Freeway committee studies list of proposed projects

By Alfredo Santana

Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES — A preliminary list of projects to combat pollution, ease traffic and improve public transportation along the south corridor of Long Beach (710) Freeway was unveiled for further study at the latest community leadership committee meeting.

The 94-project lineup includes proposals that have already completed engineer and environmental studies from agencies or local jurisdictions, and new drafts that may require further analysis if recommended for the investment plan by the freeway task force and the community leadership committee. 

Some are umbrella projects, meaning that they encompass multiple initiatives within the same one, whereas others, like the so-called Route 1, call for upgrading communication systems and rehabilitate transportation management systems like video cameras, ramp meters and changeable message signs on e-billboards along the 19-mile corridor.

The investment projects are subdivided in categories such as arterial roadway, community programs, goods movement, transit and freeway.

If the umbrella projects are accounted for, the preliminary lists swells to more than 200 initiatives, according to a public document drafted by staff from an eight-member team composed of officials from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and meeting facilitators. 

“This initial list was compiled by the project team based on ideas submitted over the past few months from the community, input from the [community leadership committee], task force and working groups, the online survey and map, discussions with local agencies, public workshops and other sources,” said KeAndra Cylear Dodds, the MTA’s executive officer of equity and race, in an email sent to registered attendants. 

For example, the first project in the active transportation bracket titled L.A. River Path to Central LA, calls for an eight-mile bicycle and pedestrian path gap closure between Elysian Valley and Maywood. 

That project is supported by surveys the agency conducted through its interactive website that collected comments and gathered feedback from residents, employers and employees and other stakeholders. 

The same project received many suggestions from social maps during a period of comments that extended through November on the corridor’s website. 

Erika Morales, a partner with the firm Morales + Morales who also serves as a meeting facilitator, said the MTA conducted and collected more than 2,495 surveys and map responses related to a myriad of pedestrian and transit points within the 710 south corridor that stretches from Long Beach to the intersection with the Pomona (60) Freeway in East Los Angeles.

The main goal at the meeting was to ensure community leadership committee members understood how the list was assembled based on its content, and to conduct a preliminary discussion on the projects, Morales said.  

Morales said the list would be reviewed throughout January.

Another pitched project to be considered to tame air pollution is the West Santa Ana Branch Bike and Pedestrian Trail, submitted by the city of Paramount in conjunction with the Gateway Cities of Governments.

This proposal falls under the active transportation category, and seeks funding for a bike and pedestrian pathway drawn next to the future light rail tracks from the Los Angeles River to Somerset Boulevard.   

In contrast, other initiatives arrived from thousands of suggestions made on the interactive map that joined ideas collected from a blend of digital and paper surveys conducted at in-person meetings. 

In the arterial roadway category, one worth highlighting is titled the “traffic calming” project. 

The task contains several features to slow traffic on local streets or near schools with signs, enforcement devices, speed bumps, roundabouts, enforcement cameras and road striping. 

That proposal would ban big trucks from designated residential streets, and includes geofencing alerts that would be funded by a partnership of local cities and unincorporated portions of Los Angeles County.

During the meeting, facilitators stressed that projects inked with blue background, such as the calming traffic, cover a larger geographical area and are more complex in scope. 

The blue colored projects are “meant to have a long life,” so that communities can continue to identify new issues within the span of several years and be flexible in terms of fund allocations and distribution to correct emerging troubles, the document said. 

And a project titled “economic stabilization policies” under the community programs tag, calls for a coalition of local and county agencies to work together to propose and pass policies to “support disadvantaged communities” within 1.5 miles east and west of the freeway. 

Devised by a 14-member ad-hoc committee from the Gateway Cities of Governments, the proposal lists a series of processes to establish frameworks for new developments, form community land and bank trusts for new affordable housing and encourage down payment aid programs for homeownership and maintenance. 

That project also pitches the creation of anti-discrimination and anti-displacement legal assistance, legal help for tenants, limits on housing demolition and conversion, policies for the rights of tenants to return, and local residents’ preferences for new housing.

In addition, the project aims to phase-in anti-displacement programs for homeowners, tax relief plans reinforced with loans and grants for maintenance and foreclosure, and a basic income program. 

Other projects in the same category propose targeted hire programs, employment and recruitment initiatives and vocational education programs. 

According to MTA representatives, any infrastructure proposal for the I-710 south corridor must meet guidelines found in the vision statement and guiding principles of equity and sustainability and aim to improve air quality, mobility, be positive for the community, provide safer environments, create job and economic opportunities, encourage prosperity and be positive for the environment. 

The corridor’s investment plan has secured $730 million in funding from Measures R and M, and a total of $1.09 billion has been earmarked to overhaul transportation in the busy corridor.

At previous meetings, MTA Executive Officer Michael Cano had said that the money raised for the corridor’s projects pales in comparison to the amounts required to switch fleets of diesel trucks transporting goods from the twin ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles to electric powered units, and for their charging stations.

In a related matter, four new community leadership committee members were installed by the corridor’s task force and were introduced to the panel, an assignment that fills 28 of 30 seats. 

The new members are Marjorie Wall from Downey, Aide Castro from Lynwood, Andras Duarte, a resident of Montebello, and Dora Douglas from the industrial city of Vernon. 

All the newly selected representatives had been approved by the task force at the first in-person gathering alongside community leadership committee members held at a public auditorium in South Gate, with the two vacant slots belonging to Bellflower and one at-large post.

Aiming to fill the at-large seat, community leadership committee member and Compton representative Phyllis Ollison nominated Susan Adams, also a fellow Compton resident. 

Ultimately, the corridor’s task force will evaluate Adams’ background and vet her qualifications to decide if she can become the new at-large representative.