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From Pasadena to the ports, residents are worried about plans to expand and extend the Long Beach 710 Freeway to the 210 Freeway. Some residents are concerned because their property could become part of the highway. Gordon Tokumatsu reports from Pasadena for NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on August 8, 2012.
Controversy is raging this week at both ends of LA County’s troubled Long Beach Freeway (I-710).
At the southern end, neighbors wonder whether plans to expand the highway and perhaps construct truck-only lanes will help in their years-long struggle to reduce debilitating levels of pollution and congestion along the routes to and from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
At the northern end, residents of South Pasadena fret that after years of delay, the state will finally decide to plow through their quaint neighborhoods with an extension of the freeway all the way to the Foothill Freeway (I-210).
Both plans are up for discussion this week at meetings to be held throughout the region.
Formal public hearings will be held to discuss several ways of improving the freeway between the ports and the Pomona Freeway (S.R. 60).
It’s a stretch of road that has been overwhelmed with traffic for decades, in large part because of the huge container trucks that carry goods to and from the ports. The freeway has more traffic collisions than similar highways in other parts of the state, a problem made more dangerous by the close proximity of cars with the much-larger trucks.
The congestion has led to significant air pollution and health problems along the 710 corridor, because the large trucks are stuck idling sometimes for hours above homes and businesses. Soot and chemicals released by their engines clog the air in the neighborhoods, which have high levels of asthma and cancer.
A number of plans have been suggested, including the possibility of replacing the road's six lanes with fourteen new ones.
In that version, four of the new lanes would be for large trucks only, and there would be five lanes going in each direction for cars and light trucks.
Up to 260 homes and businesses would be impacted, depending on which version of the plan is adopted.
A public hearing to discuss the report was scheduled for Wednesday night at 6 p.m. at the Silverado Park community Center at 1545 W. 31st Street in Long Beach. Another public hearing is scheduled for Aug. 9 at 4 p.m. at Rosewood Park, 5600 Harbor Street in Commerce.
The public hearings mark the beginning of a formal process that will take years to complete. CalTrans does not expect to begin work on improving the freeway to the ports until at least 2020.
At other end of the county in the San Gabriel Valley, residents of Pasadena, South Pasadena and Alhambra have battled for decades over plans to expand the freeway northward.
One Pasadena resident is so upset, she has begun a campaign in her garage to stop the two plans that could involve her neighborhood.
"We're not leaving Pasadena," said resident Rhonda Dagher. "We not giving up on our community."
But Metro officials say no one plan has been chosen, yet.
"We are still studying all alternatives," according to Metro Spokeswoman, Helen Ortiz Gilstrap. "No decisions have been made, and we welcome their input."
Informal community meetings to discuss alternatives – including an unusual plan to tunnel under South Pasadena – are being held in several cities over the next two weeks.
Meetings held on Wednesday, Aug. 8, include one at the Scottish Rite Center in Pasadena, 150 N. Madison Avenue, at 6:30 p.m.