Let’s say that the Delaware River Deepening Project became a reality, and that the Port of Philadelphia was developed along the lines of the Port of NY/NJ. Let’s assume that the port had indeed become “the fastest-growing and most economically charged” on the East Coast, and that the equivalent of 3,500,000 20-foot containers were being handled annually. Because about 80 percent of these containers would be 40-footers (rated at 2-TEUs), more than 2,500,000 containers would need to be delivered, using one mode of transportation or another, to off-site destinations. Although no thought was given to this matter in the run up to last week’s dredging compromise, traffic in Philadelphia and surrounding communities would become a nightmare.
That extra 2.5 million semi-trailer trucks on busy Philadelphia streets would not sit well with daily commuters. In a 300-day year more than 8,000 of these trucks would be muscling through rush hour traffic every day and would certainly prove to be disconcerting to the average commuter. Even if half of this volume could be moved by rail, the 4,000 of these hulking semis remaining on the highways would hardly go unnoticed.
And what about the other half? The 4,000 rail-borne containers arranged in miles-long, spoke-like chains and heading for distant end-users? This rail-borne volume translates into more than 35 miles of freight trains every day, and instead of dealing with unconnected semis here and there, commuters held up by passing freight trains would be forced to cool their heels at railway crossings for as much as eight to ten minutes every time a train is released from the terminal..
Philadelphians would just love that. Newly-constructed overpasses and tunnels would be designed to ease the congestion, of course, but are taxpayers supposed to believe that, along with the ‘slew of improvements’ already promised, the cost of this new construction was also included in the $ 300 million estimate given to Governor Rendell? Couldn’t the ‘maritime consultants’ see that far ahead? Couldn’t the ‘bean counters’, so often relied upon by these consultants, see the real cost of this ill-advised concentration of intermodal containers?
[Authorities need to go back to ‘square one’. That refund we mentioned in our previous commentary would be the quickest and cheapest way out of this messy predicament.]
The Delaware River measures 108-miles along the Eastern shore and 108-miles along the Western shore as well. Three or four small, efficient container terminals selectively placed downstream on each side of the Delaware would bring low-cost goods to consumers in the immediate vicinities of these terminals. Along with reduced transportation costs these widely spaced ports would be free of congestion and would attract shipping lines. Every day saved in the operation of one of these container ships represents a saving of between $ 25,000 and $ 45,000 for the ship owner, depending on the capacity of the vessel, and as any ‘bean counter’ would attest, closer, more efficient ports would certainly attract these carriers … and the 100,000 jobs would be created within a year’s time!
[$ 300 million, huh? … If we built the 6 or 8 terminals, taxpayers would pay nothing.]