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Long Beach’s Terminal Island Freeway Removal Project Scores $250k Caltrans Study Grant

The Terminal Island Freeway viewed facing west at Hill Street near Hudson Park.

After two attempts at gaining money, the three-year long dream to remove the northern portion of the Terminal Island Freeway (I-103) just took another step towards reality after the City of Long Beach scored a quarter-million Cal Trans grant for environmental justice transportation planning.

The grant—followed just six months after it was sought and following the same push in 2012 that ultimately failed in garnering monies—will provide a formal study of what could be one of the largest freeway removals in Southern California history, stretching a mile just south of PCH north to Willow Street.

What could largely be called one of the (many) babies of City Fabrick Executive Director Brian Ulaszewski—the same guy behind destroying one of the most deadliest intersections in Long Beach in order to pave way for a much-needed park—since 2010, the plan is rather simple: given the creation of the 20-mile Alameda Corridor and the modernization of the Intermodal Container Transfer Facility just west of Terminal Island, the northern length of the freeway is not needed. It would then be converted into a local street that fits into the grid, thereby alleviating traffic away from Santa Fe, the only other north-south arterial nearby.

What destroying this stretch of the freeway further (and more ultimately) does is remove large amounts of trucks passing by lower west side schools—such as Cabrillo and Reid High, and particularly Hudson Elementary, which sits directly east of the freeway—and various neighborhoods. The 20 to 30 acres of surplus land, most of which is weeds and dirt, can be converted to a mile-long public park. This, in turn, dramatically boosts park space on the West Side by roughly 50%.

The area of the proposed removal.

Even further, I have gone over the many benefits of freeway removals, including the many misconceptions about what reducing roadway capacity does (mainly that, rather than increasing traffic, it actually lessens it because fewer people use their cars when roadway capacity is decreased).

"Replacing the Terminal Island Freeway has been a collaborative effort between various city departments and officials, other government agencies, local stakeholders and community groups," said Ulaszewski. "The multitude of benefits including improving local traffic conditions and reducing public health impacts, all while creating a mile long park provides a solid foundation for everyone to build from as the this community-based planning effort moves forward.”

In short, this is not just good news but incredible news. The dilapidated and marginalized West Side, largely ignored on all levels from accessibility to green space, can now face the possibility of having park space. And for a community that doesn't even a soccer field worth of green space for every 1,000 of its residents,the "need" for park space becomes essential.

The Terminal Island Freeway Transition Plan community process is projected to take place in 2014.

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