“I’ll have one double-decker with the works …”

“No Room For Error” was the title of our previous commentary. Wish that were so. Will Bingham, a Staff Writer for the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, in his 02/03/2007 column, covered a talk given by regional economist John Husing of Redlands, California.

“In an effort to accommodate an expected tripling over the next 25 years of truck traffic from regional ports,” Mr. Bingham begins, “planning officials are considering a concept of double-deck portions of Highway 60.

“A four-lane elevated toll road, for use exclusively by freight trucks, would be built from Interstate 710 to Interstate 15, and north from there through the Cajon Pass.

“With truck traffic diverted to the toll road, planners believe regular vehicle traffic along the freeway would be eased.”

Mr. Husing was providing details of this concept in his address to attendees at the Claremont Graduate University’s Peter F. Drucker School of Management, Mr. Bingham tells us.

“‘We have a $ 36 billion problem with goods movement that we absolutely have to solve,’ Husing said. ‘Our first problem is: How do we get stuff from the ports out to the inland region? Because the inland region is the place where the facilities can be built. The ports are where it’s arriving. How do you get it through from one to the other?’

“In 2006, the Los Angeles/Long Beach ports received 15.8 million container units’ worth of goods, which represents 41.4 percent of the country’s imported containers, Husing said.

“But by 2030, according to Husing’s estimates, traffic will nearly triple to 42.5 million trucks worth of goods. The growth is driven by the ports’ West Coast location – the closest to the booming Asian market – and because both are deep-water ports equipped to handle large shipments.

“But the project is right now only being ‘seriously argued’, Husing said, because of opposition from San Gabriel Valley neighborhoods, and the large price tag: $ 16 billion.

“The construction of the second deck could be offset partially by toll fees from trucks using it, but it wouldn’t account for the full cost.

“The benefit to the shipping industry, Husing said, would be the increased speed of transporting goods – ‘Speed is money, and turnaround is money,’ he says – and a truck-only toll road would allow trucks to carry more freight containers. There are currently restrictions on the size containers trucks can carry.

“The second deck, if plans are approved, would be completed at the earliest in 15 years.

“It is the issue that threatens the prosperity of the Inland Empire more than any other because it’s congestion.”

Let’s see now. Just what is it that Mr. Husing thinks will threaten the Inland Empire? He and other officials in California actually envision some “42.5 million trucks worth of goods” being ingested annually by the deep-water ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach by the year 2030.

It ain’t gonna happen. And here’s why.

• Along with the tripled volume of goods expected to hit our shores in the next 25 years, that estimated $ 16 billion price tag can also be expected to escalate over that period of time.

• The good folks in the San Gabriel Valley, as well as the 40 or 50 million other taxpayers in the Golden State, will have nixed the “concept” long before the year 2030.

• The $ 16 billion “concept” — the double-decker highway intended to feed those millions of trucks into the Inland Empire — is really the issue that threatens the prosperity of those living in that region.

• Future administrations will heed the misgivings of constituents, and will acknowledge, unhesitatingly, the illogical moves by port officials that have been the causes of the chaos and congestion in Southern California communities.

• Almost every one of those illogical moves, while being a “benefit to the shipping industry”, have proved to be a detriment to California residents. This “seriously argued” concept is admittedly another “benefit to the shipping industry”.

Here’s what thoughtful Californians are concerned about:

• The developing ports on the West Coast of Mexico … “a benefit to the shipping industry” and a detriment to California taxpayers.

• The developing ports in British Columbia … also “a benefit to the shipping industry” and a detriment to California taxpayers.

Here’s how thoughtful officials in California will deal with the problem:

• They’ll equip their own state’s underused ports to handle containers, thereby providing relief to the communities that surround the Los Angeles/Long Beach port complex.

• By preferring the concepts of “running to daylight …spreading the risk … and spreading the wealth” the additional California container ports will attract shippers, create profits, create employment opportunities and reduce taxes.

[And that multi-billion dollar four-lane elevated toll road “concept”? … it ain’t gonna happen.]