Planner Urges Infrastructure Development

Planner Urges Infrastructure Development

Major infrastructure development is at a standstill in Southern California and other regions because planners are not leveraging the economic, environmental and community benefits of an efficient goods movement system, according to a prominent planning expert.

"If we can't take the fact that goods movement is the key to our place in the global economy and bring this political strategy to Washington, we're not using the assets available to us and we're not being leaders," Mark Pisano, a senior fellow at the University of Southern California School of Policy, Planning and Development, told the Metrans conference Wednesday in Long Beach.

Pisano directed the activities of the Southern California Association of Governments, the nation's largest regional planning agency, from 1976 to 2008. SCAG in the early 1980s developed the concept of the Alameda Corridor.

The $2 billion rail corridor linking the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to the transcontinental rail networks was a major contributor to making the Southern California port complex the nation's largest international intermodal gateway.

The key to the successful development of the Alameda Corridor was the ability of SCAG to convince the ports, the western railroads, freight shippers, local communities along the corridor and federal agencies that they would all share in the benefits of this project of national significance, Pisano said.

He contrasted this institutional design approach to the "stovepipe" approach taken in promoting another much needed project, the Alameda Corridor East. That proposed $5 billion project is supposed to improve the efficiency of moving containers from the terminus of the Alameda Corridor through the metropolitan regions east of Los Angeles.

Promoters of the Alameda Corridor East have convinced only certain communities along the route that they will experience congestion relief. Planners must employ an institutional design approach that demonstrates benefits to other stakeholders, especially the freight interests that will pay to use the corridor, or the corridor will continue to be developed in a balkanized fashion, Pisano said.

Similarly, Chicago, Atlanta, Texas and the Pacific Northwest are contending with goods movement issues and they could benefit from infrastructure development that enhances their role in the global economy, Pisano said.

Citing another factor that regional planners can leverage, Pisano noted that there is a widespread awareness today of the health risks of diesel pollution and the contribution of carbon emissions to global warming. Improving the efficiency of goods movement results in a reduction in pollution.

Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at