As Long Beach Settles Lawsuit Over 405 Expansion, Future Residents Remain Screwed

We should all have been happy when Long Beach sued Caltrans and the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) over the latter’s $1.7B project to expand the 405 Freeway from Route 73 in Costa Mesa until it hits the wonderful bottleneck nightmare that is the 450/22/605 junction in Long Beach.

The crux of the suit, however, was not to try to shut down the project but rather, argue over who should cover the costs of road improvements in Long Beach that will be affected by the project.

This is frustrating not only because Caltrans and OCTA actually had the audacity to say it was Long Beach’s responsibility for a bad design choice they’re making—hence the suit—but that no municipality or transit authority is admitting that one very blunt fact.

Those pesky, academically-backed research papers filled those equally pesky things called facts? They show time and time again that expanding freeways exacerbate traffic, congestion, and pollution while negatively impact the future generations of those who live around the freeways. (This isn’t to mention the advent of self-driving cars that will unquestionably be taking over the future along with mass transit.)

Click here for a ton of research links that proves this. (And one of which was supported by Caltrans itself and noted that “numerous studies have examined the effectiveness of this approach and consistently show that adding capacity to roadways fails to alleviate congestion for long because it actually increases vehicle miles traveled.”)

So instead of trying to get an inter-regional connector that could take folks all the way from Irvine to Westwood—by simply making the expansion transit-oriented and preparing for, y’know, the future—authorities are just shruggin’ their shoulders and giving us a small stretch of a bike lane (yay!), some median improvements, and some turn lane extensions for $13M.

Here is the entire list of improvements:

  • Willow & Los Coyotes: Add 2nd left-turn lane to eastbound and southbound approaches
  • Los Coyotes & Bellflower: Modify median and add 2nd northbound and westbound left-turn lane
  • Willow & Bellflower: Modify median and add 2nd left-turn lane to eastbound approach
  • Pacific Coast Hwy at 7th & Bellflower: Modify median, add 2nd left-turn lane to northbound approach, widen to align EB lanes across intersection
  • 7th St. east of Bellflower: Modify median and modify refuge island to add 2nd left-turn lane to WB approach
  • 7th St. west of Bellflower: Widen to add 2nd left-turn lane and align through lanes for eastbound vehicles
  • Bellflower, south of 7th St.: remove southbound #3 lane and add bike lane
  • 22 Fwy/Studebaker: Improvements to address traffic and safety issues at the 22 Freeway on/off ramp at Studebaker/College Park Dr.
  • 7th & PCH: Modify median and add 2nd left-turn lane northbound to westbound
  • PCH & Bellflower: Signal improvements
  • 7th & West Campus: Construct curb extension along south curb
  • 7th & Channel: Modify medians and add 2nd left-turn lanes to eastbound and westbound approaches
  • 7th & East Campus: Extend eastbound left-turn lane

But hey… We got a bike lane and extended turn lanes in exchange for increased traffic, congestion, pollution, and zero transit preference on a main arterial between Long Beach and Orange County.

To view Caltrans’ take on the project, click here.

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 16 nominations and two additional wins for Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET and Best Blog for Longbeachize, a section of the Long Beach Post. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.