The progress demanded by commerce must be balanced with the impact this development has on our community-especially when the population’s health has already been negatively affected by the current conditions.
A case in point is a project to expand the Long Beach (710) Freeway in response to the growing need to transport products arriving at the Port of Long Beach, from where they are distributed nationwide. State authorities estimate that currently, 14 million trucks cover the stretch from the port to East Los Angeles, and this number is expected to reach 43 million over the next two decades.
The project’s details have not been defined yet. Several options are now being considered in community meetings and hearings. What is for sure is that the project will mean a considerable increase in the number of freeway lanes, especially trucks-only lanes.
The traffic on this freeway has made it one of the country’s most polluted freeways, and neighboring communities already suffer high levels of respiratory diseases and childhood asthma.
To that end, Caltrans recently presented an environmental impact report in which it said that the freeway expansion would “improve air quality and public health” as well as provide numerous advantages to the neighboring community.
No one shares this unusual optimism. Health specialists are simply questioning how it is possible to increase the presence of pollutant gases and decrease the health risks. Meanwhile, local environmental authorities are complaining because Caltrans has not submitted documentation to back such a positive analysis.
This is a major project whose construction will mean tearing down at least 200 homes and businesses. During the construction stage, there will already be air and noise pollution.
And while this construction is necessary for the economy, the community that is affected by it should receive equal priority. Caltrans should show that this is more than just a freeway expansion, but also local development. However, it is still very far from showing that.