A controversial project to widen a heavily trafficked freeway in Los Angeles County sputtered to a surprising halt earlier this month. Transportation officials had been expected to choose between two expansion plans for the 710 freeway in southeast L.A. County. Instead, the board of Metro, the county’s transit agency, voted to move ahead with some improvements while tabling the controversial $6 billion scheme to add an additional lane in each direction from Long Beach to East L.A.
In an (in)famously sprawling metropolis where the freeway network doubles as civic iconography, the 710 expansion had been framed as a referendum of sorts on Southern California’s mobility priorities. The original midcentury creation of L.A.’s freeway system left a bitter legacy of displacement, and the very same (largely minority) communities that were sliced and diced for that construction have been battered by the adverse environmental effects of freeway proximity. The 710 freeway corridor—dubbed the “diesel death zone” for its traffic-related health impacts—stands as Exhibit A for that phenomenon, and community groups had vocally opposed and organized against the expansion plans for many years.