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Metro Looks to Approve $207M for Two Freeway Expansion Projects

Metro wants $174 million to add one more lane to the 91 Freeway in North Long Beach, and $33 million for one more lane on the South Street off-ramp in Cerritos, an initial phase setting up future widening of the 605 Freeway

Metro plans to widen this 605 Freeway South Street off-ramp to tee up widening the main stem of the 605. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog

This Thursday morning, the Metro board Construction Committee will be voting on $207 million for two freeway expansion projects in southeast L.A. County. Metro is looking to approve a $174 million life-of-project budget for its 91 Freeway widening in Long Beach [staff report], and a $33 million budget for widening the South Street 605 Freeway off-ramp in Cerritos [staff report], which is an initial phase to set up future widening of the mainstem of the 605.

Metro's map of its eastbound 91 Freeway widening project

Metro and Caltrans' mile-long $174+million 91 Freeway expansion project adds one more eastbound lane between Atlantic Avenue and Cherry Avenue. The project is located just east of the 710 Freeway, in North Long Beach - a working class area where residents are about two-thirds Latino and thirty percent Black (per 2021 census estimates).

Yes, it's 2023 and Metro and Caltrans are still widening freeways through low income communities of color. Metro has adopted policies mandating its projects advance equity, and has done cursory equity analysis, but the agency remains in denial that adding more car traffic through this already pollution-burdened "diesel death zone" is harmful to the health of families living nearby.

For more information on Metro and Caltrans 91 Freeway widening, see 2022 SBLA coverage of Metro's three 91 widening projects, and September SBLA coverage of Metro approving $65 million for construction management services for two of those SR-91 projects, including Atlantic-Cherry.

Metro 605/South Street project update - via January 2023 Metro presentation

About four miles east of that 91 Freeway widening, Metro's 350-foot-long $33+ million I-605 South Street Off-Ramp Improvement Project doesn't actually widen the 605 Freeway. The project adds a fourth lane to the existing three-lane off-ramp, as an initial phase of adding one more lane to a mile of the 605 between the 91 and South Street. Both the 91 and South Street projects are part of a catch-all category of highway expansion that Metro terms its "I-605 Hot Spots Program."

Metro 605/South Street project map showing the future 605 Freeway widening (adding a nearly mile-long auxiliary lane from the 91 to South Street) - via 2017 Metro staff report

The Cerritos and Artesia neighborhoods adjacent to this ramp/freeway expansion have somewhat higher incomes (and are majority Asian and Latino) compared to those along the Metro 91 Freeway expansion in Long Beach, but all of Metro's numerous freeway expansions add pollution that spreads across the basin - and greenhouse gases that cumulatively damage the climate.

For more information on Metro and Caltrans 605 Freeway South Street Off-Ramp widening, see a February SBLA overview of the project, and July SBLA coverage of the project going out to bid, noting Metro's greenwashing the project by labeling it as "multimodal" while including no transit, bike, or walk features.

605 South Street off-ramp striping plan, showing widened four-lane 60 feet wide ramp - via Metro bid packet

The advocacy organization Streets for All is urging people to contact the Metro board to vote against these expensive harmful projects. SFA's action alert notes:

Spending hundreds of millions of dollars to widen highways should not be routine in 2023, when we're facing a climate emergency. That money would be much better spent on transit and active transportation.

Go to SFA's alert for instructions on how to contact your Metro representatives to urge them not to approve this latest tranche of freeway expansion funds.

The next vote on these two freeway widenings will be in Construction Committee this Thursday at 9:30 a.m. [agenda], then the final funding approval will likely go to the full Metro board meeting on Thursday, November 30 at 10 a.m. [agenda].

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