Derision Grows for Caltrans 710 Study That Argues for Massive Road Widening for Cleaner Air

For the record, this is what a 14 lane highway looks like. Look how clean the air looks! Photo:## Sajam/Picasa##

(There are two more meetings for the I-170 Expansion Project, tonight in Long Beach and tomorrow in Commerce. The Long Beach Post has the meeting details. If you can’t make a meeting, you can email comments to by August 29th.)

When Streetsblog first looked at the alternatives proposed in 2009 for reducing congestion along the I-710 Corridor in Long Beach, Compton, Commerce, South Los Angeles, Watts, and East Los Angeles, staff was already pushing for adding four lanes to the existing ten mixed use travel lanes. This would add four highway lanes along the already choking 18 mile corridor to an area already choking on exhaust fumes.

72 miles of freeway lanes…in the name of cleaner air. Only in California.

To nobody’s surprise, the new Draft Environmental Impact Report for the corridor study recommends the 72 miles of paving in the form of “truck only” lanes. The report is a marvel of backwards thinking, supporting sprawl development in Riverside, wider travel lanes (thus faster speeds) to reduce crashes and induced demand to clean the air. Streetsblog’s review of the documents was published in July.

Other publications and professionals are echoing Streetblog’s original take as the hearings for the project move forward. Derision of the documents is popping up all over the media, both by commenters and by the writers themselves. Some of the best commentary on the I-710 Draft Environmental Impact Report, which may be known forever as the “widening for cleaner air” report, can be found after the jump.

Letter from the United States Environmental Protection agency, via California Watch and Huffington Post:

“This project will result in a high level of community-wide impacts, in an area that is already heavily burdened from poor air quality related to the goods movement sector,” the letter said. “Because of the anticipated impacts from this project in this setting, it is critical that the EIS (environmental impact statement) include a robust analysis of the air quality, environmental justice, and children’s health impacts that will result.”

Adrian Martinez, attorney with NRDC, at LA Weekly:

Adrian Martinez, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, explains that “with these environmental reports, it’s all about the assumptions that are made.”

He says Caltrans assumed “an immense amount of growth — that trade through the port is almost going to triple.” In this way, transportation officials may have “inflated the need” for a 14-lane freeway.

Greg Mellen, Staff Writer for the Long Beach Press-Telegram notes community opposition:

So, when it came time to vote, most said they needed more time to consider the proposals. Coming in second place in the vote, which was nonbinding as the group lacked a quorum, was the “no build” option, which would make improvements along the edges of the roadway but wouldn’t expand the number of lanes, as the other plans propose.

Isella Ramirez, with East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, at LA Weekly:

“It doesn’t make sense to me, looking at it as a community member, that a two-lane increase, even with a zero-emission corridor, would bring me significant air pollution reduction in comparison to a no-build.”

The Long Beach Report notes that community advocates might not get a chance to see final design for the highway that destroys their community:

Veteran community advocate Laurie Angel (8th district) (who attended a public meeting in Paramount organized by Caltrans/Metro officials) noted that the EIR/EIS doesn’t show or analyze the impacts of final designs, which the public won’t be able to see until after the period for public comment has ended. Ms. Angel asked if the public would have an opportunity to comment when designs are finalized…and an official portrayed her request as seeking a “second bite” at the apple [although the public should arguably have the right to see the project’s final designs when it comments in the first place], then indicated Caltrans would decide if public comment on this would be allowed.

Andrea Hricko, a professor of clinical preventive medicine at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, via California Watch and Huffington Post

“The draft EIR (environmental impact report) for the I-710 corridor has thousands of pages, and Caltrans does not always make its underlying assumptions easy to understand…The health risk analyses are confusing, with some of the alternatives for expansion showing increased PM (particulate matter pollution) levels, yet decreased health risks.”

“The studies have shown that children growing up in communities with high particle pollution are more likely to have reduced lung function,” Hricko wrote in an email. “Children in communities with high ozone levels are more likely to miss more school through absences. … There are now lots of papers published on this topic, with results showing that children who live or go to school near busy roads and freeways are more likely to have asthma and reduced lung function.”

City of Commerce Councilwoman Denise Robles, a defender of the project, via California Watch and Huffington Post

“If I were the ultimate authority to come up with a solution, I would say, ‘Get more and better public transportation so we don’t need to continue to widen our roads for private cars. Then we can deal with the truck traffic as a separate issue. If we had better public transportation it would help out quite a bit.”

Simone Wilson, writer at LA Weekly,

The special elevated corridor in the new proposal does lift some problem vehicles up into the air, placing them closer to the L.A. River than to residents. But what about plans to revitalize the river? What about nearby parks? And what about all the trucks that aren’tequipped with zero-emission technology, and choose to instead utilize the wider 10-lane freeway?

Public comment on the EIR is over at the end of August. But it’s difficult to respond to science this baffling, besides with a call for complete do-over.

  • Riverside would very much like less sprawl development, kthx.

  • Davistrain

    It would be better to put the money into electrifying the railways leading out of the harbor area.  The only downside would be the reduction in truck-driving jobs.
    Regarding public transportation: This may resolve itself as fuel prices keep climbing and a cheap, slow, uncomfortable bus ride becomes a necessity rather than a last resort.  Right
     now most car owners are willing to bite the bullet at the gas station rather than take a bus.

  • Ubrayj02

    I published an opinion piece about this on my blog, but I will repeat here what I said there:

    1) the projections for growth in container traffic are grossly overstated
    2) it is only with a 174% growth from 2022 to 2035 that a widened freeway will “improve” air quality. Metro analysis states clearly air will get worse in all “growth” scenarios. It will be less worse if we build the freeway – a claim that is dubious.
    3)metro is unable to pay for this project and will borrow to subsidize the trucking industry and growth in inland empire logistics on the backs of its constituents with no economic benefit bug enough to pay for construction and maintenance. That means this project is a wealth crushing monster that steals from the poor through sales tax and funds the logistics business
    4) cargo shipping is going to get a lot more competitive with the widening of the panama canal in 2015

  • Alan Fishel

    Alan Fishel
    How about a NO BUILD option! This is one project that has no merit and needs to be stopped now before any more money is wasted on this unwanted and unneeded project. Caltrans just spent millions to improve the 710. There is no need for this massive welfare program to the trucking industry and some unknown contractor. With the completion of the new Gateway container transfer and the Alameda East Corridor most container traffic that is now and in the future that is on the 710 will be on container trains making for little need to expand the 710. If the goal is to reduce pollution, electrifying the Alameda and Alameda East Corridor to the reloading yards out of the LA basin will reduce pollution by thousands of tons since moving the container by train involves hundreds of trains a day each using hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel a trip.

  • There is indeed a no-build option.  Many resident groups are pushing that one.

  • Hammond Mark

    I can see how widening the highway WILL bring cleaner air to the city.

    This is because less stationary traffic and cooler engine will equal less pollution rising to a concentrated section of the city than a full highway moving at warm engine speed (even with additional lanes) efficiently…

  • Adamacarry114

    IF i was given the authority to come up with the solution , i would say “GET THE SERVICES FROM THE SSMOVERS COMPANY and that is the better option to avoid the widen of road for public cars if we have better public transport such like ssmovers then we can overcome this problem”

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Metro lukewarmly approved the $6B 710 Freeway widening, though expediting only early action projects for now. The top image is the existing ("no-build") configuration. "Preferred alternative" 5C would add two new general purpose lanes to most of the 710 Freeway between Long Beach and the City of Commerce. Image via Metro staff report

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