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Plan to widen south end of 710 freeway riles communities

FILE: The I-710/60 Freeway Interchange, Los Angeles CA Joe Wolf via Flickr

A Caltrans proposal to expand part of the 710 freeway is stirring up controversy — again. This time, it’s not around Pasadena but at the southern end. 

The plan would widen a 19-mile section of the 710 from Long Beach to the 60 freeway south of downtown Los Angeles, displacing homes and businesses.

The corridor is heavily used by freight trucks traveling from the country’s busiest ports complex, adding to congestion and high levels of pollution that contribute to health problems like asthma and heart disease in nearby neighborhoods.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has thus far earmarked $1 billion from sales tax Measures M and R for a project to improve capacity on the corridor.

A Metro staff report recommended the agency move forward with environmental reviews for the proposal to add an additional lane on either side of the freeway, reconfigure onramps and separate truck lanes for the busiest three miles around the 405 interchange. The project cost is estimated at $6 billion.

Officials had also been considering the option of building four elevated lanes above the existing freeway to fully separate truck traffic from cars. The lanes would be dedicated to zero emission trucks. But the estimated cost of $10 billion far exceeds the current $1 billion allocated to the project.

Metro officials say moving forward with environmental reviews and preliminary designs for the project will allow the agency to seek other sources of revenue to fill the $5 billion funding gap, like private investment or federal dollars.

But many local residents like Delia Ortega of South Gate are fighting the project. She was one of about 30 people who criticized the project at a Metro committee meeting Wednesday.

"We don’t need another dirty diesel truck project in our communities. We need jobs. We need to know our homes are not at threat for displacement and we deserve a commitment to zero emissions," she said.

The project would displace more than 400 residents, about 160 businesses, and a homeless services facility because it would require Caltrans to demolish parts of existing neighborhoods to expand the freeway.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who represents the area the freeway runs through, proposed that Metro require the extra lanes be limited to zero-emission electric trucks only and that the agency double the size of a fund for clean trucks at the port from $100 million to $200 million.

"I think we can do better," she said. "If we can't insist that those cars and trucks who drive in those new lanes be zero emissions, then I don't think we've taken this opportunity to be as bold and show as much leadership as we could."

The full Metro board will consider the plan at its meeting on March 1.