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    News in Depth

    Alameda Corridor CEO Hankla Testimony & Colloquy at LB City Council 710 Fwy Study Session, May 20, 2003

    (May 25, 2003) -- posts below testimony as delivered and salient colloquy by James C. Hankla, CEO of the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority (ACTA) at a Long Beach City Council study session regarding the I-710 Major Corridor Study, May 20, 2003.

    The transcript below is unofficial, prepared by us; not all speakers or their comments are indicated; ellipses indicate deletions; bracketed material is by us for clarity.

    Mr. Hankla:...The issue as we at ACTA see it is that the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach comprise the busiest port complex in the nation. Together they handle more than 40 percent of the country's waterborne trade, which is valued at more than $200 billion per year.

    Cargo volumes have been increasing steadily, doubling in the 1990s to approximately 8 million TEU's or Twenty-foot Equivalent Units per year. Today, the ports handle approximately 11 million containers per year, and that figure is expected to exceed 36 million containers by the year 2020.

    Given the way we currently operate, and if the issue in real estate is "location, location, location," the issue with regard to the Long Beach freeway is "trucks, trucks, trucks."

    Now the two Ports generate approximately 34,000 local and intermodal truck trips per day. Even with the completion of the Alameda Corridor, that figure is expected to almost triple to more than 91,000 trips per day by 2020. That will cause significant delays and bottlenecks on local freeways and surface streets.

    Improving the surface transportation system [emphasis by speaker] -- and this is the approach that ACTA takes -- basically we can do a project that will improve the Long Beach freeway, but will it necessarily improve the system? -- improving the surface transportation system to accommodate this projected increase in cargo is critical to maintaining the regional and national economies -- one in fifteen jobs in this region is dependent upon the ports -- and minimizing the impact of this commerce on the regionís quality of life.

    Freeways must be available to commuters to maintain quality of life in our region and to provide reasonable visitor access. Let me repeat: Freeways must be available to the commuter to maintain quality of life in this region and provide reasonable visitor access.

    The April 2002 opening of the Alameda Corridor, the 20-mile freight rail expressway linking the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to the downtown rail yards, was the first major step in improving the efficiency of container movements by improving the system through the region. The Alameda Corridor significantly enhances port-related rail capacity by consolidating branch lines, eliminating at-grade crossings and safely increasing train speeds.

    However, the Alameda Corridor is primarily a rail expressway. It is designed to improve the flow of cargo bound for and arriving from destinations outside of Southern California via rail -- 50% of the cargo containers handled by the Ports. The other 50% of the cargo containers that are bound for or originate in the five [county] Southern California region are transported by truck.

    Currently, the Alameda Corridor is doing approximately 35 trains a day. The capacity, ladies and gentlemen, of the Alameda Corridor is 150 trains per day.

    Every train is worth 250 trucks. That's reality.

    Increasing the volume of containers and the economic and quality-of-life impacts of this commerce require a comprehensive solution involving rail and truck infrastructure improvements, as well as operational changes at port terminals and local distribution centers.

    As to rail, the Alameda Corridor as I said before, represents the rail component of the systems approach. The nice thing about the Alameda Corridor is it's there. And it is paid for. So that is not a challenge from the standpoint of cost.

    Mayor O'Neill: Jim, would you read again the number of trucks that this would take off the freeway, read the statistics that you just had?

    Mr. Hankla: Well basically every train takes approximately 250 trucks off the freeway. Every train, and the capacity for trains on the Alameda Corridor is 150 trains a day.

    Mayor O'Neill: And right now it's 30-something.

    Mr. Hankla: It's about 37 trains a day.

    Mayor O'Neill: OK

    Mr. Hankla: The 710 freeway carries 50% of all truck trips to and from the port. About half of these trips are containers being transported to or from intermodal rail yards located at the north end of the I-710, and they're loaded onto trains there with destinations east of the Rockies. Improvements to the I-710 freeway are essential to the integrated systems approach. The question is: what do those improvements need to be?

    The proposed Alameda Corridor Truck Expressway, SR-47, is a 1.7-mile grade separation which links Terminal Island to the newly improved Alameda Street. The Alameda Corridor Truck Expressway could reduce truck traffic on the I-710 Freeway.

    ACTA and Caltrans are presently working under a Cooperation Agreement to evaluate this potential project. It would be the most direct access for trucks, and the easiest access for trucks off Terminal Island.

    The Gerald Desmond Bridge is the only east-west arterial linking Long Beach and San Pedro with Terminal Island, the primary area of expansion for both ports. Replacing the Gerald Desmond Bridge is a critical link for port-related truck traffic.

    As to a new concept -- not totally new but relatively new, and that is rail shuttles to the inland empire intermodal facilities -- train shuttles from the ports to inland intermodal facilities with cargo containers trucked back into the five county areas would significantly solve much of the problem of trucks on the Long Beach freeway.

    A rail shuttle system to an inland intermodal facility could absorb a significant number of containers currently traveling by truck on the region's freeways.

    Now a lot of folks can give you a thousand reasons why this won't work. I will tell you that there were 10,000 reasons why the Alameda Corridor wouldn't work.

    ACTA is currently studying the feasibility, capital and operational considerations of a shuttle train system to intermodal facilities in the inland empire.

    Near dock intermodal container transfer facilities. The Union Pacific Railroad intermodal facility near Sepulveda Boulevard and 223d Street is one of the most successful joint ventures involving the two ports. Without this facility, approximately 1.3 million containers destined for the UP rail network would be trucked to UP's East Los Angeles terminal. Currently, these containers travel by rail.

    The Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad, also serving the two ports, currently does not have a near-dock facility. Every import container not serviced at an on-dock terminal must now be trucked to the Burlington Northern Hobart Yard near downtown Los Angeles. Moving the Burlington Northern's containers to a near-dock ICTF could reduce truck traffic on the I-710 and local arterial streets by approximately one million movements a year.

    Extended hours at port terminals and local distribution centers. Extended gate hours at port terminals and local distribution centers could reduce truck traffic congestion, reduce accidents and improve public safety. The business, labor and political leadership of the region should support the establishment of an around-the-clock delivery system that would better utilize this region's existing surface infrastructure.

    The implementation of these initiatives, members of the Council and Madam Mayor, could substantially reduce port-related container truck traffic during peak-hours on the region's surface transportation network and materially change the necessity and the kind of improvement needed for the Long Beach freeway. Thank you.

    Councilwoman Tonia Reyes-Uranga: ...You had mentioned that there's 35 train trips a day yet they have the capacity for 150. Can you maybe quickly say why it's not being utilized like it should?

    Mr. Hankla: Well, I think that essentially the Alameda Corridor is used by the railroads currently to move unit trains, those trains that come off that are already made up for a certain destination. Using it for random cars does not currently work, because the random cars would be handled by the shuttle trains. So essentially, if they get a train that's large enough coming off the on dock rail or the Union Pacific ICTF, then they would take that train down the Alameda Corridor and it would move all the way through the various yards to points east. But the random cars, in other words, off the boat comes a variety of containers destined for different locations. Getting those random cars destined for those different locations into one train going to Kansas City or Chicago is where the challenge of rail operations really lies.
    Councilwoman Jackie Kell:...These initiatives that you talked about, and the issue of eminent domain would be removed from the solution, is that what you're saying?

    Mr. Hankla: Well what I'm saying, Councilmember Kell, is that to the extent that we're able effectuate SR 47 and to the extent that we are able to effectuate shuttle trains to inland intermodal terminals, it will substantially minimize the kind of improvement that needs to be made to the 710. Now I would hope, it would be my hope, that that could reduce substantially or perhaps eliminate the need for eminent domain.
    ...Councilman Val Lerch: ...Why have we bought into as a city the building and expanding [of] the Port? Why are we on this track of getting the biggest Port in the world? How does it benefit this city as a whole? Why are we at this? Because they came along and said they were going to take the Navy Station away, so we had to find out something to do with the Navy Station, and now somebody decided, and now we're on this track to make it the biggest in the world? Why don't we tell the world we're done? Don't build anymore. Long Beach has taken it. Why don't we take and close down Treasure Island in San Francisco and use that as the goods to all the world. There are other alternatives and nobody's answered that question why we've decided the Port's a place to be, other than an ego for the city. What does it benefit the city of Long Beach in the long run? And I question that, and nobody's been able to answer that.

    ...I think the reality is about 90% of the trucks coming out of the Port [use the 710], so we need to get some alternative truck routes, we need to make some laws that say that only so many trucks can go along the 710, in other words there's all kinds of alternatives that we can do that nobody's explored just by directing the laws...

    Councilman Rob Webb: ...[T]he unused capacity on that [Alameda Corridor] rail line is something that we all need to look at. I have been involved in the staff side of the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority since its inception, and serve right now as the city's alternate to that Board, behind [Vice Mayor] Frank Colonna. He's never absent at any meetings so I don't get to go do much, but in any event, I've been aware of what's [been in] the planning phases of ACTA for many years, and I think it was always very clear that Alameda Corridor was not going to eliminate all of our freeway problems. However, if we didn't build the Alameda Corridor we would certainly see much more impacts to our 710 and our surface streets...The question I have Jim, maybe you can address this real quick, is what is needed for us to utilize the capacity within the Alameda Corridor rail system? Obviously infrastructure needs on both ends are going to need to be addressed for us to use that capacity?

    Mr. Hankla: The principal needs, Councilmember Webb, and Mayor and members of the Council, is for two terminals to be built in the inland empire that would serve the two railroads, and that sufficient rolling stock, or a configuration of trains that would be essentially the shuttle trains that would move the random containers up to those terminals. From those terminals they would either be assembled into unit trains for movement east, or they would be trucked to other terminals where they would be re-stuffed into perhaps other containers for movement east, or trucked to other terminal locations for distribution...

    Councilwoman Laura Richardson: ...What's the cost difference of shipping for example on the Alameda Corridor on the rail versus what someone pays to ship on the freeway?

    Mr. Hankla: What we're currently doing is a rather in depth study on goods movement and container movements, and we are developing that information, we'll have it very shortly. Suffice it to say that at the present time, that if you're planning to move a box, say, to a distribution center in the inland empire Las Vegas or Phoenix, it is cheaper to move it by truck. And analyzing the economics of good movement, and changing that in favor of cleaner rail, is one of the challenges that we're addressing.
    ... ...
    Mayor O'Neill: Do they have the rails for that?

    Mr. Hankla: The rails are there. What's not there are the terminals. The terminals are very large areas, approximately three to four-hundred acres that have the ability to make up trains, to move the random boxes for unit configuration for transport east or to move them to distribution terminals for re-stuffing into larger containers.
    Councilman Lerch: Mr. Hankla, how much would it cost to build those terminals out in the inland empire? Do you have a figure on that?

    Mr. Hankla: Yes, Councilmember Lerch, members of the City Council. Early estimates, and I emphasize this early estimates, the two terminals would cost about $1 billion.

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