A Midnight Ride Up to Sac Gives 710 Communities the (Possibility) to Breathe

It should be no shock that Sen. Ricardo Lara–who represents the 33rd Senate District spanning Long Beach to Huntington Park–has a vast interest in protecting neighborhoods that line the 710 as it goes through its proposed expansion. His most recent attempt to empower neighborhoods, SB 811, would help give communities a greater say in whether or not Caltrans goes forward with a massive widening spanning Long Beach to East Los Angeles.

SB 811 ispopular with his constituents. Before a key vote in the Assembly, Lara offered a bus to more than 50 Southern Californians from his district to take a very long, leave-at-midnight-seven-hour trip to Sacramento to participate. The legislation passed the Assembly Transportation Committee 10-2.

Senator Lara, with some of his guests at yesterday's Assembly Transportation Committee Hearing. Photo via Senator Lara's office.

A native of the 6.5 sq. mile city of Commerce–where the 5 and 710 both slice through–and the son of immigrants, Lara has personally experienced the struggle of not just coming from a family that consistently worked, but one which was continually surrounded by growing traffic arterials.

During adolescence, Lara saw the 710 grow from a simple passageway to an Interstate but was removed from the backlash of the Golden State Freeway’s proposed Los Angeles area construction in 1953. The latter project–some twenty years before Lara even came into existence–has an interesting tie with many of Lara’s own struggles. The proposed I-5 construction at the time largely marginalized an already-marginalized Mexican-American population, as noted in Ernesto Chavez’s book Mi Raza Primero! Construction of the freeway went ahead despite opposition.

One can call it experience–given his childhood in Commerce–or one can call it the aligning of stars–many L.A. communities were ultimately disregarded in the construction of the 5–but it goes to show that Lara both recognizes his routes as well as his history.

The 710 has essentially become a core arterial in goods movements as cargo volumes from the Port of Long Beach and Los Angeles have exploded–which has also in turn made the trucks using the 710 explode in numbers as well. It acts as the main connector from the ports to each L.A. rail yard–Vernon and East Los Angeles–as well as connecting to the 60 and 10 freeways for access to the San Bernardino and Colton rail yards.

The specific expansion between Long Beach and East L.A. has been met with fierce opposition, including three governmental committees–the Long Beach City Council I-710 Oversight Committee, the Gateway Council of Governments and The Project Committee–all rejecting plans to expand from eight lanes to fourteen.

Lara described SB 811 as “communities along the I-710 freeway have a meaningful mechanism to provide input about mitigation and local benefits appropriate freight impacts, advance sustainability and protect public health.”

In more detailed terms, the bill codifies the motion approved by the aforementioned Project Committee include Community Alternative 7, a plan developed by a slew of organizations including the East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, Communities for a Better Environment, Legal Aid Foundation of L.A., Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma, Natural Resources Defense Council, Long Beach Community Action Partnership, Coalition for Clean Air, and Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Dubbed the “communities’ build option,” Alternative 7 proffers a committed zero-emissions design that includes a public transit element, biking/pedestrian elements, river improvements, and a public-private partnership for an employer-operated freight system which avoids the 710 expanding.

The bill is moving in both chambers at the same time. It’s next stop will be in front of the  Senate Appropriations Committee.

  • Jake Wegmann

    Right on, Sen. Lara.

    How can we even be discussing widening a freeway, through one of the most densely populated urban areas in the nation no less, in the year 2013, in the era of AB32/SB375?

  • Ubrayj02

    Port traffic has not been “exploding” since 2007/2008. Projections to the contrary are bull.

  • james

    I’m inclined to think that the spectre of port growth and associated truck traffic is being used by highway engineers to get us to agree to a freeway expansion they would argue for regardless of any local conditions. That is all they know.

    They measure a place in terms of highway “performance enhancement.” Didn’t you know that you have not been enhanced? We need a 16 lane freeway so we can experience the brief bliss of relaxing rural highway traffic. The promise of 1950s america hasn’t been met and won’t be if we don’t widen it more time. It will work this time they promise.

    As far as the port is concerned I would like to see Bi-modal freight locomotives that run on electricity from overhead wire on new frieght rail tracks at least until they are out of the metro region where they can switch to diesel power generation. Cargo should be transferred to said trains only directly on new docks or by natural gas powered trucks but we should not widen any roads to accept growth of truck traffic, especially when so many of those trucks are taking containers to local rail transfer facilities. All capacity expansion be based on freight rail under electric power and involve new rail lines. I’m not opposed to increasing port activity but I do hope that opposition drives the port and LA to plan for the sort of modernization we need.

    Given the importance of the port to this county’s economy and the amount of suffering the local population has to endure (socialization of benefits, privatization of environmental/health costs) we ought to be able to build ourselves a proper first world port with some shiny electric trains.

    I guess one could also argue all of my fantasies would be for naught, what with the widening and deepening of the Panama canal and the future mega ships that will avoid us entirely.

  • Vicki Kea

    We on the north side (SR 710 tunnels) state the same. There is a better, cleaner way to move goods. We don’t need a 20th century solution to a 21st century problem. More and bigger tollways are not the answer. However, Metro refuses to look at these types of alternatives. It has already been determined (even though they tell you it has not been determined). How about this as an alternative: http://planetforward.org/idea/the-grid-project-green-rail-intelligent-development/

  • Kenny Easwaran

    I just hope that as they study the transit alternative here, they try to link it up with other transit proposals that are being studied nearby – in particular, I think this line would be a natural fit with the Orange County line from the Anaheim station up the old Pacific Electric right-of-way. It might be better to connect here than to try to share even more of the tracks at Union Station, or go along the LA river.

  • ubrayj02

    You have to recognize that port traffic has not been growing very much at all and that all the 30 year projections done for the 710 tunnel and the widening do not take into account the coming opening of the Panama Canal. These projects, even if completed, show low to no likelihood of benefiting Los Angeles County through revenue – and definitely would hurt air quality and local car traffic. They are shitty projects that would, at best, help WalMart and Target continue to sell us out to the Chinese and would do so at the cost of billions in debt our grandkids would struggle to pay off.

  • dude

    good luck getting the local longshoreman unions to sign off on something like this. look how they shutdown the port when what was it 7 seceratries wanted their jobs to be guaranteed. These people depend on keeping the status quo to maintain their lifestyles. San Pedro if full of these people and they walk around pretending the Panama Canal Expansion isnt happening and still ask for More money.

  • rickrise

    The GRID project would take nearly all port truck traffic and put it on trains, including an underground all-electric shuttle to the iInland Empire freightyards and distribution centers. It can be built with current technology, and is starting to gain traction. And has approval from both labor unions and the Sierra Club. More details at http://gridlogisticsinc.com

  • Vicki Kea

    Well, said ubrayj02!

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