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Long Beach: 710 Expansion Update; All Community Alternative 7 Options Considered

The Long Beach City Council I-710 Oversight Committee's latest meeting was a lengthy one that attempted to quickly go over the more recent updates about the 710 expansion project that is planned to run from Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach all the way to the 60 freeway in East Los Angeles.

The general update was focused on the redistribution of the EIR that was approved earlier this year following a resounding rejection of the RDEIR that was attached to the project, particularly given it lacked a zero emissions aspect. That new EIR -- which mainly avoided the deeply flawed 5A and 6A options that had 10 general purpose lanes extend the entire length of the expansion -- has since had its 90 days of public comment review with some 3,000 comments attached.

This update was to expand upon the geometric engineering plan -- to be finished within the next few months -- and the environmental updates that involves mainly leaving behind a smaller footprint, such as avoiding the Los Angeles River. Or, as Jerry Woods of the Gateway Cities Council Government put it, "go over a lotta more details than before."

Alternative 6C (a full-blown widening of the freeway to 10 general purpose lanes along a zero emission corridor), Alternative 6D (eight general purpose lanes along a zero emission corridor), and Community Alternative 7 (a public-private partnership for an employer-operated freight system which avoids the 710 expanding all together, as well as including a public transit element and a biking/pedestrian element) were all addressed.

"The recommendations provided by the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) have all been taken into account," Woods said, acknowledging that they hope to have solid presentations that show how each alternative could actually be accomplished "relatively soon."

The complications with these updates revolves around SCIG, which was recently approved by the City of Los Angeles; if the near-dock railyard -- which has been largely contested by the groups which proffered Alternative 7 -- is or isn't built, that alters the way the 710 project should or should not move forward. Therefore, the modeling of what this project will look like unfortunately revolves around assumptions.

Environmentally speaking, the most promising of updates is the fact that Community Alternative 7 is actually being studied as a true alternative with all its components -- including avoiding interference with Shelter Partnerships, Bell Shelters, the Long Beach Multi-Service Center, and Seasons at Compton senior housing.

"Everything that has been asked for [within Community Alternative 7] is being taken into consideration and entirely taken seriously," Woods said to 8th District Councilmember Al Austin.

Meanwhile, the feasibility study that has been underway for the last 15 months analyzing the installation of sound walls is now complete. Succinctly put, the study attempted to gauge where "early action" sound walls could be placed quickly without interfering with current or proposed freeway construction. This could mean an entirely new sound wall, treating an existing sound wall, or entirely replacing an old sound wall.

Almost all the new sound walls -- five -- will be placed south of the 91 in Long Beach if built, mostly west of the 710 with a handful on the east side. According to Woods, all of the proposed sound wall revisions are environmentally sound and could be built without the attachment to the 710 expansion project.

The meeting of the larger I-710 Oversight Committee -- which is comprised of all cities involved -- will meet in Paramount on May 30.

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