Sharing The Load

Too bad Bill Mongelluzzo’s reports aren’t available to the general public. Last week in the PACIFIC SHIPPER he summarized the situation in and around the LA/Long Beach complex and the contents of his well-written and concise article provided a lot of food for thought. One wonders, though, if the residents (read, “taxpayers”) in Southern California are ever told about the “solutions” that are about to be thrust upon them.

Here’s what the authorities know:
1. 15% of all international containerized seaport freight travels on the I-710 Freeway.
2. Trucks hauling these containers cause bumper-to-bumper traffic tie-ups.
3. Taxpayers will be told to pay $ 4 billion to rebuild the route so that this truck traffic can be accommodated.
4. Other projects will include around the clock gate operations, busier on-dock railyards, new shuttle-train service to offsite distribution centers, and even an additional near-dock rail intermodal yard.
5. These costly projects, along with the $ 4 billion I-710 project, will only reduce traffic flow by 20%, however.
6. In spite of these expended billions, this 20% reduction will be more than offset by the predicted 150% increase in container volume between now and the year 2010.

A few weeks ago Mr. James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation criticized an unwise expenditure of funds at Homeland Security as being “not the most logical next step in security”. He readily saw that the considerable funds proposed to be spent would never catch up to the developing problems. Mr. Carafano would be horrified if he could see the amount of money authorities are planning to spend in this malignancy and he would surely question the logic of the proposed measures. It isn’t a question of logic, though, it’s a question of awareness, and the same lack of information that has muddled the thinking of security experts has made it impossible for port authorities to solve the problems encumbering U.S. ports because of the unexpected volumes passing through these ports.
And what about the average citizen? Or the average freeway driver? If the general public, as well as the authorities, could be given the opportunity to evaluate the congestion in Southern California and to consider all the proposals (ALL the proposals), isn’t it reasonable to assume that a true and affordable solution, as opposed to another stop-gap measure, would be preferred? Where will this headlong flight end? Bigger isn’t always better. Spending enormous amounts of money to bring in enormous amounts of TEUs just adds to the enormous problems already facing this community. A relatively small amount of the imported containers are for local consumption, anyway, so why foot the bill? Didn’t LA/Long Beach get some relief recently when a few dozen ships were “diverted” to other ports? Why not divert as many as possible? An unused West Coast port in the state of Washington (Grays Harbor) would be thrilled to relieve LA/Long Beach of about 2 million TEU every year, and the Welcome Mat is out. Shipping lines, the port authorities and the taxpayers would all benefit from a move in that direction.