Pointing to a recently released study showing the Los Angeles area continues to endure the nation’s worst traffic, Assemblymen Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine) and Joe Canciamilla (D-Martinez) announced they are scheduling a local hearing of the Assembly Select Committee on Growth and Infrastructure on a project that will significantly alleviate a major part of the problem.

The hearing will be focused on the construction of a truck-only toll road stretching from the Port of Long Beach to an interior shipping facility in the Inland Empire. Truck and cargo company user fees would pay for the road.

The construction of this project will be facilitated by AB850 (Canciamillia) co-authored by Assemblyman DeVore, a bill that is a part of Governor Schwarzenegger’s “Go-California” transportation reform package that will add $1.3 billion to re-fund transportation projects.

Both lawmakers point to the continued problem of gridlocked traffic, which they say causes air quality and other problems. According to a recent report out of Texas A&M University, Los Angeles and Orange County residents wasted an average of 93 hours in traffic in 2003, the worst in the nation. The Inland Empire is tied for the nation’s ninth worst traffic situation. UCLA’s Institute of Transportation Studies says the problem in these areas will only worsen over time.

According to the study, many of the region’s traffic woes are caused by the heavy presence of trucks on the Southland’s freeways, not to mention the pileups ’ and resulting safety hazards ’ that occur when these trucks jackknife, overturn, or get into other accidents. A truck-only toll road would remove some of these complications from the area’s highways.

“The truck traffic coming out of Long Beach is a crucial issue we need to address,” said DeVore. “We must continue exploring this issue in a common sense and bipartisan fashion.”

“This is the type of project that can maximize public and private funds to quickly and efficiently address a major transportation headache that without such partnering could take decades to resolve,” said Canciamilla.

Lawmakers in Washington state are looking at a similar proposal to build a truck-only toll road from Chehalis, Wash., to Interstate 90, bypassing the congested Seattle area.

As currently conceived by the two lawmakers, the state government would handle matters such as development of the road’s right of way and handling of the relevant environmental considerations. When those issues were dealt with, the government would competitively award the project to a private company based on a best-value bid.

Adding to the pressing nature of this matter is the fact that a multi-billion dollar port is being built in Mexico 100 miles south of the US border in anticipation of worsening bottle necks at the ports of Long Beach and San Pedro. A new port in Mexico would threaten California jobs and tax revenues.

Both lawmakers say they will continue to study the issue before introducing a final piece of legislation sometime next January. In the process, they will meet with their legislative colleagues and hold discussions with trade and construction interests, local officials, and other impacted parties.

“This is a monumental project that, if it is to work, will require the input and support of a broad array of people across the political spectrum,” said DeVore.

Some officials have discussed the possibility of building a raised section over the 710 Freeway. Under this scenario, trucks would use the lower portion, with lighter vehicles using the raised segments. This would alleviate many of the right of way concerns in the first segment of the project.