Southern California transportation interests ask Congress to improve freight network
By Andrew Edwards, Staff Writer
Posted: 05/30/2013 07:04:35 PM PDT
Updated: 05/31/2013 12:15:08 AM PDT
Transportation interests asked a special congressional panel, comprised of members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, to support a new funding source to improve the movement of freight through Southern California and the rest of the United States. (Staff photo)
SAN BERNARDINO — Transportation interests asked a special congressional panel to support a new funding source to improve the movement of freight through Southern California and the rest of the United States.
The panel, comprised of members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, met Thursday at Santa Fe Depot in San Bernardino, the city’s historic train station adjacent to the BNSF Railway yard, which is part of the network of rail lines and freeways linking Southern California’s ports to destinations across the country. The panels’ members are charged with recommending plans to improve freight movement from coast to coast.
The day’s discussions were fairly general, but boiled down to a handful
Janice Hahn (Kevork Djansezian)
of Southern California officials and executives from Union Pacific and Fox Transportation, a Rancho Cucamonga-based trucking firm, asking for Congress to create a special trust fund to pay for infrastructure improvements to rail lines and roads connecting ports with Inland Empire destinations. But beyond the relatively easy consensus that better infrastructure is a good thing lies the more difficult aspect of drafting a national freight policy — deciding who has to pay for it.
“I think there’s a sense that we have to invest in our nation’s infrastructure to create this seamless freight infrastructure,” Rep. Janice Hahn, D-San Pedro, said after the conclusion of the day’s talks. “Everyone was struggling wit: How do we fund this?
Where does the money come from?”
Hahn suggested U.S. Customs Revenue or Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund dollars as potential funding source. Another panelist, Jerrold Nadler, D. N.Y., emphasized that a proposal to raise federal gasoline taxes would meet heavy opposition.
The Southern California interests who spoke before the panel said it’s not fair for the region’s taxpayers to pay the full costs of improving freight networks when the rest of the nation benefits from the goods being
Hasan Ikhrata (SCAG)
shipped from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
“What everybody is asking for is for the federal government to recognize that goods movement is a national issue,” Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of Southern California Associated Governments, said after the conclusion of the hearing.
“The rest of the nation is bearing the benefit, and you need to be bearing some of the costs,” he added.
In his testimony to the congressional panel, Ikhrata said 40 percent of shipping containers that reach the United States arrives via the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports.
Southern California Associated Governments is a transportation planning agency for the region. The agency’s 2012-35 transportation plan includes proposals for dedicated lanes for clean trucks along key goods movement routes, capacity increases at marine and intermodal terminals and improved road access to seaports and airports, according to Ikhrata’s testimony.
Another issue facing the panel was the environmental issues associated with building new infrastructure and the day-to-day activities of the trucking, rail and shipping industries. Rep. Gary Miller, R-Rancho Cucamonga, mentioned during the meeting that current environmental laws can often delay projects.
An audience member, who identified himself as Jesse Marquez of the Wilmington-based group called Coalition For a Safe Environment, shouted at the panelists that logistics firms would not have to worry about having projects delayed by litigation if they bothered to do proper environmental reviews in the first place.
“This was a farce because they did not address environmental justice issues,” Marquez told reporters before being escorted out of the building by security.