Caltrans Proposes Truckway For 710 Freeway
Commerce, Bell Gardens, Vernon and East L.A. are in impacted zones.
By Hans Laetz, City News Service
A 14-lane-wide Long Beach (710) Freeway, including a trucks-only expressway perched between the freeway and the Los Angeles River, was proposed late last this week as a partial cure for the choking smog along the corridor of industry and commerce stretching between Los Angeles and the major ports near Long Beach.
The environmental impact report is available online here. The public can submit written comments on the proposal until Aug. 29.
Lea esta nota en ESPAÑOL: Caltrans Propone Ruta de Camiones para Autopista 710
The freeway-widening project is billed as a way to cut diesel emissions, including ozone and ultrafine particulates, in the low-income neighborhoods that line the freeway. Smog experts say particulates from trucks are the greatest contributor to local smog-related cancer risk, and university studies have shown the neighborhoods along the 710 Freeway corridor to be cancer and asthma hotspots.
Caltrans and Metro officials released the proposal’s draft Environmental Impact Report for a 60-day public review period June 30. The $5 billion project would replace antiquated cloverleaf ramps and 60-year-old, substandard bridges, and modernize five freeway-to-freeway interchanges from East L.A. south to the Port of Long Beach.
Impacted communities would also include Boyle Heights, the cities of Bell, Bell Gardens, Commerce, Vernon and South Gate, among others.
About 200 homes and apartments would need to be torn down for the 14-lane-wide freeway/truckway combination, depending on final interchange designs, and nearly 200 businesses would also be ousted. Several parks and schools along the corridor, such as Bandini Elementary, could also be impacted, according to the report.
In one of the alternatives, Vernon Fire Station No. 4 would have to be relocated.
State planners say the 14 million truckloads coming and going from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are expected to grow to 43 million per year in two decades, overloading the Alameda Corridor train tracks and other freeways and streets.
The new proposal calls for a four-lane trucks-only highway to be built north from Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach, wedged on the bank of the Los Angeles River next to the existing 710 Freeway. The truckway would fly over the avenues that bridge the existing freeway, and would extend as far north as Bandini Boulevard in the city of Commerce. Connections to the intermodal rail yards in Commerce and Vernon would be updated in the proposals.
The existing 710, which is six lanes wide in Long Beach and eight lanes wide north of the 405 Freeway, would be completely rebuilt and widened in most places to 10 lanes wide. The existing 710 freeway’s center median would be shifted towards the riverbanks, onto land now occupied by massive electric transmission towers and some small farms, to spare hundreds of houses next to the freeway from demolition.
Dozens of major steel towers would have to be relocated above the new freeway and truckway lanes, according to the study, and Los Angeles River levees would have to be moved or excavated in some places.
One alternative being presented would limit access to the new truckway to electric trucks, operating with overhead poles and a new electric wire system on the truckway itself. The study notes that such trucks have never been built.
The proposal also calls for modernizing 42 intersections along the 710, with both aesthetic and traffic signal improvements. A new interchange would be created at Slauson Avenue, but an existing set of ramps at Washington Boulevard might be removed under one option, to reduce conflicts with merging traffic at the Santa Ana (5) Freeway.
It also calls for reconfiguration of the existing 5/710 interchange, where tricky left-hand exits dump hundreds of trucks into the 5 Freeway’s left lanes every day.
The heavily used Washington exit is one of the direct routes to Commerce’s heavy industrial area. Commerce residents in the Bandini and Ayers neighborhoods, which are adjacent to the freeway, have long complained about the pollution caused by the trucks to the area. The damage to local streets, including Washington Boulevard, caused by heavy truck use, has long been an issue for area residents.
EGPNews staff writers contributed to this story.
July 5, 2012 Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.