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Long Beach City Council moves forward with I-710 project alternative

The adopted Measure 5C aims to expand the interstate highway and lower emissions.

Photo illustration by Jade Inglada

Photo illustration by Jade Inglada

Brigid McLaughlin, Contributing Writer

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A I-710 freeway upgrade called Measure 5C promises bike path linkages and a zero and near-zero emission truck program to mitigate pollution caused by port traffic on the Long Beach freeway.

The Long Beach city council I-710 oversight committee accepted plans to expand the interstate freeway on Tuesday afternoon. The measure, tagged 5C, claims to result in the fewest visual impacts along the freeway, relieve freeway traffic congestion and lessen diesel emission impacts. This is compared to another plan, dubbed alternative 7, that would have more mobility benefits for vehicles but lacked in all other critical citizen impact categories.

The measure will carry plans from an original freeway design, which offers improved access to downtown Long Beach compared to the old plan that would have displaced three local businesses, and added $130 million in costs. Instead, 5C will provide a new Pacific Coast Highway to downtown connection, and plans to reconstruct interchanges at PCH and Anaheim. Other changes include the removal of freeway bottlenecks along the I-710.

Alternative 5C also plans to improve air quality with bicycle and pedestrian crossings over the I-710 and Los Angeles River channel and provide funding for zero and near-zero emission trucks on the freeway.

With a foreseeable budget of $134 million for the trucks by 2035, “clean emissions” trailer trucks will be provided to drivers, likely through grants or low-cost loans.

A community health and benefit program also included in the measure will establish air quality monitoring stations around the city to track changes in air pollution. In addition, mobile asthma clinics would be provided to deal with the side effects of the freeways and air quality brought in from the truck and port pollution surrounding the city.

The preferred alternative, 5C, was embraced by this city council oversight committee. In opposition, Long Beach Residents Empowered announced their intentions to fight for underserved Long Beach residents who would be displaced by the construction from the I-710 project.

An offshoot of the non-profit Coalition of Environmental Health and Justice, LiBRE is a grassroots organization that meets to discuss and create change in city policies that don’t appear to have the public’s best interest in mind. The organization’s website states it intends to stand for “the betterment of air quality in the city for the benefit of residents here now and for generations to come.”

Jorge Rivera, LiBRE’s program director, said, “The decision continues to support further disappointment in this political government structure.” Members of the organization, while unhappy with the council’s decision to go forth with measure 5C, remained hopeful in their efforts to stop the freeway expansion and pressure the city to look for further change in upgrading truck standards zero emissions only for the port of Long Beach.

Outside city hall, Taylor Thomas, a Long Beach State student majoring in human development and a member of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, encouraged her LiBRE members to continue pushing fo zero emissions.

“While it looks like it’s bad news, we are hopeful, and it looks like we can move the fight to other cities,” Thomas said. “It’s not over, we’re just going to be ramping it up from here.”

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