LONG BEACH - The long and winding road that has been the proposal to widen the Long Beach (710) Freeway just got a little bit longer and windier.
On Tuesday at a meeting of the Long Beach City Council I-710 Oversight Committee, Jerry Wood, consultant for the Gateway City Council of Governments said because of numerous changes that have occurred in recent years to assumptions on the project, it was being recommended that updated reports be recirculated for public review and comment.
The new reports will delay the project, which is already almost a decade behind its original schedule, another year to 18 months, he said.
State officials say the expansion, which would extend 17 miles from Long Beach to the Pomona (60) Freeway, is needed because the 14 million truckloads coming and going from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are expected to grow to 43 million per year in two decades, overwhelming existing infrastructure.
Wood said the recommendation would be made to the Project Committee at its meeting at 6:30 p.m. today at the Gateway Cities Council of Governments Offices, 16401 Paramount Blvd., in Paramount.
If the report is recirculated, a second draft environmental impact report would be drawn up and and a final EIR with recommendations would be released, "hopefully by 2014," according to Wood.
The recirculated document likely won't be ready until the end of 2013 or, more likely, according to Wood, early 2014. It would be followed by 60 to 90 days of public comment.
Public comment on the initial draft EIR ended last September with more than 3,000 public comments and hundreds of letters.
Wood said that in the past five years, while plans for the freeway expansion were being drafted, many factors have changed, including the plan to rebuild the Gerald Desmond bridge at the south end of the project; changing standards and assumptions of travel; and the loss of availability of land, such as the previously abandoned Occidental Petroleum oil fields that are now back in use.
Other new issues include moving Southern California Edison utilities for the expansion, concerns about encroachment on the Los Angeles River and even new requirements that a plan be financially feasible before it is recommended.
Among Wood's revelations of new assumptions is that the original plan to expand the freeway to 10 lanes in Long Beach no longer seemed necessary and that eight lanes were enough.
Councilman James Johnson also noted that the project has changed drastically over its 10 years and is remarkably complex.
The proposal to recirculate the report was welcome news to the three-member oversight committee.
Long Beach Director of Development Services Amy Bodek told the committee that the city is recommending that the environmental report have the longest possible public review period, 90 days.
"We felt the EIR was flawed," Bodek said.
In September, the City of Long Beach issued a 61-page letter in response to the first draft EIR, the primary comment being that the document needed to be recirculated and stressing the need to better examine air quality impacts.
Neighborhood groups from West Long Beach, Wilmington and other areas have vocally opposed the project for years, saying it will lead to more pollution in communities already impacted by the nearby freeways, railyards and ports.