Bigger freeways beget bigger traffic jams and more air pollution, as bad urban planning has shown us time and time again. Yet freeway expansion projects still somehow manage to push forward, creating more sprawl and wreaking environmental havoc.

One of these projects is the I-710 expansion project, an effort to create a tunnel that will extend the 710 from Alhambra to connect to the 210 freeway in Pasadena. The project has been dubbed a “road to ruin” by a 2004 Friends of the Earth report, and the 710 expansion proposal is “the battle that won’t go away,” according to environmental and social justice activists.

These activists are now planning an action-oriented educational conference, dubbed The 710 on Trial: Uniting our Communities. The idea is to bring together the communities that would be affected by this expansion to increase awareness about the project and its environmental justice implications in the neighborhoods that will have to deal with all the social and health problems of having a huge, smog-spewing freeway nearby.

The day-long event on Sat., Jan. 23 at Occidental College (Obama's alma mater!) is a free, event open to all. Attendees will hear a keynote from California Assemblymember Anthony Portantino, get an overview of the project, learn about the work from a couple panels looking at the project’s implications for health, environment, housing, and economics, and participate in hands-on workshops. Here’s the full agenda.

If you live, work, or play on that side of Los Angeles County, you’ll want to attend and find out what could happen to your community — and what you can do to shape it. Get a quick primer on what the I-710 expansion project is and how it’s proceeding at Streetsblog L.A., then head over to Oxy on Saturday. If you don't live in the L.A.-area, but are faced with a similar freeway expansion in your neighborhood, I hope learning about this conference inspires you to start organizing with your neighbors and community groups.

Activists put freeway project on trial
Environmental, social justice, and health advocates fight a freeway expansion project with action-oriented education.