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Caltrans and Metro Break Ground on 71 Freeway Widening Through Pomona

Today Caltrans and Metro celebrated a groundbreaking for a project to widen State Route 71 through Pomona. There was no on-the-ground groundbreaking, just a virtual one - a video posted to YouTube, featuring Caltrans District 7 Director Tony Tavares and a host of area elected officials. The SR-74 project will convert about 3.5 miles of existing four-lane expressway into an eight-lane freeway. Construction for the first phase - $174 million for just under two miles - is expected to complete in 2024.

[Note: at press time, Caltrans informed Streetsblog that the video had been taken down for corrections and will be reposted soon. For now SBLA left this article intact; if any Caltrans corrections change information referenced here, SBLA will revise this article.]

On today's video, Tavares touted the 71 widening project in glowing terms: "expands the vast multi-modal network," "improve[s] travel demand management," "advances Caltrans' goals of equity and livability," "support[s] vibrant livable places," and puts "a focus on addressing the needs and concerns of underserved communities."

But it looks pretty much like any old-fashioned freeway widening project: tearing out homes, adding more lanes, more congestion, more pollution, more noise, and more global warming.

It's difficult to find much information on the SR-71 widening project. The project does not appear on the Metro Highway projects webpage nor does it appear on the Caltrans District 7 Current Projects webpage. Digging deeper into these websites, the project does appears on some lists and in some presentations. There is a Metro factsheet dated August 2020, though it appears to be years out of date; it states that "SR-71 operates as an expressway with several at-grade intersections including Mission Boulevard" which is no longer the case.

71 Freeway project description page - via Metro Highway Program presentation
71 Freeway project slide - via 2020 Metro Highway Program presentation

According to a statement that Metro Highway Program Director of Engineering Victor Gau made in the groundbreaking video, the project's "final Environmental Impact Report was completed in 1989." From the state registry, it appears that there were additional/new environmental documents prepared in 2002. Streetsblog couldn't find any of the environmental documents posted online.

Widening the 71 was included in Metro's 2016 Measure M sales tax expenditure plan, which programs $248.5 million for a FY2022 groundbreaking and an anticipated FY2026 opening. The project also received $43 million in state S.B. 1 gas tax funding.

Much of the widened right-of-way was already taken a while ago, with homes already demolished, but there appear to be some additional homes that may be demolished for this phase of the project.

SR-71 right-of-way. Red Xs indicate areas (mostly of these were one of more homes) already demolished for widening the 71. The yellow Xs are some 0sites that SBLA speculates might still be threatened. (No project map or environmental studies were found online.)
SR-71 right-of-way. Red Xs indicate areas (mostly these were one of more homes) already demolished for widening the 71. The yellow Xs are some sites that SBLA speculates might still be threatened. Again, the yellow marks are educated guesses, as no project map or environmental studies were found online.

Along the 71 near Mission Boulevard, numerous homes were already demolished.

homes on xxx
Fenced-off vacant land where homes used to be on Buffington Street in Pomona. The 71 is directly behind the row of trees on the left.
One of a handful of homes remaining
One of a handful of remaining homes remaining on Butterfield Road. These holdouts appear to under threat of demolition from the current 71 Freeway widening.
More vacant
More vacant parcels where homes once were - on Butterfield Road and adjacent streets. The 57 Freeway pedestrian bridge is on the left.
View north from the 71 pedestrian bridge
Just south of Mission, the SR-71 widening is closer to neighborhoods. View north from the 71 pedestrian bridge near 9th Street. On the left, the vacant lots used to be homes.
The southern portion of the 71 project - close to Rancho
The southern portion of the 71 project, close to Rio Rancho Road. The clear right-of-way here is wider, and so this portion of the SR-17 project does not appear to directly impact homes.

Metro staff have claimed that this SR-71 project is not widening, but just a gap closure.

A lot has changed at Metro and Caltrans since the 1980s (when Metro didn't yet exist), but this project has remained on the books, and will soon exist on the ground.

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