A regional planning expert called upon goods movement interests in Southern California to develop a CREATE-style public-private infrastructure development program for the region.
Just as the $3.2 billion Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency Program rolls a number of infrastructure development projects into a single effort, a similar, but much larger initiative in Southern California would help the region attract private sector, state and federal money for goods movement infrastructure, said Gill Hicks, director of Southern California operations at Cambridge Systematics.
“We have grade separation, port and rail advocates. Let’s put it all together in a systematic program,” Hicks told a goods movement symposium sponsored by FuturePorts Tuesday in Los Angeles.
Hicks, who directed the development of the Alameda Corridor in Southern California when he was general manager of the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority in the 1990s, said a multi-project infrastructure development effort would be more effective than the current system in which each transportation sector champions its own projects.
The transportation infrastructure needs of Southern California are indeed daunting, estimated in the regional transportation plan of the Southern California Association of Governments to total $525 billion, with goods movement infrastructure needs totaling about $50 billion.
“It’s money we don’t have,” said Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of SCAG. Ikhrata said existing sources of infrastructure funding would cover only a fraction of the region’s needs. He advised finding new, creative sources of funding such as a mileage-based user fee of 5 cents per mile.
Goods-movement infrastructure needs outside of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach include exclusive truck lanes for the north-south and east-west freight corridors serving the nation’s largest port complex, truck bottleneck relief projects, some 68 grade separations, main track rail improvements and near-dock intermodal rail yards, Hicks said. By comparison, all of the East and Gulf Coast ports together are spending about $30 billion to prepare for the widening of the Panama Canal in 2015, he said.
Growing container volumes moving through the neighboring ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are responsible for much of the needed infrastructure development projects. The ports plan to spend about $9 billion in the coming decade on marine terminal, on-dock rail and other infrastructure projects in the harbor area.
The ports are already receiving calls on a regular basis by vessels with a capacity of 10,000 20-foot container unit capacity. With a main channel depth of 76 feet in Long Beach and 53 feet in Los Angeles, the ports anticipate vessel sizes increasing to at least 13,000-TEU capacity.
These mega-ships will stress the highway system serving the 1.5 billion square feet of industrial real estate capacity in Southern California and the dozens of intermodal train departures each week at the ports.
Hicks said Southern California must expedite development of the infrastructure. “Let’s get it done,” he said.