California’s economy is one of the largest on the planet, having surpassed France in 2000 as the fifth largest (worth $1.33 trillion, just ahead of France and right behind the United Kingdom).
The bulk of that economy resonates directly from Southern California. California roads and highways also carry more truck traffic than any other state in the nation. Once again, the bulk of that is slowly crawling through Southern California. “With 370 people dying every year in traffic accidents involving large trucks moving down our roads, it’s frightening to think that truck traffic is expected to grow 50 percent by the year 2020,” said Ray Holdsworth, Southern California Leadership Council (SCLC) co-chair and vice chairman of AECOM, an LA-based global engineering services firm.
“The governor is right when he says our state infrastructure, especially our transportation corridors, ‘is at the breaking point’,” said Holdsworth, referencing Governor Schwarzenegger’s State of the State address last week (1/5/06). “Just ask anyone in Los Angeles or the Inland Empire to tell you about the last time they drove on the 710 or 60 freeways and you’d know just how serious a problem truck traffic really is. Many people I know will take surface streets before venturing out on that stretch of highway system.”
“This is why we [the Southern California Leadership Council] have been feverishly working on a solution to the problem,” said Robert Wolf, co-chair of the SCLC and chairman of Germania Corporation, a regional industrial and office development company.
“International trade and its resulting cargo moving through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in trucks, trains and enormous container ships has directly created more than a quarter of a million jobs and indirectly sustains employment for an additional 300,000 people. Still, the general feeling is that an increase in trade also means increased traffic, air pollution, and headaches for the rest of the population, especially those living along major trade corridors such as the 710 or 60 freeways. But that’s not necessarily so,” said Wolf.
“There really is way to please everyone, no matter how absurd that sounds,” said Wally Baker, senior VP of Public Policy, Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC), and member of the Governor’s Goods Movement Work Group. “Since traffic congestion, international trade, and air pollution are interdependent, we need to take on these issues simultaneously if we are to improve our quality of life and continue our world class economy. The Governor’s proposal to upgrade the state infrastructure by building more port cargo capacity and reducing diesel pollution is a step in the right direction.”
The Southern California Leadership Council believes the solution lies is what they call a “green freight” initiative — a self-reinforcing cycle of investment in trade growth and environmental improvement projects. They believe the way forward is to build support for a coordinated effort in which the public and private sectors will each pay only for those projects from which they derive tangible benefits. The state pays only for projects that make communities more livable, such as eliminating delays at rail crossings or reducing or eliminating diesel pollution along freeways. Meanwhile, the private-sector partners would focus investments on adding capacity and efficiency, and paying for any state-mandated environmental mitigation.
The Southern California Leadership Council believes in a threefold plan for addressing the issue:
1. State money invested in local infrastructure now is money that will pay dividends in future public safety, air quality and productivity gains.
2. The state has the bond capacity. A recent article in The Times said Wall Street does not regard California's debt load — about $55 billion — as overly burdensome.
3. If the publicly financed projects are carefully matched with private-sector projects, new tax revenues generated by the resulting permanent job growth would more than repay the cost of the state bonds. An L.A. County Economic Development Corp. study says this project approach would boost state taxes by $17 billion over 25 years.
The Council was founded in 2005, with the help of the LAEDC, the four former governors of California (Jerry Brown, George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson and Gray Davis) and a select group of business and community leaders from all eight counties in Southern California (San Diego, Orange, LA, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Kern, and Imperial).
For interviews or more information about the Southern California Leadership Council’s solution for the coexistence of international freight transit, free-flowing traffic and clean air, please contact George McQuade.