Federal regulators’ request for pollution study could derail 710 expansion project • Long Beach Post News


The Environmental Protection Agency issued a letter in March demanding that those responsible for the Highway 710 widening project – which would add two lanes of truck traffic on either side of the highway – perform a “hot spot” analysis particles. Failure to complete the scan would put the project in non-compliance with the Clean Air Act, federal officials said.

The project area stretches from Long Beach to East Los Angeles near Highway 60. The existence of the EPA letter was first reported on May 4 by StreetsBlogLA.

The project could increase truck traffic by 6,900 trips per day in addition to the 50,000 trucks and 165,000 commuter vehicles that already use the highway daily, according to an EPA technical analysis.

The EPA letter said a plan to demand and help pay for cleaner-burning trucks under the project would do little to improve existing pollution problems.

“In fact, we anticipate an increase in the severity of existing violations, even if the proposed I-710 Clean Truck program were to be fully implemented given the dust, tire wear and brake wear. Elizabeth Adams, director of the Air & Radiation division of the EPA, wrote in the letter.

Metro’s board of directors unanimously approved a $ 6 billion version of the expansion project in March 2018. However, a lack of funding and the finalization of environmental documents put much of the project on hold. .

The March 25 letter sent to LA County Metro CEO Philip Washington and Tony Tavares, director of CalTrans for the district that includes Los Angeles, said the program’s $ 200 million clean truck program is a mitigating factor , but don’t excuse those responsible for having to perform the hot spot scan.

The hot spot analysis would make it possible to estimate future pollutant concentrations and the project’s impacts on air quality. Long Beach and other cities along Highway 710 have some of the worst air quality in the United States and higher percentages of respiratory illness than in other parts of the country.

“LA Metro is in the process of evaluating the I-710 corridor project and the timeline based on the EPA letter, in consultation with Caltrans,” a Metro spokesperson said in an email Friday.

CalTrans did not respond to a request for comment.

There is a chance that the project could move forward without completing the analysis, but that would open it to legal challenges.

Adrian Martinez, a Los Angeles-based lawyer who has represented community groups opposed to the current project, said the project in its current form is a “1950s solution to a modern problem” that would only make the situation worse. public health.

Martinez explained that unlike state air quality laws, which allow projects to move forward even though studies show they could make pollution worse, the federal air quality law does not. does not.

“I think the days of this project are numbered,” Martinez said. “And this effort shows an incredible story of perseverance, organization and community empowerment.”

Community groups have fought against freeway expansion for years and demanded that any project benefit the communities surrounding the 710 and the already pollution-overloaded ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Organizers see the letter from the EPA as an encouraging sign that the project could be put back on the table for public debate, if not outright blocked by the federal government.

“The EPA articulated and came to the conclusions that the community knew from the start that a project to add diesel truck lanes would be bad for air quality,” a statement from the Coalition for environmental health and justice, which includes groups represented by Martinez.

“As a result, this letter from the EPA provides the perfect opportunity to stop this nefarious project proposal, which advances decades-old thinking about how to solve our transportation and air quality problems. “

The coalition includes community groups from Long Beach and other cities that sit on either side of Corridor 710.

Laura Cortez, organizer of East Yards Communities for Environmental Justice, an advocacy group for southeastern Los Angeles cities that is part of the coalition, said she hopes Metro and CalTrans will reopen discussions for the project.

“This specific process wouldn’t have taken 20 years if they had done it right and listened to the community,” Cortez said.

The coalition of nine community groups is calling for the project to be renegotiated with benefits like better transit options along Corridor 710.

Opponents also demand that the project eliminate any displacement that could result from the construction. More than 100 residential and commercial properties were at risk of being relocated due to the project adopted in 2018.

Among the things the coalition called for in a statement released this week, Cortez said she hoped any project will use the same footprint as the existing 710, and that could include adding overhead lanes for trucks, but making Corridor 710 less polluted is the highest priority.

“However you move [cargo]it has to be zero emissions, ”Cortez said.

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