UPDATE: On Thursday, May 26, the Metro Board of Directors voted to approve the “no-build” option. Please read below for more on how we’re developing a new, better project for the 710.
Improving traffic congestion and pollution associated with the 710 freeway is a major high-interest project for Metro. Trying to alleviate congestion on this major thoroughfare between the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach — the nation’s busiest port complex — and the 60 freeway is no small feat.
On Thursday, The Metro Board of Directors will consider adopting the no-build alternative to an earlier version of the project. This alternative was put forward because of community and environmental concerns that the project was too centered on freeway widening and would not meet desired outcomes for air quality, equity, mobility and sustainability.
Deciding not to build something is, of course, an unusual milestone. But we believe it is not only a sound decision, but an equitable one that will help the public, stakeholders and local communities re-envision the project by legally taking expansion project off the table.
The goals for Metro and Caltrans are now threefold:
- We are already working with community leaders to develop a more robust and inclusive community engagement strategy as a new set of projects is developed, and;
- We’re aiming to plan a new project that is more sustainable, equitable and multimodal. We fully intend to pursue projects that will move more people and goods through the 710 corridor while improving the quality of life for all who live and work near the freeway.
Although a tall hurdle, we’re seeking to plan a project that will reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT), greenhouse gases and diesel particulate matter. That means reducing the need to drive everywhere in the corridor and getting zero emission vehicles — including trucks — on the road.
In order to develop a better project — and one with broad support from the public — Metro and Caltrans last September convened the I-710 Task Force. Members include community-based and environmental groups, elected officials, officials with freight companies and other local regulators.
In addition, Metro formed the I-710 South Corridor Community Leadership Committee (CLC) to ensure residents and workers in impacted communities along the freeway are able to advise the 710 Task Force. This is part and parcel of our effort to give everyone a voice in this project.
The 710 Task Force is currently finalizing its vision and goals for the project with a consensus vote planned for its June meeting. The next step will focus on developing a list of projects and funding strategies.
There is $1.09 billion in funding for South 710 projects from our two most recent sales taxes (Measures R and M) — and once we have a list of agree-upon projects, Metro and Caltrans can seek additional state and federal funds. The Metro Board, in fact, is also considering a motion this month that sets a goal of using the $1.09 billion in local funds to secure $5 billion in state and federal funds.
Task Force member organizations are already developing some projects that should deliver real benefits to the 710 Corridor. These include:
- Railroad expansion at the Ports of Los Angeles (POLA) and Long Beach (POLB) that will help put more containers on trains instead of trucks.
- Development of a joint Goods Movement Training Campus at the ports to train workers in using zero-emission port equipment. The goal is to use electricity to power more port operations instead of greenhouse gases such as diesel fuel.
- Funding incentives from the ports to help companies purchase zero emission trucks.
- A micro-mobility pilot project focused on providing more mobility options for members of the Southeast LA Communities.
- More walking and bike projects in communities near the freeway to help people better access mass transit — thus reducing the need for residents to drive everywhere.
None of this work is easy. The 710 has been a stalwart of the Los Angeles freeway network for so many commuters and trucks for decades. Freight from the ports hits that road on its journey to consumers throughout Southern California and across the nation. But the flip side of this busy corridor is that neighborhoods along the freeway have undoubtedly felt the environmental impact this brings.
Balancing these realities is difficult. But we are optimistic the current approach is one that will yield the greatest, most equitable outcome for everyone. More information about the 710 project, including links to reports and presentations, can be found on the project website.
Categories: Policy & Funding, Projects
It’s fascinating (frustrating) that Metro would write this article without acknowledging the community coalition that killed this project. The Coalition for Environmental Justice and Health caught Metro and Caltrans trying to get around clean air laws. It was only after 20+ years of community resistance that Metro and Caltrans, having exhausted all other possibilities, reluctantly came around to not widening the 710.
Please do this (reduce VMT instead of widen) for the 71 Freeway, the 405 south of LAX, the 605, the 10 east of El Monte, and the 91.
I am glad non-freeway solutions are continuing.