As the nation prepares for the expansion of the Panama Canal and all port cities go crazy deepening and widening everything in sight, the second biggest biggest port in the country is doing something unexpected: planning a highway teardown.
The LA Times reported this week that Long Beach officials are studying the possibility of replacing a one-mile stretch of the Terminal Island Freeway with a park.
The paper glorified the situation only slightly — the proposed plan would build a local street too, so the Times reporters’ assertion that the conversion “would mark the first time a stretch of Southern California freeway was removed and converted to a non-transportation use” isn’t entirely accurate. But no one would argue that it’s a great deal to trade in a mile of underutilized highway — and 20 or 30 surrounding acres of weeds and dirt — for an 88-acre park and a local street that integrates into the local street grid.
Along with the proposal to move some industrial uses away from the neighborhood schools, the park could transform this truck-choked neighborhood, which is plagued by high rates of childhood asthma. “This shifts the freight trucks and associated negative health impacts a mile away from schools and homes, creates the largest park in West Long Beach and potentially improves traffic in the area,” said Brian Ulaszewski, the director of the non-profit urban design organization CityFabrick and the man behind the greenbelt proposal [PDF].