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Metro Board Approves $207 Million for 91 and 605 Freeway Expansion Projects

Metro and Caltrans eastbound 91 Freeway widening is especially alarming as it will increase tailpipe pollution in an already diesel-pollution-burdened community that is 69 percent Latino, and 28 percent Black

Today Metro approved $174 million to widen this part of the 91 Freeway in North Long Beach. Photo via Google Street View

This morning, the Metro board approved $207 million for two more freeway expansion projects in southeast L.A. County. The approvals include $174 million to add one lane to the 91 Freeway in North Long Beach [staff report], and $33 million to add one lane to the South Street 605 Freeway off-ramp in Cerritos [staff report], which sets up adding a lane to the mainstem of the 605.

Streetsblog previewed these projects earlier:

This Metro eastbound 91 Freeway widening is especially alarming as it will increase tailpipe pollution in an already pollution-burdened community that is 69 percent Latino and 28 percent Black. So much for Metro and Caltrans lip service on advancing equity.

Metro map of 91 Freeway widening project in North Long Beach

Metro has long used misleading language to obscure the impacts of its highway expansion projects (including continuing to list them under a "Less Traffic" category on its project webpage, when these projects will generate more traffic.) Metro frequently terms freeway expansion as "gap closure," "safety improvements," "operational improvements," "freeway modernization," "local subregional projects," etc. These obfuscations often come at the end of sentences like "We’re not approving freeway expansions… it’s freeway modernization" (Metro boardmember Fernando Dutra, May 2021).

This week, writing at The Source, Metro spokesperson Steve Hymon expanded the agency's lexicon with what appears to be a new Metro freeway widening euphemism: adding one more lane to the 91 Freeway is "the elimination of a lane reduction."

It's not freeway expansions... it's eliminating freeway lane reductions.

This bizarre wording seems to imply that there is some natural ideal state to freeways (apparently many many lanes) and that Metro and Caltrans are trying to achieve it by "eliminating reductions." Really, Metro? Hopefully someday Metro will also look to eliminate bus lane, train track, sidewalk, and bike lane reductions, too? Maybe start in the shadow of these two "multimodal" freeway projects.

Metro image of planned South Street ramp widening
Metro image showing planned future 605 Freeway widening, adding one more lane from the 91 to South Street

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