- Eastern Group Publications/EGPNews - http://egpnews.com -

East L.A. Sounds Off At 710 Freeway Hearing

During last week’s public hearing on a proposed widening of the 710 Freeway, Hector Gascon of Commerce warned that while residents might think the project’s worst offense is that “they are going to take down Sergio’s Tacos,” a local eatery, “it’s more serious than that.”

Another Commerce resident and former truck driver, Abelardo David Rodriguez, thinks the project could benefit trade at the local ports and said he would hate to see jobs being lost due to competition from a port being built in the Panama Canal along the gulf coast.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Comunidad Se Queja Sobre el Proyecto de Expansión de la Autopista 710 [1]

The magnitude of the project was not lost on members of the public who attended the hearing Aug. 9 in Commerce, one of three hearings held along the corridor to solicit community input on six project options to expand a major freight corridor along the 710 Freeway from the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to East Los Angeles. In all but the “no build” alternative, the freeway could be widened from eight lanes to as many as 10 or 14 lanes. The input from the hearings will be included along with others submitted before the Sept. 28 due date for comments and incorporated into an environmental impact study to begin this fall.

Ruth Schwartz reacts as a planner tells her that her property could be displaced by the project. (EGP photo by Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou)

In addition to those who could lose their homes or businesses, the hearing drew people who do not live in the project’s immediate area. Jairi Sanchez, 25, a Boyle Heights residents, told EGPNews that her own community “was destroyed by freeways” and she did not want to see the same happen in Commerce and other communities along the 710 Freeway. During his public comment, Jim Flournoy of Rosemead said the project could lead to congestion along the 60 Freeway because much of the cargo from the ports is expected to flow east toward inland warehouses and into the rest of the country.

The proposed project also brought out activists concerned about the project’s effect on air quality in the region. The Coalition for Environmental Health and Justice, which includes Commerce-based East Yard for Environmental Justice (EYCEJ), as well as Communities for a Better Environment in Huntington Park, proposed adding a seventh “community alternative” to the project that is a hybrid of different elements from the existing six alternatives, according to Isella Ramirez, Co-Director of EYCEJ.

The “community alternative” keeps the freeway at its current eight lanes and requires that only non-polluting, zero-emission technologies and vehicles be used on the freeway corridor, including a two-lane, elevated structure between Ocean Boulevard and the intermodal rail yards in Vernon and Commerce.

Instead of widening the freeway to relieve congestion, as suggested in the existing alternatives, the groups areadvocating for the agressive development of a public transit system, pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, and improvements to the Los Angeles River. The 710 Freeway project should be designed not only to “facilitate cargo, but to really suit the residents of the corridor,” said Angelo Logan, co-director of EYCEJ.

In her public comment, Ramirez said Measure R in other communities fund light rail and other public transit projects, “but all we’re getting are freeway projects.”

Project Manager Ron Kosinski told EGPNews they “could very well” end up with a seventh option by “picking and choosing” parts of the existing alternatives. “We have to take a look at it.”