After 20 years of neglect, SoCal’s most important transportation network for goods movement, the 710 Freeway, has received support from LA Metro for major improvements.

For decades, the 710 Freeway has been the commercial spine of Southern California, funneling thousands of trucks carrying tons of goods from the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach into the region’s sprawling network of freeways and to Inland Empire distribution centers for transshipment nationwide. But the steady stream of freight traffic on the 710 has taken its toll. The pavement is cracked, bottlenecks are common, and the share of trucks on the freeway is three times higher than expected in the 1960s.

The twin ports handle a massive 40% of the country’s imports and exports, and the cargo that moves through the ports generates more than 580,000 jobs in Southern California. So upgrades to the 710 artery are crucial to economic security in the region and, to the smooth movement of containers between the ports, the region and beyond to the nation.

Now, after nearly 20 years, the LA Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) has taken a major step forward in finding a solution that will untangle the traffic and speed the movement of goods along the 710.

Metro’s Board of Directors voted unanimously in favor of a $6 billion plan to improve congestion and air quality along the 710 Freeway corridor — with a $1 billion investment available immediately for early action projects and a clean technology fund. The board approved the fast-tracking of road improvements such as updated ramps, a truck by-pass lane and modernized interchanges. These projects will be identified in the spring. Approvals for other modernizations such as new freeway-to-freeway interchanges and a wider route will be addressed once the initial upgrades are complete.

The scope of projects included in the early action program may cost some $2 billion. The 710 project already has $1 billion secured through the Measure M and Measure R half-cent sales taxes. Many of the L.A. County residents who voted for Measure M in November 2016 were voting for congestion relief on the 710 Freeway — they can now be assured that their sales tax dollars will be put to work.

“This is a modernization project of a gateway to our ports that is falling apart,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said of the project that will create thousands of local jobs. “I think this freeway could be the freeway to the future,” added Metro board member Janice Hahn.

Southern California Partnership for Jobs joins other business and labor groups, including the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, Harbor Trucking Association and FuturePorts, in supporting the plan. “The status quo for the 710 is not a successful blueprint for the future,” said Gary Toebben, President of the LA Chamber of Commerce.