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    Mayor O'Neill In DC, Tells House Subcommittee Gerald Desmond Bridge, I-710 Are Projects of Nat'l Economic Significance Meriting Fed'l Funds

    (May 7, 2003) -- LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill testified in Washington, D.C. at a Capitol Hill hearing today convened by the House Subcommittee on Highways, Transit & Pipelines, part of the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure.

    The hearing dealt with state and local perspectives on reauthorization of federal highway and transit programs. Mayor O'Neill's testimony focused on the Gerald Desmond bridge and the I-710 freeway:

    "Too much has been invested in the system to ignore these projects of national economic significance," the Mayor said, adding: "If funding projects of national economic significance is the most the Congress can do, it is also the very least it must do to help keep our Nation competitive in the global economy." posts below the Mayor's verbatim testimony as prepared for delivery.

    The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA 21) expires at the end of September. The Subcommittee scheduled two witness panels, the first comprised of Governors, and the second with local elected officials (including Mayor O'Neill) to "testify about the needs in their local communities and how federal and state programs enable them to maintain and improve their highway and transit systems."

    [begin Mayor O'Neill testimony prepared for delivery]:

    Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, on behalf of the City of Long Beach, California, I am pleased to be here today.

    Since its inception in 1958, the Federal-aid highway program has undergone eight major reauthorizations. Each one has addressed issues which, I believe, represent a natural evolution of the program. In the 1960ís it was construction; in the 70ís, maintenance; in the 80ís, mass transit; and in the 90ís, intermodalism and guaranteed funding. Now, with the current reauthorization, the Congress once again faces new evolutionary programmatic challenges, one of which is projects of national economic significance.

    These are projects of critical importance to the national economy; to Americaís leadership in the global marketplace; to the expanding wealth of the country; to the competitiveness of our industries; and, to the very standard of living and quality of life for all Americans. Specifically, these projects have a significant impact on the movement of goods and people; are primarily intermodal in nature; are without political or geographical bounds; and are cost effective.

    They are not a phenomenon of the program. The fact is for over 20 years now the Federal-aid highway system has basically been defined, constructed, maintained and funded. Given that, it is only natural, I submit, that we are now seeing the emergence of significant critical chokepoints in the system. One such chokepoint and project of national economic significance is the I-710 Corridor/Desmond Bridge Gateway Program.

    Gerald Desmond Bridge

    The Gerald Desmond Bridge is located in the Port of Long Beach and connects the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles with the I-710. Ten percent of all the Nationís waterborne cargo travels over this Bridge. The Program entails replacing the existing four lane bridge with a six-lane cable-stayed bridge. With an air draft of 200 feet, the new bridge will assure that the largest container ships will have unimpeded access.

    The Desmond Bridge is a National Highway System Intermodal Connector Route; a National Defense Highway System route; and, part of I-710. Its replacement is included in the 2002 Southern California Association of Governments Regional Transportation Improvement Program, and will be recommended for inclusion in the SCAG 2004 Regional Transportation Plan.


    The I-710 is the Portsí north-south freeway link to downtown Los Angeles, off-dock intermodal railyards, and other critical freeways. It is currently experiencing serious performance problems which are expected to be exacerbated due to continued growth in international trade and in the region.

    While a decision on the build alternative for the I-710 has not as yet been finalized, the common elements of the I-710 Corridor that would commence during the TEA-3 period include three freeway-to-freeway interchanges and key arterial street improvements.

    National Economic Significance

    Why is this a project of national economic significance?

    Last year, Richard Steinke, Executive Director of the Port of Long Beach, in testimony before this distinguished Subcommittee, pointed out that the Long Beach and Los Angeles Port complex handled 35% of all U.S. international container trade.

    However, U.S. Customs figures now reveal that it is, in fact, 42% of all U.S. inbound containers that flow through our seaport complex. That much trade movement is unequaled anywhere in the Country.

    Over the past 90 years the Port of Long Beach has grown from an initial acquisition of 800 acres of land to over 7,600 acres of land and shipping channels. Cargo handled in the mid-1920ís amounted to 1.1 million tons valued at about $11 million. In 2001 the Port accommodated over 65 million tons of foreign cargo with a value of nearly $100 billion. In 1969, 219,000 TEUís were loaded or discharged at the Port. Today more than 4.6 million TEUís pass through the Port annually. Since 1980, container cargo has grown at an average annual compound rate of over 11 percent. That is expected to more than double by 2010 and more than triple by 2020.

    Together the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles comprise the third largest seaport complex in the world. In 2000, $196 billion in international trade flowed through the Ports, generating $6.77 billion in Customs duties.

    Every state, and every Congressional district, is impacted by the flow of goods to and from the Ports. In 2000, the Northwest states received and sent goods via the Ports valued at $2.2 billion; the Great Plains states, $8.6 billion; the Great Lakes states, $25 billion, the Northeast states, $34.3 billion; the Southeast states, $10 billion, and the Southwest states, $98 billion.

    Mr. Chairman, in your Congressional District alone the value of products flowing in and out from the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles in 2000 totaled $160.4 million, with the largest export commodity being machinery, computers and electrical equipment, and the largest import, apparel and textiles. The top exporter was Mercury Maine; the top importer, Oshkosh BíGosh.

    Similarly, in the 3rd District of Illinois, Mr. Lipinskiís District, total exports-imports were $89.2 million, with Viskase, the top exporter and Health OíMeter, the top importer.

    Nothing demonstrated more the importance of the Ports than last yearsí work stoppage. It has been estimated that the combined lockout and backlog disrupted trade valued at $6.28 billion. In addition, the National security implications of maintaining credible transportation infrastructure at the two Ports also deserve serious consideration.

    Coupled with the Bridge is the I-710 situation. Currently, approximately 34,000 truck trips per day move to and from the Ports via the I-710. The I-710 itself carries 50% of all the Ports trips. About half of these freeway trips are containers being transported to destinations east of the Rockies. The total number of trips is forecast to increase to about 92,000 by 2020, even taking into account the increase in freight cargo carried by the railroads as a result of the Alameda Corridor. In addition to trucks going to and from the Ports, there are an estimated 30,000 non-port truck trips per day in the Corridor, forecast to increase to 75,000 by 2020, that serve manufacturing, warehousing, and distribution facilities.

    Mr. Chairman, we were honored in February to have you visit and see firsthand the I-710/Desmond Bridge Project, as did Congressman Oberstar.

    The story and the examples are the same whether it is Long Beach, Chicago, Dallas, Seattle, New York, etc. Too much has been invested in the system to ignore these projects of national economic significance. A solution is needed and it must be a meaningful and workable one. Simply throwing token money at it and/or by creating a discretionary program that will quickly become oversubscribed is not the answer. A new title or treatment-projects of national economic significance with significant dollars and specific project funding designations coupled with a supplementary discretionary component - is what is needed.


    Mr. Chairman, this is the first reauthorization of the Federal-aid highway program for the 21st Century. As such, it will be just as much a statement of what the program will face in the future as what it has been in the past. If funding projects of national economic significance is the most the Congress can do, it is also the very least it must do to help keep our Nation competitive in the global economy.

    Thank you.

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