Dockworkers in Oakland will devote their annual May Day commemoration Wednesday to drawing attention to the congestion problems maritime supply chain stakeholders say would result from the development of a baseball stadium at the port’s Howard Terminal.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) has joined shipping interests, harbor truckers, and logistics companies in attempting to convince city officials and the community of West Oakland that the vehicular traffic generated by a 35,000-seat baseball stadium for the Oakland Athletics would create safety and congestion issues when mixed with the thousands of truck trips each day at the Port of Oakland.
“The basic operations of port businesses is fundamentally incompatible with a stadium,” the ILWU stated in a flyer distributed to announce a rally that will begin at 10 a.m. local time Wednesday at Berth 67. “Losing valuable working waterfront means it will never be available to produce family wage jobs and benefits that our community desperately needs,” the union said.
The port has taken the lead in negotiating with the Oakland A’s organization, while the city administration is responsible for overseeing the environmental impact report (EIR) needed before construction could begin. The harbor commission would issue final approval if Oakland decides to move forward with a project that is considered a source of public pride in the community. The Port of Oakland has remained neutral as the project works its way through the approval process.
However, shipping and terminal interests represented by the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association (PMSA) and truckers represented by the Harbor Trucking Association (HTA) are attempting to educate public officials on the extent to which stadium traffic for six months each year would interfere with truckers serving a port complex that handled 2.5 million TEU in 2018 and rail lines that carry about 50 freight and passenger trains a day.
Formerly occupied by Matson Navigation, the Howard Terminal site is currently being used as a staging area for the temporary storage of containers on chassis that are drayed from Oakland’s three international container terminals. Smaller trucking companies with limited yard capacity depend upon Howard Terminal’s convenient location in the Inner Harbor for equipment storage, said Andy Garcia, chairman and executive vice president of GSC Logistics.
“This port is a service assembly line. If you disrupt that assembly line by taking space out for a playground, you can bring the port to gridlock,” Garcia told JOC.com.
Maritime interests favor an alternative location in East Oakland, the site of the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum, the A’s current home. “From every possible perspective — transportation, jobs, economic fairness, and safety — the Coliseum is a better location for a ballpark than Howard Terminal, where a stadium would threaten Oakland’s thriving industrial economy,” said Mike Jacob, vice president and general counsel of the PMSA.
For truckers, the issues are “100 percent about safety and traffic congestion,” said Weston LaBar, CEO of the HTA, which represents drayage operators in Northern and Southern California. Since the harbor area offers little in the way of public transportation, a baseball stadium would be heavily dependent upon auto traffic, LaBar said.
If a decision is made to move forward with the EIR, as well as the approvals required by state, regional, and city regulatory agencies, the permitting process is expected to take several before construction could begin.
Oakland’s container volume has increased at a low single-digit rate almost every year since 2010, from 2.33 million laden and empty TEU to 2.55 million TEU last year. Port managers expect that growth to continue at least in the near term, given the rotation of services in the eastbound trans-Pacific trade. Container volume growth between Asia and North America is forecast to slow to 3.7 percent this year before accelerating to 5.3 percent in 2020 and 4.8 percent in 2021, according to the latest Trends in the World Economy and Trade report from IHS Markit, parent company of JOC.com.