While communities to the north object to plans to dig a huge tunnel connecting the I-710 to the 210, communities to the south have been fighting a plan much further along to widen the existing freeway by 3 lanes in each direction. The plan is moving forward even while promising, zero-emission freight to rail alternatives offer much greater promise for improving port operations and goods movement throughout the region.
The I-710 widening plan attracted controversy and disbelief recently when its environmental impact report showed that it would “improve air quality” in the study area! (lots of links to pick from; Physicians for Social Responsibility’s response to that claim; and California Watch’s extended feature questioning the results). Communities for a Better Environment are objecting to the freeway expansion, and asking for a P3 operated freight system, and commitments to zero-emission technology, a comprehensive public transit element, local job hire for the project(s), and expanded open space.
The I-710 expansion and the SR-710 extension plans are connected. They will actually connect if the tunnel is built. More importantly, the connection achieves a historic plan to use the ‘completed’ 710 for trucks and goods movement. That unacceptable rationale for building the freeway is no longer cited, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Those trucks speeding along the expanded I-710 won’t all head east on the 10 or the 60. Metro staff and consultants say that hardly any truck traffic will head north. A retired teacher who lives near the 210 and attended Metro’s last Technical Advisory Committee meeting contradicted this: “I live next to a truck route!” The consultants have also not clarified whether or not trucks will be allowed in a 710 tunnel. (See Sunroom Desk’s previous post for Metro board member Ara Najarian’s thoughts on trucks in the tunnel).
The I-710 expansion plan is close to reality, and critics say that it will facilitate the tripling of port truck trips. A far better alternative, GRID Logistics’ zero-emission railed freight pipeline, has been proposed. Check out the Transit Coalition’s flyer which contrasts the two: Port Related Goods Movement – Getting to the Heart of the Problem: TRUCKS.
Trucks increase road maintenance costs, congestion, and pollution, and are inefficient at moving goods through the Southern California urban network. “The truck kills you everywhere – at the port complex, on the freeway, at the warehouse,” says GRID creator David Alba, who argues that the region needs a more efficient goods movement system to compete with other port modernization projects in this hemisphere. “21st century transportation looks different!”
Why, if a compelling, zero-emission, advanced technology alternative is ready for investment and deployment, do our transportation agencies continue to push expensive, ugly, polluting, neighborhood destroying, unwanted conventional freeway projects? The Southern California Association of Governments’ 2012 Regional Transportation Plan (page 27) says:
“Goods movement is a major source of emissions that contribute to the region’s air pollution. An essential element to improving the region’s goods movement system is to reduce its current and long-term impacts on public health and the environment. …planning efforts are underway to establish a regional zero-emission freight system.”
The commitment on paper is to a zero-emission freight system. Throughout community outreach sessions for the 710 studies, south and north, affected residents have asked for freight alternatives and more public transit. Why are they being presented with freeway plans? This is a region-wide problem, and the effects of more freeways, more exhaust, and more congestion affect us all. The I-710 is the first step, the tunnel is the next.
Object to the I-710 environmental impact report: Deadline for public comments is September 28. You can object to the EIR’s assertion that widening the freeway and creating more capacity for truck trips will actually improve air quality. You can object to the fact that low/zero-emission vehicles are encouraged, not required, so more diesel exhaust will be spewing into the air. You can object to the destruction of homes along the route, and the added exhaust near schools and other sensitive receptors. Most importantly, the region’s residents should object to an outdated, outmoded, harmful approach that will not make Southern California more competitive as a port destination (because it doesn’t dramatically improve efficiency like freight to rail does), and will not improve quality of life.