Cal Trans to Relinquish 710 Stub to Pasadena, Coloradoblvd.net, May 7, 2022
LA Metro has Scrapped its 710 Freeway Widening Plan: LAist, May 27, 2022
710 Freeway Expansion Won’t Happen as LA Metro opts for Alternatives, Pasadena Star News, May 26, 2022:
The widening of a 19-mile stretch of the 710 Freeway from East Los Angeles to Long Beach was rejected by Los Angeles County’s transit agency on Thursday, putting an end to a contentious project in the works since 2005.
LA Metro spent $60 million studying and planning the $6 billion project for 17 years but on Thursday the transit agency reversed course, selecting the “no build” alternative and closing out the environmental impact report.
Eliminating widening was a major shift from a plan approved by its board in March 2018 to add general freeway lanes and truck-only lanes that would’ve required the destruction of hundreds of freeway-adjacent homes and businesses.
“We are no longer going to widen the freeway,” announced Janice Hahn, the LA Metro board member and Los Angeles County supervisor who initiated the motion approved today by a vote of 10-0. “We are no longer going to wipe out homes and neighborhoods for a freeway project.”
The action was seen as a victory for southeast county cities straddling the congested 710 corridor, including Commerce, Bell, Cudahy, Downey, Lynwood, Paramount, Carson and Long Beach, which opposed the expansion.
These cities, along with environmental justice groups, pointed to populations dominated by people of color receiving the burden of diesel pollution from trucks on the freeway and nearby roadways.
Microscopic tailpipe particles cause respiratory diseases, including asthma and lung cancer, public health effects well documented by numerous health studies. By increasing lanes, the air pollution burden would grow, opponents said. Early on, plans called for the widened freeway to have 10 general purpose lanes and four freight-movement lanes. Widening plans would have taken at least 100 homes, and displaced nearly 440 people and 160 businesses, according to environmental reports.
“It is important that we remove freeway widening from this project,” said Commerce Mayor Oralia Rebollo, at the board meeting before the vote. She said widening would have taken 50 homes in Commerce. “We need clean, zero-emission improvements, such as zero-emission truck programs.”
Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said a new approach is needed. “This is a great way of moving forward. We know that widening freeways doesn’t address the challenges we face.”
The “no build” choice is a way to end plans for widening, but it doesn’t end the possibility of future projects along the south 710 corridor. In fact, the Gateway Cities Council of Governments is putting together a list of projects that will come before the LA Metro Board next month.
“We can’t just talk about ‘no build.’ We have to talk about doing something,” Hahn said.
For example, the board voted to redirect the $750 million — set aside by Metro from sales tax monies — to less invasive improvements, such as a new Florence Avenue interchange in Bell with a pedestrian and bikeway portion, Hahn said.
Other improvements being considered include: money for zero-emission trucks leaving the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach; higher freeway sound walls; air filtration systems in nearby schools; a regional light-rail project connecting the 710 cities; moving freight onto rail cars and off the freeways; and safer streets with more bikeways.
Part of the original project included improvements to the aging freeway’s on-ramps and off-ramps. “This motion absolutely does not prohibit projects like on- and off-ramp safety improvements. Some of these interchanges do need to be improved,” Hahn wrote in an emailed response to questions.
Additional dollars for alternative projects — which could cost upwards of $2 million — would have to be awarded from state and federal sources, Hahn said.
The beginning of the end for the 710 Freeway widening project began in 2021 when both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Caltrans opposed the project. The EPA said adding freeway lanes would increase air pollution, not meet federal air quality requirements and was not a cure for gridlock. Caltrans said the project did not fit with its overall goals and standards.
Opposition from federal and state agencies meant the project would have no chance of receiving state or federal dollars to make up the large funding gap. Aligning alternative projects with these agencies’ objectives would increase the possibility of receiving funding, Metro said.
Members of Communities for a Better Environment, East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, Earthjustice and the Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma have been fighting the project for years, suggesting alternatives that address congestion, air pollution and safety.
Lawyers for the Natural Resources Defense Council and the umbrella group, Coalition for Environmental Health and Justice, told the board they were concerned that future projects would be approved without consulting with a committee made up of residents and elected officials from 710 corridor cities.
“Even though you are rightly backing away from freeway expansion, these communities are still impacted by freeway congestion. You need to rebuild trust,” said Chris Chavez, deputy policy director for the Coalition For Clean Air.
Hahn was asked if nearly two decades of planning and reports and $60 million spent on a project that never got built was a waste of time and money.
“It is frustrating to be in this position, but it is an opportunity to learn from our past,” she responded.