Metro Board to Vote on $6 Billion Lower 710 Freeway Widening

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
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

This week Metro board committees are considering approving a distinctly backward-looking $6 billion project to widen the 710 Freeway through southeast L.A. County. It is difficult to believe that, in the 21st Century, Caltrans and Metro are still seeking to spend billions widening a highway in order “to improve air quality, mobility, and quality of life” per the Metro project website. East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice Executive Director mark! Lopez criticizes the 710 Freeway project because it “does little to advance zero emissions, does little to ensure local labor is hired to build this enormous project, and will displace hundreds of longstanding families from their homes.”

Earthjustice attorney Adrian Martinez said “We were promised an innovative transportation solution to the problems on the I-710. Instead of delivering on this promise, they’re trying to ram an expensive 1950’s era road-widening project through the community. We need modern and effective solutions to our transportation woes, not more of the same failed road expansion strategy.”

The I-710 Corridor Project claims to address “serious congestion and safety issues” in a 19-mile corridor extending from just east of downtown L.A. to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Metro staff are recommending widening the 710 Freeway from xxx to xxx. Image via Metro staff report
Metro staff recommend widening the 710 Freeway from Del Amo Boulevard in Long Beach to the 5 Freeway in the City of Commerce. Image via Metro staff report

At tomorrow’s meetings of Metro’s Congestion, Highway and Roads Committee as well as the Planning and Programming Committee, Metro board members will decide whether to adopt “alternative 5C” as the locally preferred alternative. Alternative 5C would expand the freeway, adding two new general purpose lanes. Metro staff are recommending 5C as more financially feasible and more phase-able than the $10 billion Alternative 7 which would include elevated structures carrying four “clean freight” truck lanes.

Community advocates pushed for solutions similar to Alternative 7 as it would not widen the freeway’s footprint.

For more on the alternatives, including the “no-build” Alternative 1, see SBLA sister site LongBeachIze’s recent analysis.

Metro’s staff report acknowledges but understates the funding situation for the project “full funding for Alternative 5C is not currently available.”  Between Measure R and Measure M, Metro has just over a billion dollars for the lower 710. If the 55 percent cost overrun on Metro and Caltrans’ $1.6 billion 405 Freeway widening project is any indication, the lower 710 Freeway widening could easily balloon well over its projected $6 billion.

It is not too late for the Metro board to pull the plug on the unfunded multi-billion dollar lower 710 Freeway widening. Just look at the example of the canceled $6 billion tunnels for the north 710 Freeway. The funds could be re-purposed for what Lopez calls the residents’ “better vision” for the 710 corridor: “mandatory zero emissions lanes, more robust public transit, bike and pedestrian facilities, a commitment to put local people to work, and not displacing homes, facilities that support the homeless, and other vital resources.”

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