LONG BEACH - In Southern California, a protracted debate is taking place over the expansion of a major freeway that carries goods from the port of Long Beach into the rest of the state.
Opponents say an expanded freeway will damage the air quality for poorer residents who live alongside the freeway, including the Cambodian-American community there. State officials say an expansion is necessary to update the old freeway and improve the flow of goods.
In August, a public hearing was held on the issue. A community center in Long Beach was filled with maps showing how proposed freeway projects might impact residents. A massive environmental impact study was on display in a back room. Hundreds of people were given a demonstration on a handful of versions of the expansion.
The state government has been looking at environmental impacts of the freeway, which runs about 20 miles from the port of Long Beach into southern California, near Los Angeles. The project will impact some of the areas poorest residents, including tens of thousands of Cambodian-Americans.
Among the Long Beach residents was a just handful of Cambodians, including Chan Hopson, the head of the Khmer Parents Association.
“Our Cambodian community is interested in this 710 freeway expansion but they didn't know about this public hearing, and there're lots of Cambodians who live along this 710 freeway.”
State officials want public input, via mail, the Internet or public comments at this hearing, where people are given three minutes each to put their ideas on the public record. Many objected to the project going forward, while others said the best alternatives were not being considered. Some said they were not given enough clear information to make a decision.
“This project will effect our Khmer kids lives and our community that live close to this freeway,” Hopson said. “It will lower the quality of life and to have a good quality of life, you have got to have good health.”
Many residents fear what will happen to the air. Others say they are worried about some of the natural green spaces along the highway. But state officials say the road is out of date and will face increased traffic in the future.