This morning, community members, local elected officials, and representatives from the Coalition for Environmental Health and Justice (CEHAJ) gathered next to the 710 freeway in Long Beach to support a proposed California state law known as SB 811 (Lara) designed to legally require Caltrans to consider an alternative to doubling an existing freeway in a heavily polluted area of LA.
SB 811 would make sure that a community proposal known as “Community Alternative 7” is considered when the state transportation agency—Caltrans—analyzes its proposal to expand the 710 between the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and the rail yards in downtown LA. SB 811 is currently on the Governor’s desk and dozens of folks at the gathering this morning urged him to sign it into law.
SB 811 would be a classic win-win. Caltrans is proposing to expand the 710 freeway to a 14 lane freeway compared to the current 8 lanes, bringing even more diesel pollution into the area’s neighborhoods. This proposal has been fought tooth and nail by a coalition of community members and public health and environmental organizations, including NRDC, to make sure the community’s voice is heard and considered.
The coalition put together our own proposed alternative to simply adding more lanes, to allow for economic growth but also other benefits, including a Zero Emissions truck corridor and improvements to the adjacent LA River. This proposal became known as Community Alternative 7, and everyone from the Long Beach City Council to both houses of the California state legislature voted in support of it. They are all calling for Caltrans to simply analyze Community Alternative 7 in its overall environmental analysis for the project. If passed, SB 811 would do just that. It wouldn’t require the alternative to be chosen by Caltrans, but require them simply to consider it as an alternative option.
This is one of those rare opportunities where different stakeholders came together to support something, instead of just oppose everything. Expanding the 710 freeway is a huge infrastructure project that would change the landscape of LA for decades to come. Adding those lanes would add air pollution to a significantly overburdened, working class community. The lanes aren’t necessary and neither is the anticipated additional pollution. It is worth taking the time to get this project right.