Long Beach, Pasadena Among California Cities Getting Federal Funding To Ease Traffic Pollution
With landmark federal policies such as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act, there’s more federal money than ever before going to states to help them deal with the impacts and causes of climate change.
The Reconnecting Communities Program is one new fund established by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. It aims to repair the unequal damage done to communities by freeways and the polluting traffic that comes with them.
California’s transportation sector produces the majority of the state’s carbon pollution. More than 40% of California’s planet-heating emissions are spewed from the tailpipes of cars, trucks and big rigs on our highways and roads. Experts say not only do we need to electrify cars and trucks, but we also need to do a lot more to help people get around without an automobile.
Two Southern California cities received funding in this first round. Long Beach will get $30 million to expand Cesar Chavez Park and move traffic lanes farther from two elementary schools along a section of street that was going to be part of the expanded 710 Freeway. Pasadena will get $2 million to redesign the stub of the 710 Freeway in the city.
Both projects address the legacy of the now-abandoned efforts to expand the 710 Freeway, which cradles the traffic that spews a massive amount of Southern California’s infamous smog.
According to Metro officials, the largely diesel big rig truck traffic on the 710 corridor alone accounts for 20% of health-harming air pollution in all of Southern California. And the impacts of that pollution are exceedingly unequal: 83% of the more than a million people living closest to the 710 Freeway identify as Black or Hispanic, according to Metro.
Overwhelming public resistance shelved efforts to expand the corridor by 2018. It was the end of a decades-long fight by community members and environmental justice advocates to end the legacy of freeways in the area. The expansion would have cost more than $6 billion, led to demolished homes and increased diesel truck traffic significantly.
The cancellation of those projects left a “stub” of a freeway in Pasadena and an essentially extended freeway off-ramp in Long Beach that’s become a safety hazard for local residents.
That funding is only the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to transforming our car-centric transportation system and addressing the unequal impacts of pollution across the L.A. region, according to Carter Rubin, senior transportation lead with the Natural Resources Defense Council. Of more than 50 projects that sought funding in California, only four were awarded any in this round (along with Pasadena and Long Beach, projects in Fresno and San Jose will also get funded).
“It shows that there is an unmet need for projects that connect communities rather than divide them,” said Rubin. “We'll hopefully showcase to the state legislature, which allocates a lot of transportation infrastructure money, as well as to Congress that this is a program type that they should be investing in more and expanding.”
You can see the full list of funded projects here and learn more about Reconnecting Communities here.
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