Transportation and policy leaders from Southern California and across the United States are in Washington, D.C., for national infrastructure week to encourage greater federal funding for freight infrastructure and much-needed improvements to the country’s goods movement network.
Representatives from the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) are joining members of the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors (CAGTC) in urging members of Congress and the U.S. Department of Transportation to make freight investment an urgent national priority.
“Southern California is a major international trade corridor, but we’ve seen our infrastructure deteriorate to the point where our economy and quality of life face serious long-term consequences,” said Pam O’Connor, a City Councilmember from Santa Monica and a past president of SCAG.
O’Connor is joining fellow SCAG Past President Greg Pettis, a Councilmember from Cathedral City, in making Southern California’s case for greater freight investment. Directly or indirectly, trade and goods movement represents one-third of all jobs and economic activity in the region.
“The future of Southern California is directly tied to our ability to move goods safely and efficiently, and right now, that’s very much at risk given the state of our freight network,” Pettis said. “It’s not just about us, either. Southern California is America’s global freight gateway, so what is good for us impacts the entire U.S.”
Home to America’s largest seaports, major international airports and vital ports of entry along the Mexican border, Southern California processes nearly half of all containerized freight entering and leaving the U.S. This includes more than $131 billion in exports to other countries each year.
In December, SCAG joined the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and county transportation agencies in submitting a regional request for $160 million in funding through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s FASTLANE freight grant program. The “America’s Global Freight Gateway: Southern California Highway Strategy” proposal would help fund improvements to one of the worst freight bottlenecks in the country – the 57-60 Freeway Confluence in the San Gabriel Valley – as well as the conversion of the 71 Expressway to a freeway, the Interstate 10 Logistics Corridor project and the construction of tolled express lanes on Interstate 15 in Riverside County.
These four projects were selected for the regional application package because of the way their traffic flows align with one another and the safety benefits and congestion relief that would be realized of completing the projects in tandem. If any of these projects were not funded, but the others were, freight-related traffic congestion would not be eliminated, but simply shifted to different parts of the network.
The America’s Global Freight Gateway: Southern California Highway Strategy is also included among America’s most critical infrastructure projects in a new report by CAGTC, “Freight Can’t Wait.” Other Southern California projects included in that study:
- The East-West Freight Corridor, comprised of dedicated truck-only lanes on State Route 60 connecting the north end of Interstate 710 to the Inland Empire.
- Two projects by the Alameda Corridor-East Construction Authority (ACE) – the Durfee Avenue Grade Separation in Pico Rivera and the Montebello Corridor Grade Separation in the city of Montebello.
- Gateway and port of entry improvements along the U.S.-Mexico border in Calexico and Mexicali.
- Widening of the I-710 Freeway between the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, the Hobart Rail yard and numerous distribution centers.
- Construction of a new Gerald Desmond Bridge and development of dock facilities and supporting rail infrastructure at the Port of Long Beach.
- Freight and rail improvements in and around the Port of Los Angeles.
- The widening of Interstate 5 between Interstate 405 and State Route 55.
- High-occupancy vehicle lanes and access improvements to the Port of Hueneme.
“Freight transportation is the backbone of America’s commerce. It is an economic engine, producing millions of jobs and a higher standard of living,” said Hasan Ikhrata, Executive Director of SCAG. “Without the ability to quickly and cost-effectively move goods, American businesses struggle to remain competitive and the overall health of the economy struggles.”
Joining SCAG in Washington will be representatives of ACE and other transportation agencies.