A number of West Coast freeways have been decommissioned and demolished over the years — Harbor Drive in Portland in the 1970s, the Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco in the 2000s. Doyle Drive in San Francisco is currently being demolished.
But in Southern California, the freeway is king. It may be impossible to build a new freeway in L.A. County, but it’s damn near unthinkable to remove one.
That may be about to change. A plan to remove a one-mile section of the Terminal Island Freeway in Long Beach and replace it with a plethora of park space is slowly moving forward. Earlier this month, the Long Beach City Council voted unanimously to green-light an environmental study of the freeway closure-and-transformation project dubbed the Green TI.
The Terminal Island Freeway is short, running roughly 3.5 miles, and leads from the Seaside Freeway to Willow Street. The last mile is owned by the City of Long Beach, which is why the teardown is even a possibility (Caltrans owns the rest). Only 11,000 vehicles use that section daily, and about half of those are trucks, picking up goods from the port and often dropping them off at a railway depot near the end of the freeway.
“West Long Beach is infamously park-poor,” says Brian Addison, a Long Beach writer and activist who supports the project. “For every 1,000 residents, they have [only] a soccer field of green space. This project will provide much-needed park space for an enormously marginalized population.”