Alternative 5C was approved by the Metro Board of Directors on Thursday as the ‘locally preferred alternative’ for the I-710 Corridor Project along with motions (see below) that prioritize local interchange and arterial road upgrades, new pedestrian and bike crossings and more funds for near-zero and zero emission trucks.
The action by the Board pushes back a final decision on widening the freeway between Long Beach and the SR-60 until a program of “Early Action” local interchange improvements is completed. If additional funds can be found to implement the mainline widening the Metro Board would have to vote again at a later date before starting that work.
As potential alternatives to widening, the Board action today asked for more study of other options, including dedicating the new lanes to zero emission trucks.
“We should be past that time [of widening]…unless we are putting vehicles that don’t emit in those lanes, period,” said L.A. Mayor and Metro Board Chair Eric Garcetti after more than 90 minutes of public testimony. Garcetti cited the recent widening of the 405 project through the Sepulveda Pass — saying the ramp projects were the part of that project best received by the community.
The heart of the issue on the 710 involves improving a freeway that is carrying far more traffic than it was built to handle, thanks in large part to heavy truck and freight traffic from the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, the two busiest ports in the United States. The corridor has also seen a growth in population and jobs.
Getting to this point has been a long time coming: the environmental studies for this project began in 2008. The studies eventually whittled their way to two alternatives: Alternative 5C (cost: $6 billion) and the more expensive Alternative 7 (cost: $10+ billion), which would have added a separate clean truck corridor adjacent to the 710. There is about $1.2 billion in funding that will be available from Measures R and M and other sources for projects along the corridor.
Alternative 5C includes improvements at the 710/405 interchange (including truck by-pass lanes), the 710/91 and the 710/5 freeway interchanges, as well as expanding the freeway by one lane in each direction. Every local interchange would be upgraded.
Air quality has obviously been a significant issue with this project. Long Beach City Mayor Robert Garcia said that air quality in the corridor has shown improvement in recent years and that he wants to do even better.
He also pointed to efforts at the ports to become zero emission as something that will help put more cleaner trucks on the 710. “The ports are mandating this,” he said. “The ports will shut out trucks that aren’t zero emissions in the near future.”