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Caltrans Chief Wants an 'Absolute Pause' on 710 Freeway Expansion

Communities along the corridor have fought expansion for decades, citing air quality and displacement concerns. Now, the agency says it's time to rethink the project.
May 16, 2021, 9am PDT | Diana Ionescu | @aworkoffiction
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After decades of controversy, the head of California's department of transportation (Caltrans) called for "an absolute pause" on plans to widen the 710 Freeway through southeast Los Angeles County, reports Joe Linton for Streetsblog LA. "This year, the federal Environmental Protection Agency rejected Metro’s 710 plans because they didn’t comply with air pollution laws," and community activists have long spoken out against the harmful effects of pollution and displacement on neighboring communities.

According to Caltrans head Toks Omishakin, "this is not just an air quality issue that we’re facing on this project. The [Environmental Justice] issues – potential relocations – to me, are just as potentially problematic." Toks added, "I don’t see how we can move forward with this project in its current format."

Metro, the other partner in the project, "hasn’t yet publicly backed off from the current proposed expansion." Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn acknowledged the impacts of the freeway on public health, saying "[t]he communities along the 710 have been burdened by pollution for decades and the residents have higher rates of asthma, cancer, and other serious health conditions. We shouldn’t burden these families with more pollution." But she didn't reject the expansion altogether, saying adding, "any new lanes added to the 710 would only be for zero emissions cars and trucks." 

East Yards Communities for Environmental Justice Co-Executive Director Laura Cortez praised Omishakin's statement: "Caltrans stopping this iteration of the 710 project is a huge win for communities along the corridor. We continue to look to Metro to agree with stopping the current 710 project and co-lead a plan forward with community that is truly zero-emissions focused."

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Published on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 in LA Streetsblog
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