September 29, 2005 - From the September, 2005 issue

Sen. Lowenthal & BTH Sec. McPeak Lay Out Plans to Move Goods

Of all the infrastructure challenges facing California, goods movement is emerging as the top priority not only for regional officials, but also for those in Sacramento. California's ports bring in almost half the nation's imports, and government and business leaders are now planning to keep goods-and traffic-moving as trade continues to surge. State Senator Alan Lowenthal of Long Beach and Secretary of Business, Transportation, and Housing Sunne Wright McPeak discussed this vital issue at the recent Civic Entrepreneurs Summit sponsored by the California Center for Regional Leadership. MIR presents excerpts of their remarks.


Sen. Alan Lowenthal

Secretary of Business, Transportation, and Housing Sunne Wright McPeak discusses "California's Highest Transportation Infrastructure Priority":

What a great opportunity to be with such an exciting group of folks here at the CCRL Summit.

I want to begin by acknowledging here in the room those who have helped us shape what we are doing in the administration. Dan Mazmanian, who is on the board of CCRL, chaired the oversight group to improve the performance of Caltrans. That's no small task. We're a 22,000-person agency, and we're trying to become not a transportation bureaucracy but a mobility company, being very entrepreneurial in producing the product of mobility and thinking in a much different way. And we've made progress. Last year CalTrans saved $60 million in operational efficiencies. That was an arbitrary number, but Governor Schwarzenegger and I arrived at it, and it has now been programmed into the California Transportation Commission's revenue stream. Former Senator Marian Bergeson is a member of the commission that will implement that allocation.

Those of us as BTH who started out with this administration and were looking at a $22 billion deficit – how are we going to get jump-started in infrastructure and transportation? Michael Keston, of the Keston Institute at USC, and Richard Little, who is the executive director, asked how they can help. They continue to do that. Michael was here last night, and it was his support for our work that launched Go California. And the kinds of reforms that were envisioned there of faster project delivery, of thinking systematically about how to get more utility out of any investment – i.e. how to get more mobility out of any expenditure in transportation – has been the bedrock of what we're doing today.

Which brings us to the challenges of mobility. As Senator Alan Lowenthal says, the movement of goods becomes part and parcel of trying to get mobility for anybody. It just turns out that it's a double-bonus if you improve the infrastructure for goods movement along with, at the same time, reducing impacts on neighborhoods, and health, and the environment. But if you make improvements in infrastructure, you move some of the cargo out of the main stream of the system. So it's why we ended up moving improving goods movement infrastructure to the very top of our priority list for capital investments for transportation. That's on top of a series of strategies for maintaining the transportation system so you don't have to spend time and money because of poor roads – and we all do, about $600 per year on wear and tear on our vehicles because we don't have very good roads.

We are looking at some market-based solutions, including information technology and intelligent transportation systems so that we can better manage the system. With that Governor Schwarzenegger also turned to the California Environmental Protection Agency and BTH along with Homeland Security and CHP to look at a joint effort within the administration on goods movement. The governor independently realized how important it about a year ago and asked the entire cabinet, What are you going to do about the ports? What are you going to do about goods movement? And so in January Cal EPA Secretary Alan Lloyd and BTH started a series of listening conferences. Our goal was to produce a first-phase action plan and then a second-phase action plan. And we just released in the last two weeks the first phase.

The first phase is intended to set out the why and the what: Why do we need to invest in improvement of the movement of goods at the ports in California, and what is it that we think we need to do? It's more of an inventory. The second phase, which we are going to make as much progress on as possible by the end of this year, is intended to address the how, the when, and the who.

It's the position of this administration that goods movement is at the highest priority for both California's economy and for our transportation infrastructure. We need to make improvements simultaneously in facilitating better infrastructure and reducing impacts on the environment, on health, and on people in the surrounding communities. And that's what we're dedicated to doing, along with significantly enhancing security. We have listened to a lot of discussions and a lot of people in Southern California and the Bay Area, and the first phase action plan says that to improve infrastructure, we need to think about it as a system. We have four major systems in California: LA-Long Beach to the Inland Empire; the Port of San Diego, and that's bi-national because we also look at Ensenada and the relationship of goods crossing the border; also the Bay Area moving through to Stockton and Sacramento; and then north-south, with Highway 99, the north-south rail, and I-5.

To begin that, we added up all of the ‘whats' – the inventory is about $50 billion that we think is needed for all of the infrastructure to accommodate the projected increase in goods movement for the next 20 years. We have figured $2-5 billion for reducing impacts on the communities and the environment. Then within that $50 to $52 billion we identified $14.4 billion of high-priority projects and $1.7 billion for the San Pedro Harbor corridor, the LA-Long Beach ports and the Alameda Corridor.

Those are big numbers, and we are serious about them. Our challenge and our commitment is to forming a business plan for two of those four networks by December. A business plan being not just what we're going to do, but the how. Who are the investors, and what are the investments to be made? And then we move on back to the how, and finally get to the who. Purposely, we're not just talking about what institutional arrangements might be needed and particularly from the state's perspective, we're very reluctant to have the state involved if we don't have to be involved. And that's why we are taking the approach we have to try to get consensus on what has to be done and how it should be done. Then we'll address who will be doing that and what kind of relationship there will be. I just want to make sure that everybody is aware that the general approach to how we're trying to improve the system is one that certainly makes it unique.

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State Senator Alan Lowenthal elaborates on his responsibilities to both the port and the people who live near it:

I'll try to be brief. I'm a psychologist, so I realize that if you say things over and over again, sooner or later people begin to listen and pay attention. And I think that's kind of message I bring. Keep repeating both the great challenge we have before us, and the crisis that challenge takes us to, in terms of both congestion and public health. It's great to follow Sunne and Undersecretary James Branham of Cal EPA to see that California is trying to come up with an integrated solution. It's great to talk about the impact on local communities and to hear about regional planning and also about public perspective on Long Beach.

As I've pointed out before, we are at a crossroads. We here in this region are at the gateway of Pacific trade. It's been wonderful in terms of the good, high-paying jobs associated with this trade and tax benefits for both local and federal governments; it provides billions of dollars. The explosion of trade that has also exposed some of the planning necessary to accommodate such a volume and to meet the growth in moving goods from the water side to the land side now and how we integrate and create one system has reached a critical mass.

We've seen those early warning signs. Last year when 100 ships sat outside the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and were not able to unload their goods it sent fear through the shipping industry. And we have to be aware of that. And that angst, in the era of just-in-time delivery, a delay of six or seven days in the supply chain can have dramatic consequences. And, as Sunne pointed out, the overall cost of infrastructure that is needed, including environmental mitigation, can be as much as $50 billion. And I've also indicated that the recently enacted the Federal Transportation Act did not set as a priority goods movement and infrastructure needs. So we're going to have to find a way ourselves now, and that's really what we're struggling with in California. That's why we have the first phase of the goods movement plan from the governor and also we're waiting to see phase two come out. But as this all plays out, I'm going to be a champion of community interests and protecting these communities, which are right around the ports in my district of Long Beach. I'm just one of over a million people who are sitting right on top of this giant entity, and surrounding is another two or three million people. I'm going to fight to make sure that we protect the quality of life and public health of these communities.

And I want to speak a little more specifically about the public health issues. Air pollution from port operations – primarily the diesel particulates, which make up approximately two-thirds of the diesel emissions from mobile sources the L.A. basin is from goods movement, trucks, ships, trains – is an increasing risk for all of us. The Air Quality Management District has talked about an invisible cloud that lies above us. I'm not going to say there's a direct cause and effect – but the evidence that is mounting all the time that air pollution has been linked to clusters of cancer in this region that cannot be explained in other ways. There are going to have to be follow-up studies to talk about all kinds of throat and respiratory cancers, lung cancers. We're talking about much higher rates of lung cancer in this region, much higher rates of asthma – twice the state average. It's 8 percent nationally, we run about 15-16 percent. It's the number-one cause of absences in our schools. So we're talking about evidence that you have to do something about diesel particulates, and goods movement is the largest single use of diesel. It's just not acceptable.

Last year I had a bill that the governor vetoed called AB 2042 that capped the level of emissions from the port. As growth occurs, pollution should not also increase. The governor said, well, that's a great goal, but you've got to give us a roadmap of how to get there; the bill in and of itself will not reduce pollution. While that may be true, I think replacing a few trucks and using new engines provide the first step, and once we build accountability we can take specific measures to clean up the environment and prevent pollution from increasing faster.

AB 2042 didn't decrease pollution yet. It was setting the level. Our goal is to have a measurable way to begin to reduce pollution. And anything else is not acceptable. I'm going to push because not to do that is a dereliction of my duty. I don't care that it may be vetoed. Of course I don't want it to get vetoed; I want to work with the community and the industry to come up with a solution, but I am still going to repeat saying that we have a public health crisis of a major magnitude in terms of diesel particulates that must be solved, and I'm going to keep pushing for that.

We have to come up with a total solution, and we don't have a lot of time. So I really think that the governor should demand a goods movement action plan. Still, more work needs to be done; it's a preliminary roadmap. But I do want to encourage more public participation. I want people from the industry to get together with that data and work on a plan. I don't want this to be just more data on a shelf. That happened with PierPass. It took ten years to do what they should have been doing anyway, which is extending the hours of the port. I want to see us come up with a plan we can all get behind, and my role is just going to say, hey, don't forget these communities. We're the ones these goods pass through on their way to Iowa and Kansas and Missouri. It's our kids that have to suffer the impact. We love the jobs. We like being the center. We know that's the future of California and the nation, but we've got to be at the table also, and that's what I propose: bringing everyone to the table.

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