Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, July 2, 2018

Contact:  Jonathan Evans, Center for Biological Diversity, (213) 598-1466, jevans@biologicaldiversity.org
George Hague, Sierra Club, (951) 313-0395, gbhague@gmail.com

Agreement Dedicates $17 Million to Reduce Harms of Southern California Freeways

RIVERSIDE, Calif.— Conservation groups and transportation agencies reached a multi-million dollar settlement to protect wildlife habitat and reduce pollution problems and other harms that two long-contested Southern California freeways would cause to local communities and the environment.

The settlement ends a series of legal challenges brought by conservation groups to the Mid County Parkway and State Route 60 Truck Lanes project in western Riverside County.

“This agreement is an important step to reduce the harm these freeways do to Riverside County’s neighborhoods and wildlife,” said Jonathan Evans, environmental health legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The measures will reduce pollutions risks and traffic safety threats from increased truck traffic. Ultimately, our state has to move away from building new freeways and toward cleaner, more sustainable transportation solutions.”

The agreement dedicates $17 million to protect wildlife habitat, install air filtration devices in homes and schools, construct solar energy panels at commuter rail stations and fund park renovations in affected communities. The settlement also increases incentives for public transit and carpooling, provides increased pedestrian and cycling access, increases safety measures for motorists and protects key wildlife corridors.

“Today’s agreement provides an important opportunity to save wildlife habitat and agricultural lands in the San Jacinto Valley,” said Drew Feldmann, San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society conservation chair. “Growth and sprawl follow freeway development and we need to do all that we can to keep areas protected, not paved over.”

More than $13 million from the agreement is dedicated to acquiring and protecting vulnerable wildlife habitat, including areas surrounding the San Jacinto Wildlife Area and rare vernal pool habitat. California Fish and Wildlife’s San Jacinto Wildlife Area is one of the most important habitats for migratory birds in California and home to many imperiled species, such as the burrowing owl and tricolored blackbird.

“Freeways and roads are dangerous contributors to the soot and smog that put the Inland Empire at the bottom of the list for air quality,” said Mary Ann Ruiz, chapter chair of the Sierra Club, San Gorgonio chapter. “This agreement is an important way to reduce health impacts on children in nearby schools and families in their homes.”

The settlement agreement dedicates more than $2 million to install and maintain air filtration devices in homes and schools neighboring the freeways in Perris and Moreno Valley. Riverside County suffers from some of the worst air pollution in the country and pollution from cars and trucks is one of the main sources of particulate matter and ozone.

The settlement was reached today between the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society, Friends of the Northern San Jacinto Valley, Residents for a Livable Moreno Valley, Riverside County Transportation Commission and the California Department of Transportation. As part of the agreement the conservation groups will withdraw their legal challenges to the freeways.

Background
The Mid County Parkway is a proposed six-lane freeway between Perris and San Jacinto. The project was originally proposed for 32 miles to connect with Interstate 15, but was scaled back to 16 miles to connect with Interstate 215. The State Route 60 Truck Lanes Project would add a lane in each direction to the freeway in the rugged badlands area between Moreno Valley and Beaumont.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

www.biologicaldiversity.org

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