The “Other” I-710 Project: Widening to Improve Air Quality in Long Beach

7_8_09_14_lanes.JPGFor the record, this is what a 14 lane highway looks like. Photo:pankaj/Picasa

While environmentalists and smart growth advocates focus on the I-710 Tunnel Project, the one that would "complete" by closing the 4.5 mile gap between the current end of the freeway and the 210 Freeway; another massive expansion project for the I-170 is more quietly moving though environmental review.

A task force of agencies including California Air Resources Board, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, Caltrans, Gateway Cities Council of Governments, the Army Corp of Engineers, the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority and the City of Long Beach is sponsoring a project that seeks to expand the 710 from the Port to the I-60 Freeway. The City has been a part of an inter-agency task force with Caltrans that is seeking ways to alleviate congestion and improve air quality. Thanks to a report posted on Metro’s website outlining the alternatives, we can see that unless they decide to go with the "no build" option, the 710 is going to be widened from eight lanes to at least 10, but probably 14 lanes. The four alternatives that will be evaluated in the environmental studies are:

  • Alternative 1 – No Build
  • Alternative 5a – Widen to 10 General Purpose Lanes
  • Alternative 6a – Widen to 10 General Purpose Lanes Plus 4 Freight Movement Lanes (Conventional Trucks)
  • Alternative 6b – Widen to 10 General Purpose Lanes Plus 4 Freight Movement Lanes (Zero Emission Trucks)

The task force states that their preference is Alternative 6a, which in the backwards world of California transportation planning is naturally the one that would increase traffic and air pollution the most and be the worst for the environment. The argument supporting such a massive widening is that congested highways cause more pollution than ones with traffic moving freely. While it’s hard to argue against that point, this theory ignores the reality that wider highways attract more traffic and that new highway capacity on congested roads are filled to capacity within years of completion.

By increasing traffic lanes from 8 to 14, those supporting this plan are all-but assuring that those living near the 710 and connecting highways are going to be choking on fumes. Imagine the highway pictured above choked with traffic with four of those lanes packed with trucks. Then compare that image to the current I-710 pictured here.

It’s hard to see how building such a highway meets the objectives of the City of Long Beach, who outlined their goals for improving the freeway in this 2004 document that lists as one of it’s major goals finding an alternative to highway expansion.

Before the environmental studies can begin, the alternatives need to be approved by the I-710 Executive Committee which is tentatively scheduled to meet on July 23. More details on this meeting will be posted here as they become available.

  • Erik

    Begs the question – Where is the alternative: Congestion pricing from harbor to I-60.

    I would probably support a lane expansion if congestion pricing were included. I wouldn’t otherwise. The 710 is a great road to try this out on IMHO.

  • Hello, welcome to the end of your civilization! Would you like more lanes with that?

  • DJB

    I wish the emphasis were on congestion pricing, expanding the Alameda Corridor, and shifting some of the port traffic to less congested ports. Incentives for night shipments seem promising as well.

    If we had tariffs based on GHG emissions in industrial production and shipment, it would make more sense to produce locally instead of getting everything from east Asia.

  • Ugh. There’s so much wrong with this project, I don’t know where to begin. Why can’t we divert the money to something that would benefit LB even more: the Harbor Subdivision transit project? I dream of a rail line that goes from LAX to Downtown LB, then on to Long Beach State.

  • limit

    While the 710 was not meant for truck travel exclusively; in reality is primarily a truck artery. With regional truck travel alternatives such as rail freight are unfeasible in regard to land use requirements, an expansion of the mainline is near optimal.

  • MDS

    so who is the 710 Executive Committee?

  • And how do we tell them that this idea is a really, really, bad one?

  • Wad

    Drew wrote:

    the Harbor Subdivision transit project? I dream of a rail line that goes from LAX to Downtown LB, then on to Long Beach State.

    To clarify, the Harbor Subdivision is something completely different. Officially, the Harbor Sub is the train tracks paralleling Slauson Avenue from Huntington Park to Inglewood. It extends south into the South Bay. The Green Line has part of it almost covered.

    The big obstacle in getting the tracks across the L.A. river again is that there is almost no productive ridership generation due to all those industrial buildings in that part of the South Bay and Harbor Area. Extending any of that rail line outside Torrance is a waste of money.

    Your idea of extending rail across Long Beach does have merit, though. Most of Long Beach’s bus traffic comes from the east-west routes between downtown and east Long Beach. If you put the route somewhere between Fourth and Anaheim Streets, it would get decent ridership. The catch is, though, that the streets are very narrow and rail would require a subway, but the ridership is not dense enough to support that capital expense.

  • Joe

    @limit:”in reality is primarily a truck artery”? Not sure what the definition of “primarily”… I don’t remember the exact number… but trucks are something like 15 or 20%(?) There’s plenty of trucks, but they’re not the primary users… it’s primarily cars cars and more cars.

    The proposed project is also a disaster for the LA River, upon which it will encroach. A little on that here: http://lacreekfreak.wordpress.com/2008/12/11/710-freeway-expansions-threat-to-the-lower-la-river/

    As I mention in that post, there’s a coalition formed opposing this – groups opposing the project include NRDC and CBE. To get involved, get in touch with them.

  • Wad,

    Hey, I said it was a dream :P

    I’ve read a bit of the literature on the Harbor Subdivision, and it seems like Metro is angling more for the commuter rail option, or the no build option. I’m sure both of these options (especially the latter) are easier and faster to build, but at the same time I think LRT would be much more useful, especially if they can build it across Long Beach. Yeah, there are some gray areas in the industrial sections of Wilmington, but the route could potentially still be somewhat useful by stopping in west Long Beach at Santa Fe Ave, PCH and Alameda, and in Wilmington at Avalon.

    But for me, it’s the connection to the South Bay that would make this worthwhile; as a current LB resident, that connection would make trips to the south bay by transit a helluva lot easier. I should say that what I really dream of is for the LB-LAX part of the harbor subdivision to be built LRT, then connect with a northward Sepulveda line that ties into whatever it is they’re planning to have cross the Sepulveda pass. IMO, that would be a significant asset to everyone along that route. But the practicalities of making that happen, I imagine, are too intense to list in this post.

    But I also think that a crosstown-LB segment of any future line would be worthwhile. You’re right that it will be difficult to build, I think that 7th street is the most likely candidate for an alignment if it’s ever going to happen. But to get an LB Blvd-style street running segment in, you’d probably have to remove all parking on 7th, and we all know that most people would prefer eternal damnation to losing a parking spot. Still, the toughest section to build would probably be east of Recreation Park, where 7th goes through an upscale neighborhood, the nightmare intersection at PCH/Bellflower, and the fed-owned VA hospital. Well, at least I can dream.

  • NRDC = National Resource Defense Council
    http://nrdc.org

    CBE = Communities for a Better Environment
    http://www.cbecal.org/

    But what are they organizing? Whom should we contact to help out?

  • I’ll get more details on this either tomorrow or Monday…

  • limit

    @Joe SCAG, Caltrans, and the FHWA consider the lower segment of the 710 a truck corridor. The proportion of trucks is approximately 14% which compared to other southern Californian route at about 2%, is significant.

  • This is about goods movement. The Ports are a huge economic engine. So you have business interestes and labor big time supporters. Very powerful forces to take on.

    Here is the Gateway Cities COG page on it (looks like it is a bit out of date)

    http://www.gatewaycog.org/i710.html

    If you still are gung ho to fight the expansion, the folks to talk to are the Harbor Vision Task Force of the local Sierra Club, the contact is Tom Politeo (hvtf@politeo.net)

    http://angeles.sierraclub.org/hvtf/site_map/index.html

    Also Jesse Marquez of the Coalition For A Safe Environment (jnmarquez@prodigy.net)

    http://www.coalitionfase.org/

  • Goods movement when container volumes are dropping never to rise again? That sounds pretty dumb.

  • “when container volumes are dropping never to rise again”

    These things are cyclical. I certainly don’t assume that this recession will last forever. And the powerful advocates I mentioned will use the drop in volume as justification for investment to increase capacity as a competitive issue so other ports don’t steal our traffic.

    I have slowly been working through Prof Steven Erie’s book “Globalizing L.A.: Trade Infrastructure and Regional Development” on the port/airport complex and its history. Heavy going but an interesting peek at the insider game of L.A. infrastructure politics…

  • Bob

    @ Drew

    You guys already have LRT in Long Beach! What about branching off the Blue Line to the LB Airport and Long Beach State?

    Leave the Harbor Subdivision as commuter rail. Why?
    *There still is freight service on the line; for example, the Alcoa plant near Torrance
    *Commuter rail does not need two-tracks as much as light-rail does, which means narrow rights-of-way do not have to be double-tracked
    *Having LRT across the Harbor Subdivision would make for a really long ride, with slow speeds and lots of stops.

    How about this compromise?
    LRT extension of the Green Line to LAX and that South Bay Mall
    LRT extension of the Blue Line, branching off to LB Airport and LBSU
    Leave the Harbor Subdivision for “real” trains (Metrolink and some local freights)