkway that runs under the coast highway at West Channel Drive, allowing riders to walk their bikes down a flight of stairs and underneath the speeding traffic. Assuming they don’t mind traversing a dark and secluded walkway, completely hidden from public view.

While Gary Kavanagh is on a short hiatus, Ted Rogers and Juan Matute will cover the Santa Monica beat for Streetsblog. This column is supported by Bike Center and the Library Alehouse

Read more…

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Democrats Learning to Love the I-Word — But Will Words Bring Action?

The White House is re-centering its message around economic and fiscal concerns ahead of tomorrow's State of the Union address, with a new package of job-creation measures expected to vault to the top of the agenda and a three-year "spending freeze" pitched to deficit-wary conservative Democrats.

FreightRail_1.jpgInfrastructure: Democrats love it. But how will they fund it? (Photo: ShipDTS)

Yet despite data showing that transit stimulus spending's effect on employment was nearly twice as large as that of road projects, it's far from clear that the Obama administration's pivot to the economy will prove a boon to merit-based infrastructure investment.

One thing is clear: Democrats are finally catching on to broad public support for building more efficient and sustainable infrastructure.  As Robert Menendez (D-NJ), chief of the Senate majority's campaign committee, put it to CNN on Sunday (emphasis mine):



Solve the Congestion Crisis And Win $50,000

Have you ever idled in traffic or waited for a late bus while thinking: "The city government should put me in charge of fixing this mess"? (editor's note: Ubrayj, put your hand down.)

Well, it's time to make notes on that brilliant traffic-calming idea. The Intelligence Transportation Society of America (ITSA) kicked off a $50,000 "Congestion Challenge" today that seeks to pair social networking with innovative transportation policy-making.

6_1_09_elana.jpgGood solutions to this could net you $50,000. (Photo: ITSA)
Co-sponsored by Spencer Trask, a private equity firm specializing in high-tech investments, the contest asks transportation professionals and everyday citizens to submit their proposals for clearing the nation's jam-packed roads, bridges and transitways. Each submission will be judged based on its ability to address five issues: sustainability, safety, behavioral impact, economic competitiveness, and speed & efficiency.

But the most compelling aspect of the challenge is its approach to judging. Instead of subjecting entries to an evaluation panel that might be too tied to outmoded ways of thinking, the ITSA asks aspiring judges and contestants to set up their own Facebook-style profile pages (register for your own right here) and rate entries themselves.

This democratic format appears ripe for urbanites to flood the zone with support for genuinely worthy ideas. If livable streets advocates can organize and support a congestion solution devised from within their own ranks, one can imagine a lot of state and federal DOT officials taking notice.
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Texas Governor Rick Perry Celebrates 18 Lanes of “Freedom”

project3.jpgTexas officials this week marked the opening of new lanes on the Katy Freeway, a stretch of Interstate 10 that runs 40 miles west from downtown Houston. The state has added 20 miles of interior lanes, including 12 miles of HOV lanes, which officials say will eventually be converted to variable-rate HOT use. The rebuilt Katy Freeway is 18 lanes wide.

The ribbon cutting for the $2.8 billion project was attended by Congressman John Culberson and Governor Rick Perry. The Houston Chronicle was there and got some choice quotes.

"This project, for all intents and purposes, is complete," announced Delvin Dennis, interim director of the Texas Department of Transportation's Houston District. "Tomorrow morning the (high occupancy-toll) lanes open. If you're not doing anything, take a ride on them."

Perry noted the roar of traffic below, above and around the crowd, which was gathered on a frontage road overpass.

"This is the sound of freedom we hear," he said. "These people need roads to get to work, to church and to school."

One kind of freedom Texans don't need, according to the state and Rep. Culberson, is freedom of choice.


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Study Confirms: Safer Bike Routes Get More People Riding

Bike infrastructure can help overcome safety concerns, says Portland-area researcher Jennifer Dill.

effective are bike lanes at enticing people to ride? Portland State
University professor Jennifer Dill has been looking into that question
for more than a year, and her research is starting to get some
attention. Using GPS trackers to map more than 1,700 bike trips, Dill
found that about half of all bike travel occurs on dedicated
infrastructure like bike lanes or bike boulevards, even though such
routes comprise only eight percent of Portland’s street network.

also conducted surveys about who rides most often and why people choose
to bike or drive. She concludes that bike riding won’t expand far
beyond a core demographic of young men unless perceptions of safety
change, reports the Portland Tribune:

According to Dill, most regular bicyclists are young men. This means
that if the city wants to substantially increase the number of people
riding bikes on a regular basis, it needs to reach out to young women
and older people. And, Dill said, that is what public spending on bike
infrastructure can accomplish.

All this may come across as confirmation of common sense (Portland DOT has based its bike network strategy
on similar surveys), but the notion that dedicated bike routes make
cyclists safer is not universally accepted. Proponents of "vehicular
cycling" reject bike infrastructure forcefully,
claiming that biking with traffic reduces collisions. They wield
considerable influence over design standards at the federal level, and
in Portland they have consistently opposed steps intended by the city to improve safety and boost bicycle mode share.

Dill’s preliminary research [PDF]
adds to the evidence that dedicated bike infrastructure matters.
Without a bike network that makes everyone feel safer — men and women,
children and seniors, veteran and inexperienced riders — it’s hard to
imagine that American cyclists will ever enjoy the safety in numbers that cities like Copenhagen have managed to produce.

Graphic: Jennifer Dill


LaBonge Rallies the Troops Against “Metro Universal”

9_4_08_labonge.JPGOutspoken City Councilman Tom LaBonge is taking a stand against the massive planned development at the Universal City Metro stop.  Citing concerns about traffic and whether the development will use up the "Park and Ride" spaces that are set-aside for transit users, LaBonge's office sent out a letter to his constituents providing them with information on where to find the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the project and how to comment.

You can find the full text of LaBonge's letter after the jump.  Emphasis added by Streetsblog.



Taxpayer Dollars Used to Attack Taxpayers Opposed to More Highways

Rendering of Proposed Interchange Created by Opponents of Project

The Transportation Corridors Agency, an organization founded in the 1980's to help build more highways through privatization,  has thus far been stymied by local opposition from building a sixteen mile freeway extension for the I-241 through San Onorfre State Park by a coalition of environmentalists, surfers, concerned citizens and civil rights advocates.  From packing a 14 hour hearing on the project with over 3,500 opponents of the widening to lobbying government officials, the groundswell against the extension project in conservative Orange County has been impressive and effective.

However, toll road agencies traditionally don't roll after a major setback when there's a road to build, so the TCA is fighting back.  In addition to appealing the CCC's decision, they're also working to turn public opinion against their opponents by attacking them in mailers sent to Orange County households.  The best part?  The mailers are being paid for by tax payer dollars.

A TCA mailer sent to O.C. homes in July includes a photo depicting freeway gridlock. The caption reads, “Driving home just got harder,” and in bolder red text, “They don’t want you at ‘their beach’ even if it means double the time you spend driving home.”

Like other TCA opponents, Sierra Club attorney Mark Massara is outraged by the tactic. “The saddest part of their entire multi-million dollar ‘blame it on the surfers and environmentalists’ PR campaign is that it is entirely financed by public taxpayers’ dollars in the form of federal loans and gifts to TCA. What a sick scam: the public is financing a project the public is dead set against,” he complains.

The United States Secretary of Commerce will hear the TCA's appeal later this year.  A public hearing on the complaint was postponed after it was estimated that 10,000 people would show up for a hearing at a UC Irvine Auditorium that only holds 5,000 people. 

Image: OC Voice