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200 in East L.A. Air Concerns About Freeway Expansion

May 16, 2003|Hilda Munoz | Times Staff Writer

A public hearing Thursday on plans to expand the Long Beach Freeway drew about 200 people in East Los Angeles, many expressing anger and confusion about the potential loss of homes and businesses.

"We are very comfortable living in the City of Commerce," said Jose Gonzalez, a 42-year-old truck driver. "We don't know what will happen if this expansion happens.... Will we have to find another house, or will someone provide some kind of help?"

Leticia Villa, 67, whose house is below the Long Beach Freeway in Commerce, said the project "has to be done. But there are ways to do this without getting rid of homes."

For two years, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has studied the idea of expanding an 18-mile stretch of freeway between East Los Angeles and Long Beach.

State Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), who represents many of the affected residents, said she organized the meeting at Brooklyn Elementary School and demanded that transportation officials explain their plans to the community.

"We said, 'If you're going to expand the 710 and take homes, you better come to East L.A. and have a meeting and explain what you've been doing for two years,' " Romero said.

Transportation officials say the project would ease some of the traffic congestion caused by growing numbers of cargo trucks heading to and from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Adding lanes to the Long Beach Freeway and other improvements would, under the most ambitious scenario, mean removing up to 700 homes and 259 businesses.

But many residents of Commerce, Bell Gardens and Long Beach say taking out that many structures for the freeway would be unacceptable and have flocked to meetings to voice their opposition. Meetings for similar plans involving the Ventura Freeway have drawn mixed reactions from residents and weary commuters in the San Fernando Valley.

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