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2023 Was the Year of Metro Freeway Widening

Metro quietly finished work on two 5 Freeway widening mega-projects, and started work on widening the 57/60, 91, and 605 - while continuing work on numerous widenings under construction - plus planning future mega-widenings

2:22 PM PST on December 27, 2023

5 Freeway aerial photo showing Metro/Caltrans 5 Freeway expansion at Imperial Highway and Pioneer Boulevard in Norwalk – via My I-5 Website

2023 was the year of Metro freeway expansion. Metro, in partnership with Caltrans District 7, finished more than $3 billion worth of freeway widening projects, yet there's no end in sight for continued massive L.A. County freeway widening.

This year, Metro's highway builders quietly finished work on two 5 Freeway mega-projects.

View of former Norwalk home lots now demolished and vacant, which made way for Caltrans and Metro 5 Freeway widening. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog

Metro and Caltrans wrapped up work on their $1.8 billion South County 5 Freeway widening South, which extends 7 miles from the 605 Freeway to Orange County. Metro and Caltrans acquired 423 full parcels, mostly homes and apartment buildings now demolished. The initial phase of construction broke ground in 2011, with an overall anticipated 2016 completion date. The project was apparently completed in mid-2023.

Metro and Caltrans 5 Freeway widening through Burbank in 2021. Photo by Joe Linton

Also this year, Metro and Caltrans finished construction on their $1.3+ billion 5 Freeway widening - North, which extends twelve miles from the 134 Freeway in Glendale to the 118 Freeway in Mission Hills, including major work through the city of Burbank. Construction, plagued by delays and cost overruns, got underway in 2010, then expected to be done in 2017. Work apparently concluded in mid-2023.

Streetsblog notes that these completions are "apparent," as neither Metro nor Caltrans appear to have formally announced that these projects are done. Usually when infrastructure builders finish $3 billion worth of construction, elected officials and agency leaders celebrate their accomplishments. For the 5 Freeway mega-projects North and South, Metro and Caltrans scrubbed the widenings from their website active project lists, deleted the project website and social media accounts, stopped sending e-blasts, and quietly moved on to other work. Metro's The Source touted various freeway project groundbreakings (example) but has been mum on recent freeway project completions.

Speaking of other Metro/Caltrans freeway expansion work, Metro continues to dramatically expand its annual highway expansion budget. Metro's current annual highway construction budget is more than $600 million; this amount represents a huge increase from just $264 million in Fiscal Year 2020-21.

Under construction Metro/Caltrans freeway expansion projects include:

Rendering of under-construction 57/60 Freeways confluence at Grand Avenue. Image via SGVCOG

In 2023 Metro and Caltrans approved and/or started construction of new freeway expansion projects:

Metro keeps on gearing up for plenty more mega-widening, with community meetings in the next couple months for Metro's massive 605 Freeway expansion, including the $6+ billion 605 Freeway Corridor Improvement Project (605CIP, which would include expanding the 605, 5, 10, 60 and 105 Freeways) which is part of Metro's "$10+ Billion" overall 605 Freeway expansion.

Metro overview of $10 billion 605 Corridor Improvement Project / Hot Spots Program - via Metro July 2022 presentation

Metro is also planning further expansion of the 101471, 91 (multiple projects), 105110138, and 405 (multiple projects) Freeways.

Metro's massive barrage of freeway construction comes at a massive expense to low-income communities and to the climate.

Metro is continuing to push more and more car and truck traffic through already pollution-burdened communities, primarily in Southeast Los Angeles' "diesel death zone." Under intense community pressure, Metro and Caltrans have backed off of some of their most egregious announced evictions/demolitions (example) but they continue to pressure some families to relocate.

2023 is the warmest year on record. Tailpipe emissions account for nearly half of L.A. County greenhouse gas emissions. Metro's own reporting shows its planned freeway widening would increase emissions more than all of its transit projects would reduce.

What will it take for Metro and Caltrans to stop their massive push for freeway expansion, and instead invest more in modes that improve equity, health, and the environment?

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