Traffic continues to be huge air polluter – but local politics makes it hard to say no to new roads.
By David Nazar and Jennifer Magana | PBS SoCal
Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018
LOS ANGELES – Based on the annual 2018 “State of the Air” report from The American Lung Association, Los Angeles was ranked the top city spot for high ozone days out of 227 metropolitan locations.
Arizonans should be concerned too as the Grand Canyon state ranked eighth in the same category. And during the summer of 2018, Arizona exceded recommended ozone 49 times.levels and had a record 49 days of dangerous air.
Traffic combined with heat can create unsafe air and in many big cities in the west, air pollution and traffic combined are two of the biggest problems facing those areas. The problem is made worse by rapid growth, suburban sprawl and the “inversion affect,” which traps polluted area in cities near mountains.
The crux of the problem is alleviating the headache of heavy traffic while simultaneously preserving open space and endangered species.
Based on yearly transportation studies, Los Angeles is the most congested city in the country. Orange County, home to 3 million residents, connects to L.A. county and contributes to the load of traffic in the area.
With congested traffic as a main concern for most drivers in Southern California, the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) has established a project involving a route from Orange County, south of LA, to San Clemente, 60 miles south of LA. Orange County is one of the largest counties in the country, home to 3 million people.
Approximately 25 million people live in Southern California, an area where most destinations are not within walking distance.
To combat the escalating population in the 1980s, state transportation officials created four new highways in the Orange County region. The purpose was to create alternative routes to Interstate 5, one of the country’s busiest highways.
Today, the state owns 51 miles of highway throughout the county The plan TSA had in mind was to connect the 241 state highway in the south portion of the O.C. to Interstate 5 freeway. It would eventually merge in San Clemente.
The plan faced several obstacles over the years, most notable lawsuits from the San Onofre coalition, comprised of organizations including the state of California.
Phoenix, ranked lower than L.A., is the fifteenth most congested state in America, based on a 2017 report from the transportation analytics company Inrix. It revealed the city has over three thousand hotspots and the 2026 cost of congestion will be $9.5 billion.
The state is also working on expansion, adding 22 miles to the South Mountain Freeway. According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, the construction is projected to be finished by the end of 2019.