Transportation headlines, Wednesday, Jan. 16

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

Century Plaza’s two-tower makeover is a go (Curbed LA)

The historic hotel will be renovated and a pair of 46-story residential towers will be built alongside it. A two-acre park is also being added to the mix. All will be a stone’s throw from the planned Westside/Purple Line Extension’s Century City station at Constellation and Avenue of the Stars.

Unlicensed drivers pose threat on California roads (Department of Motor Vehicles) 

Not exactly a shocking conclusion but it’s interesting to see the stats on this — unlicensed motorists are almost three times as likely to cause a fatal crash. The number of such crashes hasn’t dropped over time and the DMV news release includes this chilling sentence: “The actual number of unlicensed drivers in California is unknown because these drivers do not come to the attention of the DMV until they are involved in a crash or convicted of a traffic violation.”

Union Station’s Harvey House still looking for an operator (Eater LA)

The old restaurant at Union Station — closed since the late 1960s — is still looking for someone willing to put the bucks into reopening it. Everyone seems to agree it’s a great-looking space. There must be doubts whether it can profitable, although “Traxx” has certainly survived.

Bids due Friday on first leg of state high-speed rail project (San Jose Mercury News) 

Five firms will submit their bids to build the first leg of the bullet train in the San Joaquin Valley. Officials will study the quality of the bids for a couple of months without looking at each firm’s proposed price — a way, officials say, to prevent bias while analyzing the information. Excerpt:

The rail authority has budgeted $1.2 billion to $1.8 billion for the project’s initial leg between Madera and Fresno. But the actual prices submitted by firms will prove whether that estimate is accurate — and could set a precedent for whether the $69 billion estimate is off the mark, as skeptics claim.

The state does not have room to spare, possessing less than a fifth of the money needed to build the full San Francisco-to-Los Angeles rail line.

A photo of Beijing's smog taken on Monday after it had improved a bit from Saturday's high levels. Photo by Infinite Jeff, via Flickr creative commons.

A photo of Beijing’s smog taken on Monday after it had improved a bit from Saturday’s high levels. Photo by Infinite Jeff, via Flickr creative commons.

On a scale of 0 to 500, Beijing’s air quality tops ‘crazy bad’ at 755 (New York Times) 

The reading on Saturday was well beyond the index used by an air quality monitor at the U.S. Embassy. The Times said it was unclear what caused the air to become “postapocalyptic” — the word used by one Beijing word to described it — beyond the usual reasons: factories ringing the city and a surging number of cars on local roads. The Chinese government doesn’t report on readings beyond 500 and recently reported that air quality has improved for the 14th straight year.