By Alfredo Santana
LOS ANGELES — Six vacant seats out of 30 would be reassigned pending approval by the 710 Freeway task force as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority mulls changes to increase participation on how to improve the south corridor’s emissions and traffic.
The item was approved by at least 23 taskforce members in an open vote conducted at the sixth freeway corridor task force meeting March 14.
Task force members want the open seats be assigned to residents of East Los Angeles, Long Beach and Commerce that bear more of the traffic congestions and carbon emissions due to freeway bottlenecks.
Jessica Medina, a community strategist for the MTA, said the transit agency received nearly 300 applications to fill the community leadership committee posts prior to the Feb. 18 deadline.
All the applicants incurred vetting based on residential or business proximity to the freeway and had to write a statement on visions and goals to get rid of carbon emissions, reduce traffic and improve heath and public transit.
“We had a meeting with 27 participants, with 12 task force members and 15 from the public,” Medina said. “The selected population is from highly impacted corridor [zones], like residents near intermodal yards.”
Communities with intermodal facilities, or those involving the movement of goods stored in containers that transfer to other shipping units like railcars and trucks, received an extra seat.
For instance, East Los Angeles and Long Beach earned three seats each, Lynwood received two and Bell, Bell Gardens, Boyle Heights, Carson, Commerce, Compton, Cudahy, Downey, Signal Hill, South Gate, Maywood, Huntington Park, Paramount, San Pedro, Wilmington and Walnut Park received one each.
Nobody applied from Bellflower, East Rancho Dominguez, Lakewood, Montebello and Vernon. There is one at-large position that is also vacant.
KeAndra Cylear Dodds, executive officer of equity and race at MTA, said the newly selected committee members will be tasked with resolving the allocation and selection of the missing members, possibly on March 31 at 5 p.m.
“The first meeting will have to identify and determine how to fill the seats,” Dodds said.
Luke Klipp, senior transportation deputy for county Supervisor Janice Hahn, asked MTA officials to reach out to non-represented communities before new members are approved, and floated the possibility that cities non-aligned along the freeway may not be aware of the process.
“They may [join] if they know they may be part of this process,” even though they do not live near the corridor communities, Klipp said.
Ben Feldman, special projects deputy with Supervisor Hilda Solis, said cities like Commerce are heavily impacted by big rig traffic in relation to its total number of residents, and more than one seat may be needed.
“The impact is sheer in [the north of] Commerce compared to its population,” Feldman said. “The intensity of the I-710 impact at the Washington Boulevard onramp and its adjacent off ramp, and the traffic that travels through Commerce is heavily disproportionate to the population,”
A proposal was floated to strip Vernon, an industrial hub city with only 200 residents of its allocated seat, unless a resident or a worker who commutes daily to work there applies and passes vetting.
Klipp also questioned the at-large slot, and pressed that Long Beach would incur up to 40% of all particle mitigation and overall corridor improvements in its central and north districts.
“I want to find out if it’s proper to open a discussion how to open those seats,” he said.
Maywood Mayor Elizabeth Alcantar said that equity and impact are not correlated along the freeway corridor.
“Southeast Los Angeles communities are highly impacted by the corridor,” Alcantar said in reference to cities that the freeway runs through that only have one seat each on the committee.
Community member Sylvia Betancourt urged committee members to assign the empty seats to communities that are more impacted by the heavy traffic and growing pollution.
Michael Cano, interim executive officer of county planning and development with the MTA, said that a full committee gathering, originally planned in April, would be postponed until May.
He briefed the audience with preliminary results of a survey released last month that seeks to gather proposals on how to tackle air quality degradation while making public transportation, health and other issues along the corridor more efficient and economical.
As of March 8, Cano received 60 filled surveys, 54 from the public and six from task force members in a format with three open questions.
Of them, 62.5% said air quality is the major concern, followed by 47.3% on community health, 45.5% referred to the environment, and 42.5% picked street safety for all.
“We have a lot of people who live and study or shop in the study area, and also travel to the study area,” Cano said.
Data from the survey indicates that 48% of the respondents are white, 32% are Latinos, and 10% are Black.
Cano said the number of respondents is low, and does not correlate with the population figures of communities impacted by the freeway.
He floated the idea to launch an advertising campaign with flyers, meeting announcements and public workshops on social media and other avenues to get more input from direct stakeholders.
“The survey itself is very helpful, but it’s not the only avenue,” Cano said. “We are trying to cast a wider net. One of the things we want to do is not to repeat the mistakes we did before.”
The survey is available at www.bitly/710VisionSurvey.com, and will be available through March 25.