The Metro board is set to vote Thursday on a $6 billion plan to widen the Long Beach (710) Freeway — a plan that has drawn vocal and ongoing opposition from residents in the surrounding communities.

Environmental studies of the project — which is aimed at fixing aging infrastructure and reducing traffic congestion that has grown along with activity at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach — began 10 years ago. Four proposals were developed in 2012 and then reworked to address concerns raised by the Coalition for Environmental Health and Justice, among other considerations.

The current staff recommendation, Alternative 5C, includes widening the freeway to five lanes in each direction and adding truck bypass lanes at the San Diego (405) Freeway interchange.

The proposal includes provisions for encouraging the use of clean technology trucks, but some board members believe more needs to be done.

Two motions — also on the agenda for consideration by the full board – – seek to amend the plan.

Los Angeles County Supervisors Janice Hahn and Hilda Solis have joined Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia and housing advocate Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker as sponsors of the first motion, which calls the 19-mile southern section of the freeway the `diesel death zone. They propose doubling investment in near- zero and zero-emission technology to $200 million and dedicating one lane to zero-emission vehicles.

“For many years, children and adults alike have suffered from serious health issues as a result of the pollution emitted by the trucks delivering freight inland, and neighborhoods have been severely impacted by congestion and traffic,” their motion states. “The future 710 freeway must not be a `diesel death zone’ but a corridor where freight can be moved quickly without impairing the health of communities alongside the 710 Freeway.”

The motion also recommends moving toward a focus on zero emissions once that technology becomes available. It mentions “rechargeable roadways” technology that could allow vehicles to charge while driving as a game-changing future development.

Solis, Hahn and Garcia are sponsors of a second motion also co- authored by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Inglewood Mayor James Butts and Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian. That motion concludes that the air quality benefits proposed by Alternative 5C will only materialize with funding for near-zero and zero-emission trucks and if commuters shift to the freeway rather than taking shortcuts through residential streets. It proposes making smaller scale improvements to the 710, emphasizing those that don’t displace residents, businesses or sensitive land uses and those that have the most immediate safety, mobility and air quality benefits. The motion does not specifically outline which elements of the project would move forward on that basis.

—City News Service

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