What’s in our draft Long Beach – East Los Angeles Corridor Mobility Investment Plan (and how you can weigh in)

Last month, we released the draft Long Beach – East Los Angeles Corridor Mobility Investment Plan (for short, the CMIP), an comprehensive 255-page document that describes the ambitious community efforts to re-envision mobility within this 18-miles-long and 5 miles-wide area linked together by the 710 Freeway.  

Bounded by Long Beach and East Los Angeles, this project area includes 18 cities and 3 unincorporated communities. Twelve percent of LA County’s population (1.2 million) live here. It’s home to eleven percent of LA County’s jobs (one half million). The corridor also links the manufacturing district in southeast LA to the Port of Los Angeles (POLA) and the Port of Long Beach (POLB), two of the busiest ports in the world. In other words, moving supplies up and down this corridor is essential to keeping our pantries full, our businesses open, and our hospitals stocked with supplies. It’s an economic lifeline.  

But in many ways, the Long Beach – East Los Angeles Corridor is also one of our most invisible. A large percentage of residents live under the poverty line. More people are living with disabilities here than elsewhere in the county. Pollution is a huge problem, namely from the movement of freight to and from the ports, which has exposed residents to harmful particulate matter that can cause asthma, cancer, other health problems, earning the corridor the moniker “the Diesel Death zone.” There is public transit available (the Metro A & C Lines, as well as 82 bus routes provided by Metro, Long Beach Transit, Norwalk Transit, Montebello Bus Lines, City of Commerce Transit and Foothill Transit and the future Southeast Gateway Line will eventually serve the area), but it’s still tough to get around without a car. And, with the exception of downtown Long Beach, there are more zero-vehicle households here than elsewhere in the county.  

Planning transportation improvements to this vital corridor has been decades in the making. The I-710, built in the 1960s, now carries tens of thousands of heavy-duty trucks every day. Congestion is off the charts, and that has impacted air quality in surrounding communities. You might have heard about an earlier, failed plan to widen the 710 Freeway, which did not pass EPA review.  

The year 2021 was a turning point. We realized that if we were going to achieve our mission of providing high-quality mobility options that improve residents’ lives, we needed to hand the reins to people who live in the area, understand its history, and know what its diverse communities want and need. In other words, people who could re-envision the corridor from the ground up. That September, we convened a task force of over 40 people to do just that –– a mix of advocates, educators, small business owners, regulatory partners, environmental justice experts, and representatives from the ports.  

“I’m personally very excited about the [CMIP’s] active transportation projects, which will really help the communities in southeast Los Angeles connect with one another. The cities in our area, like Bell and Cudahy, are small, and bike lanes offer ways to connect them without having to own a vehicle.” – Alberto Campos, Task Force Member, SELA Collaborative. Photo by Aurelia Ventura

Shortly afterwards, we also launched a Community Leadership Committee (CLC) composed of residents with the local knowledge and lived experience to understand what was needed in their neighborhoods on an intimate, more granular level. It has been one of the most inclusive community corridor planning processes ever on this scale.  

“I’ve lived in Compton for over 50 years and I know that it has often been ignored in big planning projects. So it’s been very meaningful for me to collaborate with other civic minded people to address concerns in our community, such as the on and off ramps on Alondra Boulevard as well as the 710 and 91 Freeway interchanges.” — Phyllis Ollison, CLC Member, Compton. Photo by Aurelia Ventura

Members of the Task Force and the Community Leadership Committee were also invited to participate in working groups focused on significant aspects of the project, such as equity and zero-emissions trucking.   

With $743 million that we plan to leverage from Measure R (2008) and Measure M (2016), the sales tax measures approved by voters, our task force and community members put more than two hundred projects on the table. Big projects. Small projects. Shovel-ready projects. Projects still in early stages of planning. In the draft CMIP, these projects are grouped in five different categories. They are:  

Active Transportation ($90M seed money) 

Arterial Roadways and Complete Streets ($188M) 

Freeway Safety and Interchange Improvements ($220M) 

Goods Movement ($80M) 

Transit ($125M) 

And these numbers are just the starting point. Think of these investments as seed money to attract over $2.5 billion more in funding from regional, state, and federal sources. 

In the CMIP, you can read more about specific projects that our task force has proposed. NONE of these projects will cause displacement or involve widening the freeway. Rather, these are projects that community members told us that they need or wanted to see in their neighborhoods.  

We know that the CMIP is a very long read, and that you might have questions about it. Here are a few that have been frequently asked.   

Why are we spending so much money on freeway improvements? What do they mean?  

The I-710 was built in 1964, and was not designed for the levels of traffic it experiences today. On an average weekday, the I-710 carries tens of thousands of personal vehicles moving alongside heavy-duty trucks that serve the ports, railyards, warehouses, logistics centers, and transloading facilities. It’s one of the most overburdened freeways in the country.  

The freeway improvements described in the plan are primarily designed for safety. We are not expanding the freeway by any means whatsoever. For example, this corridor contains many bridges that separate communities on either side of the freeway –– our goal is to make those bridges more welcoming for all modes of travel (buses, bicycles, pedestrians, and more). Moreover, many of the freeway’s on and off ramps are very short and don’t provide drivers much maneuvering time when they merge onto the freeway. There are also interchanges that require signaling and metering, and ramps that need traffic controls to protect bicycles and pedestrians. In fact, some of the freeway improvements described in the plan include sound walls and freeway lids and caps (i.e., forms of freeway landscaping) –– projects that will minimize the freeway’s impact in adjacent neighborhoods and provide greenbelts over the LA River. 

We know that the “freeway improvements” portion of this $743M is a large share of the pie. This is not because we are prioritizing automobile traffic over other forms of transportation. Rather, we want to stress that all of these multimodal options are interconnected –– neglecting freeway safety, for example, causes vehicles to “spill over” onto local roads, bringing traffic, pollution, and safety problems into our communities directly. In other words, improving the freeways improves our ability to improve transit, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in the corridor. They aren’t separate siloes. Again, we are not expanding the freeway in any shape or form.  

What do you mean by adding “auxiliary lanes.” Is that just a code word for “more freeway”?  

An auxiliary lane is a very short distance outer lane on the right side of a freeway that serves an important safety function to protect drivers entering and exiting the freeway—particularly in a corridor with so many trucks that take up more room and travel more slowly than passenger vehicles. It’s essentially a transition zone that allows vehicles to merge and change speeds to get on and off the freeway safely. There are many different auxiliary lane concepts out there, some of which do require more space and can extend for miles. The auxiliary lanes Metro will study are short, safety-focused, and help extend existing ramps that will help make using the freeway a better experience for both residents and other drivers. We have eliminated ALL concepts that would require us to widen the freeway. The types of auxiliary lanes we are studying can be implemented without expanding the freeway. We are not expanding the freeway in any shape or form.  

How much funding is going to equity initiatives?  

We’re not exaggerating when we say that equity is built into this plan’s DNA. We created an Equity Working Group to bring together community voices and regional expertise to inform the CMIP’s process and outcomes. Thanks to numerous conversations among the Equity Working Group, Task Force, Community Leadership Council, and the numerous community-based organizations (CBOs) that have shared their perspectives and concerns, the entire CMIP can be seen as an equity initiative. In addition to transportation investments – many of which address equity head on, such as bus priority lanes, bus shelters, crosswalks, quad gates, landscaping, and lighting –– the CMIP also includes over $40M in catalyst funding for 15 different community programs spanning workforce development to public health. We can’t fund the non-transportation programs directly with Measure R and M funds, because voters have defined those as transportation-focused funds. That’s why we are pursuing alternative funding sources and other regional partners to implement these vital improvements.   

“I came here to learn more about shade equity. As a frequent bus rider, I know what it’s like to face the urban heat, and I want to know how much money is being contributed to this issue so many residents of East LA face every day.” – Stephanie Gomez, East LA

Freight is the biggest contributor to the corridor’s poor air quality and the harmful health impacts that result from it. What are you doing to improve air quality?  

Air quality is a huge issue for residents of the corridor –– and a priority in the CMIP. In 2021, the Metro Board of Directors voted to commit $50 million as seed funding for an I-710 South Zero- Emission Truck (ZET) Program that would become part of the Task Force’s work. That funding will be used to attract up to $200 million in additional funding. Inside the draft CMIP, you’ll also find projects such as zero-emissions truck charging stations, partnerships designed to reduce particulate matter, and efforts to electrify freight locomotives and accelerate the commercialization and adoption of zero-emissions heavy-duty trucks. We’re also working to shift cargo from truck to train by leaning more heavily on the Alameda Corridor, a grade-separated freight train expressway, as we also support its tranisition to a zero-emissions operation. Finally, we’re also exploring partnerships with organizations already funding incentives to use zero-emissions truck technology and infrastructure, such as the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the California Air Resources Board, and the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD). No new traffic lanes would be added to the existing footprint of I-710.  

How are we paying for all of this?  

We already have $743M through Measure R (2008) and Measure M (2016), the two sales tax increases passed by LA County voters. However, we already know that this is not enough to fund all of these projects. That’s why we are planning to use the $743M as seed money to attract $2.5 billion in additional regional, state, and federal funds. In total, over $17 billion in funding will be needed for the projects in the LB-ELA Corridor, only some of which are Metro projects. 

How do the projects get prioritized?  

Short answer: a number of factors. We look at over 70 independent criteria based on the goals, guiding principles, and vision developed by the Task Force and Community Leadership Council and articulated in the CMIP. A third of these criteria were directly related to equity metrics. In addition to these, we consider whether a project is ready to be studied or implemented (is it in pre-planning, environmental review, or construction). One thing to note –– more than 60% of the funds in this plan will be dedicated to the initial investment phase; in other words, we are using the bulk of the money to start projects in the next few years so Metro can help bring investment into the corridor as soon as possible.  

What happens next?  

The draft Investment Plan is currently in a public comment period. At the request of Supervisor Janice Hahn, public comment has been extended to April 1. You can also find a list of upcoming community meetings here. Got a question or comment? Visit the project dashboard or email us at  710Corridor@metro.net. We will use the comments to finalize the draft CMIP. On April 4 and April 8, the Community Leadership Council and the Task Force will vote, respectively, on the final Investment Plan. After that, the CMIP recommendations will be submitted to the Metro Board of Directors.

 We hope to see you at one of the upcoming meetings!

 

Categories: Transportation News

2 replies

  1. Your characterization of downtown Long Beach is not true: “And, with the exception of downtown Long Beach, there are more zero-vehicle households here than elsewhere in the county.” The map in the Metro Corridor Mobility Investment Plan (figure 3-4) shows that in and around downtown LB there are relatively high levels of no-car households. Compared to the county and to the rest of the Metro Corridor Mobility Investment Plan’s study area, neighborhoods in downtown LB have more (higher percentages of) no-car households.

  2. Stop widening the 710 freeway. Adding auxiliary lanes is widening the freeway. Don’t tear down homes, apartments or businesses to widen the 710 Freeway. Do a full environmental impact report for the changes Metro is prosposing and you will find that they will not be legal under Clean Air Law – just like Metro’s last 710 Freeway widening plan.