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    In Depth

    Key Gateway Cities Panel Backs I-710 Expansion Plan, Stops Short of Tier 2 Recommendation To Condition Project On Meeting Fed'l & State Air Quality Stds. First


    710 COG meeting Nov. 18/04(November 19, 2004) -- In an action that could affect human health and regional growth for years to come, the Gateway Cities Council of Governments' (COG) I-710 Oversight Policy Committee (OPC) (comprised of government officials) has voted unanimously to support a "locally preferred strategy" to expand 710 freeway capacity, in some areas with up to 14 lanes, including dedicated truck lanes.

    In a closely watched companion action, the OPC stopped short of adopting a key Tier 2 (non-government) consensus report recommendation that the I-710 project be conditioned on first achieving corridor air quality that meets current federal and state clean air standards. Instead, the OPC voted to agree with parts of the Tier 2 report that said air quality is the number one public health issue in the I-710 corridor and a "first step" must be development of an "action plan" to improve air quality and development of such a plan must begin at once.

    The Ports of LB and L.A. and City of Downey voted to support the OPC action but explicitly stated reservations for the record. The Ports of LB and L.A. said the Tier 2 report should be addressed as part of the future EIR process, an informational document.

    Gateway COG OPC members said they are committed to addressing air quality within the I-710 expansion project.

    Roughly 80 people filled the Carson Community Center for the November 18 OPC meeting. LBReport.com. provides detailed coverage below.

    Oversight Policy Committee members' discussion

    710 COG meeting Nov. 18/04OPC co-chair, LB Councilman Frank Colonna, moved approval of items (including the Tier 2 report) as spelled out by COG staff in written materials quoted below.

    "I am very pleased about the results that we've got. As we all know, it's not exactly a perfect document but nothing usually ever is, but at least it's going to get us started to the next level," said co-chair Colonna.

    As described by COG staff, the Tier 2 report prominently stated that in the I-710 Corridor "health is the overriding consideraton" and "Air quality is the number one public health issue" and "the first strategies in improving air quality, and thereby public health must be to develop an action plan to improve air quality in the corridor"; and "[i]mplement a corridor level action plan to improve community air quality."

    COG staff's written materals didn't cite Tier 2 language which declared, "Major infrastructure improvements must be conditioned on achieving air quality goals to protect public health; corridor air quality must comply with county, state and federal standards prior to the start of mainline construction and the entire project taken as a whole must result in a net reduction in criteria pollutants."

    OPC staff proposed the following findings: "The OPC agrees with the Tier 2 Committee that air quality is the number one public health issue in the I-710 Corridor...[and agrees] that a first step must be the development of an action plan to improve air quality in the Corridor; the OPC finds thjat the development of such a Plan must begin at once."

    OPC staff proposed that the OPC direct the full Gateway Cities COG to provide recommendations for implementing a corridor level Air Quality Action Plan to include the following objectives:

    1. Determine nd quantify existing air and health quality setting;

    2. Determine effectiveness of planned near-term air quality improvements;

    3. Analyze and determine possible new (or emerging) air quality improvements or strategies, including estimating costs, time-lines and responsibilities;

    4. Develop conceptual plan to implement and measure air quality improvements for the region; and

    5. Work with Regional, State and Federal Agencies responsible for air pollution control and enforcement and industry stakeholders along with local communities to develop consensus for this plan

    COG staff's recommended action was:

    It is recommended that the OPC request the Gateway Cities Council of Governments to return with suggested steps for initiating the development and implementation of a corridor level Air Quality Action Plan

    Co-chair Colonna moved approval of the COG staff proposed items.

    710 COG meeting Nov. 18/04OPC member Hector De La Torre -- a South Gate Councilman just elected in November 2004 to the CA Assembly -- said the Tier 2 document and some of its recommendations are "unprecedented for what is essentially, at its core, a public works project. This has gone in a positive way beyond a public works project." He said he wanted to go beyond staff's recommended action by adding the following verbiage:

    [...of a corridor level Air Quality Action Plan] "to include not only technical, but also funding, institutional structure and legislative strategies as well as an approach to holding involved public agencies accountable for progress in meeting air quality and public health objectives in the corridor and region."

    Assemblyman-elect De La Torre added, "We need to take it one step further than what was suggested by staff, to make a clearer statement of where we're going in terms of strategy, in terms of structure, for making these things happen."

    Co-chair Colonna accepted the amended verbiage.

    710 COG meeting Nov. 18/04On behalf of the Port of LB (an OPC member), LB Harbor Commission President John Calhoun (photo foreground, wearing glasses) said [as previously reported by LBReport.com] that LB's Board of Harbor Commissioners had passed a resolution indicating it is the sense of the LB Board of Harbor Commissioners to move the Tier 2 recommendations forward "as pre-scoping comments on the environmental process and not as requirements or conditions of Harbor Dept. positions or policy."

    Commissioner Calhoun added, "We want to move all of this information...forward for consideration and use in the environmental process, but we don't want my vote to be construed or considered as adopting on the behalf of the Board of Harbor Commission or the Port of Long Beach, adopting, endorsing, supporting any particular recommendation or condition."

    The Port of L.A.'s representative said his agency concurred with the PoLB reservation "and the same considerations apply to the Port of Los Angeles."

    710 COG meeting Nov. 18/04The City of Downey's representative, Councilman/Mayor Pro Tem Keith McCarthy expressed reservations about the proposed finding that air quality is the number one public health issue in the I-710 corridor. "I understand that air quality is a public health issue but I don't know if it's the number one public health issue. I would think vehicle safety and collisions somehow have to compete with that...I just have a hard time making that statement."

    Councilman McCarthy asked if the OPC had information that indicates that more than vehicle collisions, body damage, vehicle safety that air quality is a greater public health concern. The audience responded, "yes, yes." When advised that the Tier 2 committee had made that finding, Councilman McCarthy said, "I would like some objective information before I agree that that's the case." Other OPC members, representing other cities, said public testimony had been overwhelming on this point. Councilman Colonna said that while the I-710's new design is expected to address safety problems, "We are really being overwhelmed by our air quality problems." Councilman McCarthy reiterated, "As a public official, making the statement that air quality is the number one public health issue in the corridor, I don't have the evidence to state that. I can say that it's a very important issue, but I don't have the objective information saying that it's the number one issue."

    It was suggested that the Ports, and Councilman McCarthy, could vote "yes" on the recommended actions to produce a strong unified vote after noting their concerns for the record.

    Salient public testimony

    710 COG meeting Nov. 18/04D. Malcolm Carson, Attorney, South Central Community Office, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles: The resolutions that were prepared to you by your staff do not actually reflect...the consensus of the Tier 2 report...Basically we have a situation where the hundreds of hours, maybe even thousands of hours...is potentially getting buried by your staff...

    The Tier 2 CAC reached a consensus that this has to be a freeway improvement project that is conditioned on the achievement of air quality goals. The report talks about the air quality must be in compliance with federal and state standards prior to the start of mainline construction on the freeway. That's what the consensus of the CAC was.

    Before you, you have a resolution calling for the preparation of a "corridor action plan" which is a great thing, and I do support that, and we all support that, but that is not what the CAC report called for in total.

    The resolution before you also talks about forwarding the Tier 2 report to the EIR process for a scoping document. That is a great thing as well, and we definitely support that, but we all know that the EIR and EIS process, that's an informational process. That is not a substantive action process...

    The community did not spend these hours to be rewarded with a "plan" and an environmental disclosure document...[The Tier 2 committee said] no freeway expansion will occur unless and until our air quality meets the minimum standards required for public health under state and federal law...and that's what we're asking you to commit to.

    And to address this issue of "it's not in our jurisdiction,"...there is one thing that is in your jurisdiction for sure: that is whether or not to build the freeway. You collectively control whether or not to build this freeway...

    ...If you want to get this freeway built, we are asking for a commitment that you will build this freeway only after the air quality goals that are outlined in the Tier 2 report, which are just the minimum public health standards required under federal and state law, after those have been achieved within this corridor, then let's move forward on this freeway.

    710 COG meeting Nov. 18/04Noel Park: ...The only tool that the CAC has to work with is to withhold its approval, and so the reason that these things were put forward as conditions and not as recommendations is because the CAC feels very passionately that they are necessary to accomplish before the freeway construction goes forward.

    And the only way that the CAC has to, if not enforce that, to at least encourage that is to withhold its approval, and that if these conditions are not accepted that, my sense of the CAC, and the reason for the word "conditions" is that the CAC will then decline to support the project, in which case you will have the political situation on your hands of your Community Advisory Committee declining to support your project...

    ...This [Tier 2 document] is a consensus report...The issues of environmental justice here are profound. There will never be a stronger example of the concept of environmental justice than there is here...We have to change the paradigm of how these thigns are done. If we're going to accomplish this, and if this freeway is going to get built, the only model of "notice of prepartion," "draft environmental impact report," "public comment," "final impact report," "if you don't like it, sue us," is not going to work. It's not going to happen. I offer for your consideration the 105 freeway, which took something on the order of 17 years from being proposed to the start of construction. This is four or five times the effort of the 105 freeway...Every public interest law group is looking at this project and if these things are not taken forward as recommended by your CAC, this project is not going to happen.

    [Among those also testifying on importance of air quality, Dr. Elisa Nicholas, M.D., project director for the LB Alliance for Children With Asthma, Chief of Staff Miller Children's Hospital.

    Multiple members of the public testify on importance of air quality. Statements include "you're killing us"; "health is more important than transportation"; area has become "a dumping ground"; "if you're part of your community, treat these [Tier 2 report] as your words and discuss ways to do them, not discuss ways to not do them"]

    Councilmember Nancy Ramos, City of Commerce: ...If we the local electeds don't have jurisdiction, who does? Who has jurisdiction over our community if we don't? [applause]...

    Prior to the vote, co-chair Colonna said, "I think we all are of the same intent, and that is to support the Tier 2 objectives, as well as the Tier 1...I think that we're all where we want to be, and we have assured the public that that's our objective...I do think we need to move forward...as opposed to doing nothing at all, and that's what my concern is. There are members of the public who would want to support a "no build," which would mean basically that we would continue to smother under the conditions under which we're living right now, which I think is the whole reason that we're here, is to move this forward to a better day for the entire region, and my opinion is to move forward with it."

    The OPC vote was unanimous to approve COG staff's recommended actions (with the health/air quality item as amended by Assemblyman-elect De La Torre) and the Ports of LB and L.A., and City of Downey, noting their previously indicated reservations.

    After the vote

    LB Wrigley area resident Regina Taylor attended the COG meeting and told LBReport.com after the vote:

    "I'm extremely disappointed in their action in that they were very quick verbally to assure us that they will do the best by the community but they were not willing to put it in writing, because they know it's going to be watered down as it goes upstream, and now you've got to send a real, clear, strong message: you can't have an expansion without addressing the air quality issues. It's putting the cart before the horse."

    Two days earlier, Ms. Taylor attended the November 16 LB City Council meeting at which 7th district Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga agendized recommendations from the Council's 710 Oversight Committee (which Councilwoman Reyes Uranga chairs). Ms. Taylor urged the Council to strengthen language proposed by Councilwoman Reyes Uranga which sought to have the OPC approve the Tier 2 report "as guidance for the environmental analysis in the next phase of the process of examining potential improvements to the 1-710 Corridor; and...that the issues, concerns, and recommendations set forth in the Tier 2 report be fully analyzed, evaluated and considered and appropriate mitigations of the impacts upon the environment, community and residents set forth therein be identified in conjunction with the next phase of the process of examining potential improvements to the 1-710 corridor."

    Ms. Taylor argued that the Council resolution should make the 710 expansion strategy contingent on meeting air quality goals to protect public health. "Any acceptance and implementation of the LPS [locally preferred strategy for 710 expansion] should be contingent on meeting air quality goals to protect public health. Unless this condition is stated more strongly up front, it provides far too much wiggle room when it goes to the Gateway COG [on November 18]...I am asking that you re-consider & re-word the [Council] resolution so as to make the acceptance of the design concepts contingent on meeting Tier 2 recommendations on air quality," Ms. Taylor advised.

    LB Councilmembers didn't agree to Ms. Taylor's suggested verbiage...and Councilman Colonna's position at the OPC meeting was consistent with the position adopted by the Council in its November 16 resolution.

    Salient Portions of Tier 2 Report

    Below are some salient portions of the Tier 2 report:

    Executive Summary

    INTRODUCTION

    This report presents the final consensus resulting from nine months of deliberations by a broad-based group appointed by I-710 corridor communities and the I-710 Oversight Policy Committee. Known as the Tier 2 Committee, this group represented a broad base of interests, including local communities, academic, environmental, business, community and environmental justice. The most directly impacted communities in the corridor were invited to form community-level committees (known as the Tier 1 Committees). The chairs of these committees were also represented on the Tier 2 Committee, along with a representative named by each City Council in the remaining corridor cities.

    The following guiding principles define the priorities of the Tier 2 Committee and reflect the consensus that emerged during this process:

    1. This is a corridor -- considerations go beyond the freeway and infrastructure.

    2. Health is the overriding consideration.

    3. Every action should be viewed as an opportunity for repair and improvement of the current situation.

    The Committee recognizes that something must be done to address the current congestion and design of the I-710 freeway. The high number of trucks on the freeway uses up capacity and the mix of cars and trucks poses a serious safety concern. The committee agrees that the hybrid design concept presented could accomplish maximum build out in a manner that reflects the Tier 1 CACs’ concerns and recommendations for their communities, with the exception of the City of Commerce and East Los Angeles area, which require further study. However, the I-710 corridor is more than just a place for trucks to pass through on their way to their final destination. It is the location of our homes, businesses, schools, parks, and lives. Today, particulates and other pollutants from diesel truck traffic in the I-710 Corridor and the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles are our communities’ primary air-quality-related health concern. Therefore, the conditions for major infrastructure improvements must be as follows:

    1. Implement a corridor level action plan to improve community air quality.

    2. Major infrastructure improvements must be conditioned on achieving air quality goals to protect public health; corridor air quality must comply with county, state and federal standards prior to the start of mainline construction and the entire project taken as a whole must result in a net reduction in criteria pollutants.

    3. Prior to the initiation of the environmental review process, all Tier 1 Community Advisory Committees must have formally endorsed the freeway improvement design concept.

    4. Prior to adopting a preferred alternative the OPC must conduct a study and cost benefit analysis of potential goods movement alternatives as an alternative to increasing the capacity of the I-710 Freeway.

    5. A study of the impact of construction on air quality, traffic, congestion, noise and impact on surrounding communities must be conducted, and if construction does go forward, specific mitigation plans must be developed and put into effect during the construction process to minimize and mitigate the impact of construction on the surrounding communities.

    6. Major infrastructure improvements must be conditioned on achieving a net decrease in noise impacts upon the affected communities.

    The Committee recognizes that certain aspects of the design concepts, particularly for designated on-ramps, may be appropriate for implementation prior to addressing the "mainline" issues. However, these improvements cannot be constructed in isolation from all of the other recommendations such as public health, community enhancement, and noise abatement. The I-710 design must take into account the safety and quality of life of the communities in the corridor, including provisions for greenbelts and open space...

    HEALTH

    Air quality is the number one public health issue. Poor air quality has had significant negative impacts on public, economic, environmental and community health in the corridor. Particulates and other pollutants from diesel truck traffic in the I-710 Corridor and the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are our communities’ primary air-qualityrelated health concern. The first consideration for approval of any improvements within the I-710 corridor must be the project’s ability to reduce air quality impacts. Therefore, these steps must be taken before construction can begin on the “mainline” project to reduce air pollution.

    The Tier 2 Committee recommends the following air quality improvement strategies:

    1. Develop an action plan to improve air quality in the corridor.

    2. Implement a corridor level action plan to improve community air quality.

    3. Implement local alternative fuels/electrification and/or hydrogen policies and programs to reduce diesel emissions.

    4. Pursue opportunities for incremental improvements.

    5. Implement port-specific air quality improvement strategies.

    ...

    SAFETY

    The I-710 corridor is one of the most unsafe freeways in the State. Increasing truck traffic, conflicts between cars and trucks, aging infrastructure, and outdated design are all contributing causes to accidents in and around the freeway. The high concentration of older trucks, which frequently become disabled, poses a significant safety hazard, as do truck intrusions into nearby communities and neighborhoods. Just as the Alameda Corridor helped reduce conflicts between trains and automobiles, any improvements to the I-710 corridor must resolve the inherent conflicts between automobiles and trucks.

    The Tier 2 Committee recommends the following safety improvement strategies:

    1. Continue support and implementation of safety programs.

    2. Increase enforcement of traffic and vehicle safety laws and regulations.

    3. Increase public and trucker education on safety and neighborhood issues.

    4. Implement infrastructure improvements.

    5. Separate trucks and cars.

    NOISE

    Excessive noise is a serious public health concern in the corridor and cannot be resolved by simply building more sound walls. A comprehensive analysis of noise along the corridor must lead to a plan that recognizes the health impacts to our communities and seeks to resolve those impacts by providing appropriate relief. Major infrastructure improvements must be conditioned on achieving a net decrease in noise impact upon the affected communities.

    The Tier 2 Committee recommends the following noise control strategies:

    1. Provide appropriate and effective sound walls to reduce noise impacts to neighborhoods and schools adjacent to the freeway.

    2. Implement noise mitigation programs.

    3. Conduct a study to assess how truck traffic from extended gate hours for trucks and 24/7 port operations will impact communities, and assess what mitigations may be appropriate.

    ...

    ORGANIZATION AND PROCESS

    To ensure that the work of the Tier 2 Committee is carried forward as set forth in the full report, a task force of representatives from the Tier 2 CAC, the OPC and the TAC should be established to plan and oversee the implementation of the conditions and recommendations of the Tier 2 CAC.

    The Tier 2 Committee recommends the following organization and process strategies:

    1. This Tier 2 Report will be formally "agendized" and presented to the OPC when it convenes in September 2004 for its consideration and decision. All Tier 2 members will be invited to the OPC meeting, and the presentation of the Tier 2 report will be delivered by a representative group of Tier 2 spokespersons.

    2. Following the OPC’s meeting, there will be a follow-up meeting(s) of the Tier 2 Committee to discuss actions taken by the OPC.

    3. Prior to the beginning of any formal EIR for the I-710 Major Corridor Study, Metro (MTA) and the Gateway Cities COG will work with the communities, appropriate agencies, organizations and community groups in developing a collaborative process for community participation in the environmental review process. This process will continue to work collaboratively throughout the EIR process.

    CONCLUSIONS AND NEXT STEPS

    This report is hereby presented by the Tier 2 CAC to the I-710 Oversight Policy Committee. The Committee expects that its recommendations will be carried forward by the OPC, the Gateway Cities COG, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) and the California State Department of Transportation (Caltrans). Further, we expect our recommendations to be used as required guidance in the planning and development of future corridor improvements. The Committee and the communities we represent expect to have continued formal and meaningful participation in the I-710 corridor improvement process and look forward to working with the OPC and future project sponsors toward an improved and revitalized I-710 Corridor.

    The full 80 page Tier 2 report can be viewed at: Tier 2 Advisory Committee Final Report (pdf file)


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