For Immediate Release, June 16, 2016
Jonathan Evans, Center for Biological Diversity, (213) 598-1466
George Hague, Sierra Club, (951) 313-0395
Tom Thornsley, Residents of a Livable Moreno Valley, (909) 797-1397
Tom Paulek, Friends of the Northern San Jacinto Valley, (951) 368-4525
Lawsuit Filed Against Polluting Freeway-expansion Project in Riverside County
More Lanes Will Mean More Trucks, More Pollution, Climate Impacts
RIVERSIDE, Calif.— Conservation and community groups filed a lawsuit today over a Southern California freeway-expansion project designed to increase heavy truck traffic in an area threatened by massive new industrial warehouse development. The additional truck lanes would facilitate development of projects like the adjacent World Logistics Center, a sprawling 4.2 square mile warehouse complex that would add 14,000 daily truck trips, worsen already poor air quality and harm wildlife in the nearby San Jacinto Wildlife Area.
Caltrans approved the truck-lane expansion in May of 2016.
“Caltrans is blindly marching forward with new roadways while ignoring how more pavement leads to more trucks on the road, worse air pollution and increases in global warming,” said Jonathan Evans, legal director of the Environmental Health program at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Taxpayers shouldn’t have to subsidize freeways for development that poisons people in our communities and destroys our wildlife.”
Studies by the California State Transportation Agency and California Air Resources Board have criticized Caltrans’ approach of ignoring how new freeways actually increase overall traffic — called “induced traffic” — by adding capacity and encouraging growth in pollution and development. The parent agency of Caltrans, the California State Transportation Agency, lambasted Caltrans for its failure to “come to grips with the reality of induced traffic and the relationship between transportation and land use.”
“Inducing more tractor trailer traffic and warehouses worsens our region’s struggling air quality and adds permanent new sources of diesel exhaust and soot — especially harming the health of children and the elderly,” said George Hague of the San Gorgonio chapter of the Sierra Club.
The truck-lane expansion is located between Moreno Valley and Beaumont in Riverside County, which consistently ranks as one of the most polluted in the country for ozone and particulate matter pollution from truck and vehicle traffic. Children, the elderly and those with chronic heart or lung disease suffer increased risks of hospitalization or death from ozone and particulate pollution.
“Adding truck lanes just encourages more truck traffic into and through our region instead of utilizing and expanding rail to take more trucks off our freeways and reduce the air pollution they generate,” said Tom Thornsley of Residents for a Livable Moreno Valley.
“Approving yet another freeway expansion opens the door for more urban-industrial sprawl, precludes compatible land uses, and disrupts ongoing wildlife conservation efforts,” said Tom Paulek of the Friends of the Northern San Jacinto Valley.
The conservation and community groups are advocating for safety upgrades along State Route 60 that don’t create additional truck traffic in communities and wildlife areas. Safety upgrades such as improved roadway signage, slower speeds on curves, and changing freeway design to reduce windy stretches of roadway could be implemented faster and with reduced fiscal and environmental costs.
The freeway cuts through the badlands area east of Moreno Valley, which is an important area for wildlife such as the coastal California gnatcatcher, southwestern willow flycatcher and least Bell’s vireo, protected under the Endangered Species Act. The truck-lane expansion also will facilitate development immediately adjacent to the San Jacinto Wildlife area and Lake Perris Recreation Area, home to more than 300 different bird species.
The groups joining the legal challenge are the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Friends of the Northern San Jacinto Valley and Residents for a Livable Moreno Valley. They are represented by the Center for Biological Diversity and Chatten-Brown and Carstens.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.