710 Freeway Expansion’s Threat to the Lower L.A. River

December 11, 2008 § Leave a comment

This is your River on Freeway Expansion (cartoon by Andy Singer)

This is your River on Freeway Expansion (cartoon by Andy Singer)

With the recent passage of Measure R and the talk of an Obama federal stimulus plan with lots of money for transportation infrastructure, my thoughts turn to the planned expansion of the 710 Freeway and the impact that this could have on prospects for restoration of the lower Los Angeles River.

Measure R is a county-wide half-cent sales tax that was promoted as funding transit (and will fund quite a few of good transit projects,) but actually puts nearly 40% of its dollars toward projects for more and more cars, including expanding the capacity of the 710 Freeway. The 710 Freeway runs (and sometimes crawls, I’m told) parallel to the Los Angeles River from about Atlantic Avenue in the city of Vernon, to the river’s mouth in Long Beach. Along pretty much that entire stretch, between the river and the freeway, there are largely undeveloped utility line rights-of-way. River advocates have longed eyed this mostly-vacant right-of-way as land that could potentially be used to widen the river, thereby increasing its capacity and allowing for greater naturalization. Unfortunately that same right of way is seen as land to use for widening the freeway.

The main alternative being studied includes 10 traffic lanes and 4 dedicated truck lanes. Most of the freeway is 6 or 8 lanes today. This year, project proponents held scoping meetings. A draft Environmental Impact Report is expected to be released in mid-2010, so construction is still a few years off.

There’s a coalition of Environmental Justice groups who are opposing the project, including Communities for a Better Environment, Natural Resources Defense Council and others. It’s important that river advocates get on board this effort.

Luckily the project may not be far enough along to meet the criteria for a federal stimulus package, which (according to what was said at the Los Angeles City Council’s Transportation Committee today) must be “shovel ready” for a groundbreaking within the next 6 months. Also, in my estimation, the project doesn’t really meet new president’s stated emphasis on green jobs.

More to report on this issue in the months ahead.

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