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Photo by Brian Addison.
After concerns about everything from further marginalizing West Long Beach to a lack of support for the staff recommendation to move forward with option 5C in the proposed 710 Freeway expansion project, Metro Board Member and Supervisor Hilda Solis—backed by fellow board member and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia—has drafted a motion that will put not permit any widening until specific community projects associated with their Early Action Program are completed.
Solis’s proposal has three basic tenets, each of which are surprisingly bold:
- The project should initially hone in on non-expansion related improvements needed: upgrades to interchanges and freeway crossings, as well as “bike/pedestrian bridges over the LA River, a zero emissions truck program, new and enhanced transit service, and the ability to increase park space for neighboring communities.”
- After the completion of these improvements, a requirement to have Metro staff return to the Board for approval (or possible disapproval) of the expansion, using “the most current State and local evaluation measures at that time.”
- Require Metro staff to seek further analysis on the potential displacement of residents, if not “outright eliminate, residential, business, and sensitive land use displacements that would result from this project.”
In terms of the first tenet, getting some sort of recognition on the record that moving forward with an expansion off the get go is not necessarily good is important; overwhelming evidence points to the fact that creating more roads creates more traffic, a phenomenon known as induced demand. (In this piece criticizing the 405 expansion in Orange County, I provide a plethora of links to articles and research proving this.) Additionally, it is recognizing what many advocates have been saying all along: the improvements society actually needs can be done without an expansion.
Additionally, despite the fact that Solis still claims a No Build alternative would “provide none of the air quality, mobility, or safety benefits associated with the Project,” this motion actually shows how not expanding the freeway can still result in a plethora of benefits we can provide. Even the long-disconnected Cesar Chavez Park in DTLB will now be accessible.
The second tenet is one of the most important. By delaying the actual expansion and focusing on infrastructural needs, time will pass—up to 10 years—and research will grow, prompting advocates to further strengthen their argument against the project while possibly convincing the Board that an expansion is Bad News Bears. Additionally, “the most current State and local standards” will likely be very different a few years down the line, even furthering the possibility that the project could be completely different than what is being proposed.
According to Metro, between 85% and 90% of the proposed project is within the current footprint of the 710 but, as noted, the other portion sits within eminent domain. Within that section, authorities will have to seize 109 homes and 158 businesses, causing the displacement of 436 people—and that’s where the third tenet comes in. The fact that we’re even considering a project that directly displaces hundreds of folks during a housing crisis is one thing; the fact that we’re doing it for a freeway expansion in 2018 is beyond baffling and disrespectful to the folks who have invested a place no one else had a desire to do so.
In other words: a giant step forward with a very-much needed pause. Onward and upward.