Calif. lawmaker proposes extended gates bill

Calif. lawmaker proposes extended gates bill

LOS ANGELES - Calif. Assemblyman Alan Lowenthal submitted to the Assembly's legislative counsel a draft bill that will encourage marine terminal operators in Los Angeles and Long Beach to open their gates on nights and weekends, and incentives to shippers and truckers who patronize those gates.

Today is the deadline for submitting proposed bills to the legislative counsel. Drafters of the legislation have one month to put the bill into its final form and formally introduce it before the California Legislature for passage this year.

Although the details have not been worked out, the Democratic assemblyman from Long Beach said the bill will probably include a provision for mandatory daytime appointments for truckers as well as a premium fee for picking up or dropping off containers in the 8 a.m.-5 p.m. shift at the ports.

At a public hearing today in Paramount, Calif., Lowenthal said his real intention is to encourage marine terminals, ocean carriers, truckers and shippers to develop their own plan for extending gate hours at the ports. If the transportation community develops and implements an acceptable plan this summer, he will retract the proposal.

"I would like nothing better than to pull the bill," he said.

Lowenthal and other elected officials in Southern California are pressuring the port and transportation communities to relieve congestion on local freeways and help to improve air quality in the region by shifting more truck traffic to nights and weekends.

Lowenthal earlier sponsored anti-pollution legislation that fines California port terminals for excessive truck waits.

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who is leading a similar effort in the harbor region, said the public demands safer, less congested freeways and improved air quality.

Hahn said a comprehensive plan that includes extended gate hours at the ports could push as much as 50 percent of the daytime port truck traffic to off-peak hours.

"We are at a pivotal point right now. We are very close to crafting a pilot program to be in place this year," she said.

If such a program is enacted, it would most likely include a premium fee for calling at marine terminals from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. The extra revenue that is generated would be returned to terminal operators to subsidize the loss-making operations of night and weekend gates.

It costs terminals operators $27,000 to $47,000 to operate an extra gate, depending upon whether the containers are stored on chassis or stacked on the ground, said Bill Hamlin, president of the North American region at APL Ltd.

However, past experience has shown that terminals which process 2,500-3,000 gate moves in a normal daytime shift attract only 200 to 300 trucks during an off-peak gate.

Developing the details of a premium fee, determining how high that fee should be to encourage off-peak traffic without diverting cargo to other ports, and deciding who will administer such a program, will be a complex tax.

The Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority, which built and operates the $2.4 billion intermodal corridor connecting Los Angeles-Long Beach with the transcontinental rail network, has suggested that it could use its joint powers authority to oversee the program.