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Nov 27, 2017

Long Beach trucking company to pay $333K in criminal case for damaging streets with heavy loads

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The Long Beach prosecutor’s office Tuesday announced a settlement in one of the largest criminal cases brought against a trucking company accused of damaging city roads and freeways by hauling loads that were too heavy.

Western Maritime Express, Inc., based in Long Beach, has pleaded no contest to 40 misdemeanor counts and three infraction charges the city alleged in two separate cases, according to a statement from the office of Doug Haubert, city prosecutor.

The company will pay $333,435 to settle the charges, including that it violated weight limits and failed to have proper permits to carry overweight loads between June 2016 to April 2017. Part of the settlement amount includes $213,435 in court fines and fees to Los Angeles Superior Court, and $120,000 in restitution to the city.

“Although it appears most trucking companies comply with highway safety laws, we need to reinforce the message that egregious violators will be caught and prosecuted,” Haubert said in a written statement. “And they will be held accountable.”

Bryan Schroeder, an attorney representing the company, said part of the problem is that it makes better business sense for manufacturers and distributors to ship heavy items such as granite and stone in large loads. When truckers arrive at the Port of Long Beach or Port of Los Angeles to ferry the products, they are charged if they don’t take the entire load, he said.

“The moment they pull out of the port, they are in violation of city laws,” said Schroeder, who represents roughly 60 trucking companies and said the problem is pervasive. If the trucking companies ask their customers to ship lighter loads, customers threaten to take their business elsewhere, he said.

He added that Haubert’s office has been working to come up with a solution to the problem, which he described as a “Catch-22” for the trucking companies.

Overweight loads create a public safety hazard, and cause damage to roads — including potholes — that are engineered to specific weight limits, the city statement said.

“Moreover, overweight vehicles cannot stop quickly if traffic comes to an abrupt halt, potentially endangering the lives of motorists,” the city said.

Breach of the city rules also creates an unfair competitive advantage to other companies who comply with rules and carry lighter loads at additional expense, Haubert’s office said, adding that “strict enforcement of weight laws promotes fair competition.”

Long Beach has brought other cases against trucking companies for carrying heavy loads, including an April 2012 case against Pacific Coast Container, Inc., an Oakland-based trucking firm.

Haubert’s office settled the case against the company, which was ordered to pay a total of $460,000 in fines and restitution. In that case, Pacific Coast Container, Inc. was convicted on 47 misdemeanor counts. One of the charges was for transporting a load more than 19,000 pounds over the legal limit.

In January 2015, a truck driver and a Rancho Cucamonga trucking company were found guilty of transporting a load weighing 10 tons more than the legal limit on Long Beach streets. A jury convicted Guadalupe Martinez and his employer, Martinez Trucking and Logistics, Inc., of a misdemeanor charge related to carrying an overweight load and misuse of a permit.

The case against Western Maritime Express was handled by Deputy City Prosecutor Pooja Kumar.

Online Edition

The Long Beach prosecutor’s office Tuesday announced a settlement in one of the largest criminal cases brought against a trucking company accused of damaging city roads and freeways by hauling loads that were too heavy.

Western Maritime Express, Inc., based in Long Beach, has pleaded no contest to 40 misdemeanor counts and three infraction charges the city alleged in two separate cases, according to a statement from the office of Doug Haubert, city prosecutor.

Jul 25, 2018

Long Beach’s port and city college partner to help students get jobs in the maritime industry

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Students eyeing maritime jobs will get their own training program at Long Beach City College, with workshops beginning as early as this winter.

The community college will open a special center dedicated to training students for careers as middle managers, supervisors and clerks throughout the multi-trillion dollar shipping industry, after the Board of Harbor Commissioners this week approved a one-year contract between the Port of Long Beach and the school.

Under the contract – which goes into effect Wednesday, Aug. 1 – the global shipping hub will give the college $60,000 to develop the Port of Long Beach Maritime Center of Excellence. The center’s goal will be to bring more young workers into a booming maritime transportation industry, which in 2016 was projected to grow 8 percent by 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The program, City College and port officials said, will be mutually beneficially – allowing the shipping industry to replenish its pool of talent and providing well-paying jobs to typically disadvantaged communities. The industry’s median salary, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is $55,590 annually.

“This will no doubt address the need for training skilled workers for in-demand, high-paying jobs in the maritime, transportation and goods movement industry,” said Kathy Scott, the college’s vice president for academic affairs. “This program will benefit our most disproportionately impacted students, including our African American and our Latino students.”

The program will likely roll out in stages, beginning with a boot camp in the winter session. That workshop, lasting a few weeks and not worth any credits, would give students a taste of the various industries and office jobs at or around the port, such as supervising distribution, or doing clerical work for shipping and receiving companies.

“What’s been identified is a need for workforce training and development on these middle skills occupations,” said port spokeswoman Kerry Gerot said. “This, for us, really helps to close the gap in what we have in our educational program umbrella at the Port of Long Beach.”

But full classes could take longer to get going.

Officials have not yet worked out all the details of the program, such as whether it should offer a certificate or a two-year degree, or what the curriculum will be. And any courses that give students credit for completion will have to go through a months-long approval process, starting with the curriculum committee and ending with City College’s Board of Trustees.

That process could take 18 months, said Harbor Commission President Lou Anne Bynum,  meaning full classes wouldn’t begin until at least the spring 2020 semester – more than half a year after the contract between the port and the college is set to end.

The port could extend the contract, Bynum said, but it’s too soon to tell if that might happen. In the meantime, But, the partners will look for grants and other funding to support the program.

“If it’s successful,” she said, “I think the port would want to continue to support it.”

Online Edition

Students eyeing maritime jobs will get their own training program at Long Beach City College, with workshops beginning as early as this winter.

The community college will open a special center dedicated to training students for careers as middle managers, supervisors and clerks throughout the multi-trillion dollar shipping industry, after the Board of Harbor Commissioners this week approved a one-year contract between the Port of Long Beach and the school.

Nov 02, 2017

Los Angeles, Long Beach port officials adopt new clean air plan

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A long-range plan designed to reduce air pollution around the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach that could cost up to $14 billion is now official policy.

Harbor commissioners for Los Angeles and Long Beach voted Thursday to adopt the 2017 Clean Air Action Plan Update. The vote took place during a special meeting conducted at the Crowne Plaza Los Angeles Harbor Hotel, and commissioners voted unanimously to support the new plan, according to announcements from both port organizations.

“These new policies and strategies are some of the most progressive air quality rules in the nation,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said in a statement. “We are serious about fighting climate change, protecting local residents, and promoting economic success at our ports.”

Much of the plan, estimated to cost $7 billion to $14 billion over many years, involves shifting the cargo handling and trucking industries away from fossil fuels and toward near-zero and zero-emissions technologies. The plan also anticipates that cleaner engines will power future container ships.

Harbor officials’ adoption of the plan follows the joint declaration Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Garcia made in June in favor of having zero-emissions cargo handling technology at the twin ports in 2030. The mayors have also announced their intent for zero-emissions trucks to carry freight between the ports and Southern California distribution centers in 2035.

Although that’s a timeline that stretches over the course of nearly two decades, the plan’s authors observed in the document that considerable investments will be required over the coming five to seven years to make sure anyone driving a near-zero or zero emissions vehicle has access to the necessary fuel or electricity.

The plan also requires that from 2020 on, terminal operators’ acquisitions of cargo handling equipment brings zero-emissions machines to the ports, assuming such equipment can be purchased. The new policy also establishes a fee structure intended to promote trucking companies’ switch to cleaner rigs.

A similar mechanism intended to give shipping companies an incentive to bring cleaner vessels to local docks is scheduled to begin in 2025.

The now-official policy further calls upon the leaders of local ports to advocate for stricter environmental regulations, to support technology demonstration programs in Los Angeles and Long Beach, for public financing for clean technology research and for grants for companies doing business at the ports.

Commissioners cast their votes Thursday after conducting a lengthy public comment period during which environmentalists and others contended the new policy does not go far enough to promote zero-emissions equipment. Commissioners also heard from truckers who expressed worry that the costs of switching to cleaner trucks may fall upon individual drivers.

Many truckers own or lease their vehicles, and parallel to the long-running argument over whether drivers should be classified as independent contractors or trucking firms’ employees, the plan has aroused worry that working-class drivers may bear the burdens of adopting cleaner, but more expensive, rigs.

The plan’s authors have acknowledged that zero-emissions technology contemplated for future adoption is not yet commercially available. Business interests have expressed worry over projected costs and whether hoped-for technologies will eventually prove to be reliable.

“As the CAAP is implemented, it will take open, honest and collaborative dialogue by all parties to address the feasibility of zero-emission cargo-handling equipment and to examine the ports ability to compete with other North American trade gateways,” Pacific Merchant Shipping Association president John McLaurin said in a statement.

The ports adopted their inaugural Clean Air Action Plan in 2006. That plan included the Clean Trucks Program, which banned old rigs from the ports in an effort to curb air emissions.

Port officials report a substantial reduction in air pollution since the time before the first Clean Air Action Plan Went into effect. Since 2005, diesel particulate emissions around San Pedro Bay are down 87 percent.

Nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides have, respectively, fallen 56 and 97 percent since 2005, according to the ports.

Online Edition

A long-range plan designed to reduce air pollution around the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach that could cost up to $14 billion is now official policy.

Harbor commissioners for Los Angeles and Long Beach voted Thursday to adopt the 2017 Clean Air Action Plan Update. The vote took place during a special meeting conducted at the Crowne Plaza Los Angeles Harbor Hotel, and commissioners voted unanimously to support the new plan, according to announcements from both port organizations.

Jan 12, 2018

Multi-million plan to reduce pollution begins with conversion of cranes at Port of Long Beach

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One of the largest sources of dirty air along a Long Beach port terminal will be eliminated as part of a $41 million plan to jump start wider use of electric vehicles and clean up transportation pollution, officials announced this week.

The California Public Utility Commission approved a project that will allow Southern California Edison to help convert nine diesel-powered cranes into clean-burning electric cranes at the Port of Long Beach, one of the region’s largest standing sources of pollution.

The project is part of a larger plan that gives state’s three major publicly-owned electric utility companies the go-ahead on more than a dozen pilot projects aimed at kick starting the electrification of vehicles. The projects include installing ultra fast electric-vehicle charging stations in urban areas and building out stations for buses.

“It’s a big deal,” said Adrian Martinez, a lawyer at Earthjustice, a pro-environmental group. “These projects will save lives. They will eliminate tail pipe emissions for lots of equipment, including that in Long Beach.”

Southern California Edison estimates it will cost customers about 3 cents a month to cover the costs of four projects.

The efforts are part of a state law directing publicly-owned utilities to invest in widespread transportation electrification with the goal of bringing California closer to its 2030 goal to reduce greenhouse gasses to 40 percent below 1990 levels.

Later this year, the commission is expected to consider an even bigger, $1 billion effort to expand electrification.

“Electrifying transportation represents the largest near-term opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and drive down pollution that impacts public health,” Ron Nichols, SCE president, said in a statement.

The soon-to-be converted cranes in Long Beach hover above the SSA Terminal, where they account for the second largest source of smog-forming nitrous oxide, or about 6 percent of the pollutant created every year at the port.

Eliminating it will diminish a fraction of the overall toxin produced at the port. The largest source is created by diesel-powered ships.

Last year, the mayors of Los Angeles and Long Beach vowed to bring the nation’s largest port complex to near zero-emissions by 2030 in line with state goals.

The area surrounding the ports have higher than average rates of asthma, and residents suffer other respiratory problems linked to port pollution.

Amid pressure from community and environmental groups, both ports have been investing in green technology. The Long Beach port is already home to a $1.5 billion all-electric terminal that’s seen as a model for green shipping.

Online Edition

One of the largest sources of dirty air along a Long Beach port terminal will be eliminated as part of a $41 million plan to jump start wider use of electric vehicles and clean up transportation pollution, officials announced this week.

The California Public Utility Commission approved a project that will allow Southern California Edison to help convert nine diesel-powered cranes into clean-burning electric cranes at the Port of Long Beach, one of the region’s largest standing sources of pollution.

Sep 10, 2016

One Hanjin ship begins unloading in Long Beach, while others are still anchored offshore

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One of three Hanjin ships idled for days off the Southern California coast was allowed to dock in Long Beach and begin unloading cargo early Saturday, a sign that a crisis sparked by the Korean shipping company’s bankruptcy may be easing.

The Hanjin Greece, which had been at sea since leaving Busan on Aug. 21, docked at Pier T in Long Beach at 6:50 a.m., according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California, a traffic controller for the L.A. and Long Beach port complex. The ship is expected to depart on Monday after unloading.

It’s not clear when two other ships, the Hanjin Montevideo and Hanjin Boston, will be able to dock and be unloaded, but Carson freight forwarder Robert Krieger said any movement after more than a week of waiting is a good sign.

“The gridlock of nothing happening has stopped,” said Krieger, president of Krieger Worldwide. “If there’s been an agreement worked out for the Greece, I feel very optimistic other ships are going to come in.”

The Greece was allowed to dock after U.S. and Korean bankruptcy courts allowed Hanjin to spend $10 million to unload that ship and others, according to Reuters. 

Hanjin filed for receivership on Aug. 31 after the debt-laden company’s creditors rejected a restructuring plan. Since then, Hanjin cargo ships have been idling outside ports around the world waiting on action in bankruptcy courts. The company didn’t want to bring any ships to dock because it feared they would be seized by creditors. Port terminal operators, meanwhile, feared the bankrupt shipping giant wouldn’t be able to pay the longshore workers and truck drivers needed to unload and deliver Hanjin cargo.

Those delays have hamstrung companies awaiting cargo deliveries. Alex Rasheed, president of downtown Los Angeles clothing importer Pacific Textile, said he has 16 cargo containers trapped on Hanjin ships, including two containers on one of the vessels still waiting to dock in Long Beach.

In those 16 containers are about $2 million worth of T-shirts, sweatshirts and polo shirts bound for Wal-Mart, J.C. Penney and other big retailers. Rasheed said if cargo stranded on Hanjin ships isn’t offloaded and delivered soon, those goods might not make it to retailers before the holiday shopping rush begins.

“It takes time for goods to move through distribution centers and then in to every store,” Rasheed said. “If this thing is not resolved quickly, there’s going to be empty store shelves.”

As Hanjin ships have been idled offshore, that also has meant fewer hours for longshore workers who unload ships and truck drivers who haul goods from the port complex to inland rail yards and warehouses.

The shipping company accounts for about 4% of all cargo coming into the Port of Los Angeles and 12% of cargo coming into the Port of Long Beach. Hanjin is the majority owner of Total Terminals International, which operates Long Beach’s largest shipping terminal.

“There are a lot of people suffering,” said Patrick Kelly, executive officer of Teamsters Local 952, speaking at a news conference in Wilmington on Saturday morning.

He said the situation has been particularly hard for truck drivers, as many of them are classified as independent contractors, not as company employees, meaning they cannot claim unemployment benefits when work dries up.

 

 

Online Edition

 

One of three Hanjin ships idled for days off the Southern California coast was allowed to dock in Long Beach and begin unloading cargo early Saturday, a sign that a crisis sparked by the Korean shipping company’s bankruptcy may be easing.

Feb 06, 2018

Plans for an $820 million railyard oust longtime Long Beach businesses

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Roy Hetherington doesn’t want to stand in the way of progress. But progress is about to roll right over his business.

The Long Beach Harbor Commission recently gave the go-ahead on plans to build an $820 million railyard that proponents say will cut pollution and speed up cargo handling at the nation’s second busiest ports.

The 171-acre project just west of the 710 freeway marks a rare moment at the port: Environmentalists, shippers and port officials all agree it is a game changer that will help reduce pollution while making the port more competitive.

It will also force Hetherington and others out of shops where they have build their livelihood. And, compounding matters, officials say land available in industrial areas near the port is becoming scarce as marijuana growers snap up parcels in order to comply with laws requiring them to operate away from schools.

“I am not going to move out of here without a fight,” said Hetherington, a former merchant marine who runs a humming ship repair shop that employs about 40 workers.

He said his business depends on his location, just minutes from the dock.

“We put a lot of time and effort into building this place up,” Hetherington said. “I don’t want to see my business go.”

Harbor planners will need to oust owners of 39 properties and more tenants along a stretch of land south of 12th street in West Long Beach to build the yard. Port officials said they have already identified places to relocate businesses and will be offering them a fair price for their land.

“Our dialogue with the business community and those affected is a priority for us,” said Mario Cordero, the port’s executive director. “The goal is to make sure that whatever transitions are made, it is fair to everybody.”

Industrial land

Filled with greasy machine shops and crowded container yards, the quiet pot-marked road where the railyard will be built is bounded by 12th Street to the north, the 710 Freeway to the west and an existing yard to the south. About the only folks here are workers toiling behind concrete walls in the belly of the port’s industrial sector.

Lawrence Weber grew up along these quiet streets. The 47-year-old watched his grandfather and his father run Spun Products, a metal fabricating shop that opened in the 1970s and builds custom parts for the aerospace industry.

“I have spent my life here building this business and I got to go somewhere else?,” he said. “It’s like, why should I have to move? I own this place. I have paid for it in blood, sweat and tears.”

Port officials said details of relocation have not yet been worked out, and lawyers are reviewing the properties. But officials promise to help all they can.

“The port takes this really seriously,” said David Albers, a deputy city attorney. “These our our neighbors.”

He expects evaluations on the parcels will begin later this year, but emphasized the port is still in the early planning stages. The port will offer relocation assistance and what it deems market value for the property.

But Weber doesn’t see how officials can replicate his place.

“We would probably end up having to leave the area and most of our guys live in the area,” he said. “Some of us have been here for 20 years.”

Green zone

The vacancy rate for commercial real estate in the area is at about 1 percent, said David Bales of Lee & Associates, a commercial real estate company with offices in Gardena.

“The ones that have the biggest problem are the ones that have to be on the waterfront,” he said.

There’s not a lot of commercial property along the water. Bales said prices of property in industrial zones has skyrocketed as marijuana growers move in.

Cultivators of marijuana, which became legal for recreational use in California on Jan. 1, have zeroed in on places like West Long Beach because it’s far from schools and homes. A cluster of would-be growers have pending permit requests with the city.

Derek Caldwell, a real estate agent, said he’s sold about a dozen properties in the area to would-be marijuana growers over the last two years. And in that time, he’s seen prices more than double.

“There’s a lot of competition,” he said. “Most buyers are all cash.”

The trend scares Hetherington, who is still waiting for the city to notify him about their final plans. But he’s frustrated. He recently purchased a property next to his current business with plans to grow.

Dirty air

Rick Cameron, head of planning and environmental affairs for the port, said construction on the railyard could begin as soon as 2020, and will take place over several years.

The project comes as pressure increases to clean up air around the ports, the largest stationary source of pollution in the region. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have been looking toward so-called “on-dock rail” as one way to reduce truck trips that cause traffic along nearby freeways and increase congestion at port gates.

The theory is that picking up cargo by rail when it’s unloaded from the ship, as opposed to putting it on trucks, will lessen congestion, ease pollution and speed up efficiency in an area sometimes referred to as the “diesel death zone.”

“As cargo continues to grow, having this infrastructure in place will help us move more of that cargo by rail,” said Heather Tomley, the port’s director of environmental planning. “Without this project, this cargo would have to go by truck.”

She estimates one train trip could replace more than 700 truck trips.

Currently, about 20 percent of all the steel container boxes are placed onto trains near terminals, but the port wants to increase that to 35 percent as more and more containers are imported into the port, ferrying everything from furniture to machine parts.

Cordero said the railyard project is “crucial” to hitting lower pollution targets.

The plans will triple the capacity at the already existing railyard, from 12 tracks to 48 tracks, and will provide a key staging area for terminals that will allow shippers to assemble trains up to 10,000 feet long and send them out to points across the country. Right now, there’s no room to do that in the terminals.

But it’s gong to do so at the cost of business owners.

“There’s no two ways about it,” said John Donaldson, president of LAN Logistics, whose company is also in the path of construction. “It will bite our ability to work.”

His company moves heavy machinery for the military and others near the port.

“We have to be in this area to do what we do,” he said. “There’s a threat of not being able to do what we are doing.”

 

Online Edition

Roy Hetherington doesn’t want to stand in the way of progress. But progress is about to roll right over his business.

The Long Beach Harbor Commission recently gave the go-ahead on plans to build an $820 million railyard that proponents say will cut pollution and speed up cargo handling at the nation’s second busiest ports.

Oct 28, 2016

Port of Oakland reduces diesel emissions 76% in 10 years

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OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - The Port of Oakland, a major source of pollution announced just how much just a decade of really reducing pollution, really has benefited everyone. 

Compared to 2005, 2015 ended with an overall 76% decrease in diesel emissions from all sources from ships to port vehicles and everything in between.

These numbers do make us one of the cleanest ports of our size in the country, if not the world," says Richard Sinkoff, the Port's Environmental Manager.

Emissions from locomotives: down 89%. Cargo handling machines: down 82% Ships themselves: down 75%. That's because the Port installed dockside shore power which many, eventually all ships, can plug into and shut down their massive diesel engines.

"This is one of the only places in the world where ships are required to plug into grid power and the reduction of diesel particulates is tremendous when the plug in," says Port Director Chris Lytle.

But the reduction in particulate pollution from trucks, the stuff that really hurts your lungs and harms your health, which is the number one source here at the Port of Oakland, has been nothing short of spectacular.

Because regulators required truckers to upgrade or replace their old smoke bomb rigs, port trucks put out 98% less pollution than a decade ago because they were sickening and killing the neighbors.

"We suffer three times the particulate matter of anywhere else in the Bay Area and black children are two and a half times more likely to visit the ER for asthma than any other Bay Area children," says Lynette Gibson-McIllheny of the Oakland City Council.
But it's getting better and better.

"These are the cleanest trucks used in any port, any place in the country," says Port Director Lytle. It's very good but we still have a ways to go. "My dream, my goal and the next campaign will be, 'how do we get to zero emissions?'" says  Margaret Gordon, a West Oakland resident and activist.

There's good news on that front too. GSC Logistics has one of the port's largest truck fleets. "In fact, GSC Logistics will be testing battery operated trucks in 2017," says Scott Taylor, GSC Logistics CEO. "And really transform the Port and the local community so that we're not relying on fossil fuels," adds Jack Broadbent, Directro of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

 

 

Online Edition

OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - The Port of Oakland, a major source of pollution announced just how much just a decade of really reducing pollution, really has benefited everyone. 

Compared to 2005, 2015 ended with an overall 76% decrease in diesel emissions from all sources from ships to port vehicles and everything in between.

These numbers do make us one of the cleanest ports of our size in the country, if not the world," says Richard Sinkoff, the Port's Environmental Manager.

Nov 07, 2017

Port plan offers healthier future for our children and grandchildren

Online Edition

If you need evidence that we do not have to make the false choice between prosperity and environmental health, look no further than the twin ports of the San Pedro Bay.

Our ports are the beating heart of Southern California’s economy — supporting one out of every nine jobs in our region, and nearly three million across the America. Close to 40 percent of all goods shipped into the United States come in through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

That is an extraordinary economic impact, but the operations at these indispensable gateways to international commerce cause significant air pollution. Our communities deserve cleaner air, and that’s why the ports set out a landmark Clean Air Action Plan in 2006 to reduce emissions in a meaningful, measurable ways that improve air quality and protect public health.

The plan has already challenged us to deploy strategies that make real progress on reducing air pollution, and we know that it’s working — since the CAAP was adopted, we have reduced diesel emissions at the ports by 87 percent, and cut greenhouse gas emissions overall by nearly 20 percent.

Last week, our harbor commissions took this work even further by approving the first CAAP update in seven years: it includes measures that will help us reduce greenhouse gases 80 percent by 2050 and keep us on the path we set this summer for the ports to reach a goal of 100 percent zero emission drayage trucks by 2035; strategies to transition terminal equipment to zero emissions by 2030; and new incentives to help lower emissions by slowing ships down, and encouraging clean retrofits.

The CAAP also includes a new truck appointment system, to be in place by 2020, that will reduce truck wait times, so that the industry can be as efficient and profitable as possible.

And the ports will advocate together for the use of other possible funding sources — the Volkswagen settlement fund, the state’s Cap and Trade program, and other state and federal grants — to help the industry attain the goals of the CAAP Update.

The CAAP has helped deliver extraordinary progress over these last 11 years — but the truth is that our work has just begun. Realizing the goals in the new plan update will demand courage, compromise and bold leadership from our cities, the industry and everyone with a stake in a more sustainable future at our ports.

The road may be long, but we cannot afford to lose sight of our responsibility to shape a healthier future for our children and grandchildren. Let’s draw inspiration from the spirit of collaboration — between residents, industry stakeholders, environmental advocates, labor leaders, and elected officials — that has brought us this far, and work even harder to make more progress together in the months and years to come.

Online Edition

If you need evidence that we do not have to make the false choice between prosperity and environmental health, look no further than the twin ports of the San Pedro Bay.

Our ports are the beating heart of Southern California’s economy — supporting one out of every nine jobs in our region, and nearly three million across the America. Close to 40 percent of all goods shipped into the United States come in through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Mar 12, 2018

Print Metro board will vote on expanding the 710 Wider 710 would displace hundreds

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For decades, the 710 Freeway has been the commercial spine of Southern California, funneling the trucks carrying thousands of tons of furniture, clothes, televisions and other goods from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach into the region’s sprawling network of freeways and warehouses.

But the steady stream of freight traffic on the 710, driven by the country’s growing appetite for imported goods and two-day shipping, has taken its toll. The pavement is cracked, bottlenecks are common, and the share of trucks on the freeway is three times higher than engineers in the 1960s expected.

Transportation officials have clashed for decades with local and environmental advocates over how to untangle traffic and speed the movement of goods along the 710 without further harming the surrounding neighborhoods that are in what’s known as “the diesel death zone.”

After all that debate, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has a chance this week to make a decision. At a downtown board meeting Thursday, the agency’s directors will consider two alternatives to widen the 710, both of which would require evicting hundreds of residents and business owners to make room for new freeway lanes.

Along a corridor that generates so much commerce and pollution, any decision will be controversial.

Attempting to stave off that backlash, a coalition of Metro directors says it will propose a compromise that would greenlight some improvements, including longer ramps and new interchanges, but delay a decision on the widening.

Before any major construction could begin, Caltrans and Metro need to close a shortfall of at least $5 billion. Choosing an alternative will help the agencies identify more state and federal funding, officials said.

Both alternatives call for lanes reserved for zero-emission or low-emission trucks. The route, if built, would represent the first leg of a green freight network, possibly including tolls, that planners have envisioned for more than two decades.

The $6-billion alternative backed by Metro staff members would add a lane for zero-emission trucks between Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach and the 60 Freeway in East Los Angeles, and lanes that would allow truckers to bypass traffic backups near the 405 Freeway. The plan would update ramps at 24 streets and rebuild interchanges with the 91, 5 and 405 freeways.

The $10-billion alternative calls for four elevated truck-only lanes parallel to the 710, in addition to similar interchange and ramp improvements.

The amendment introduced this week would require Metro and Caltrans to finish interchange, intersection and ramp improvements along the 710 before seeking approval of the wider route. Depending on funding and construction progress, that could be at least a decade away.

The proposal would also require Metro to further reduce or eliminate the planned displacement of up to 560 residents and business owners along the corridor. More than 90% of the 710 changes can be completed in the existing right-of-way without using eminent domain, the directors said.

The motion would provide grants and other financial incentives for trucking companies to adopt zero-emission engines. It would also urge the use of more rail, particularly “on-dock rail,” which allows the ports to transfer cargo directly from ships to trains. The process can eliminate 750 truck trips for each full train, port estimates show.

County Supervisor Kathryn Barger and other officials have urged a financial model that would push shipping companies toward rail — particularly the nearby Alameda Corridor, a rail expressway from the ports to rail yards near downtown that has unused cargo capacity.

“If we’re going to do financial incentives as it relates to zero emissions, we need to look at financial incentives for rail,” Barger said at a recent Metro meeting.

But loading cargo onto trains, and paying the per-container fee on the Ala-meda Corridor, makes financial sense only for companies that are sending their goods to another state, said Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of the Southern California Assn. of Governments, a regional planning agency.

Trains do not head north up the corridor until they’re fully loaded, a process that can take hours.

About 37% of cargo entering the ports stays in Southern California, either to be consumed here, or sent to local warehouses to be unpacked, sorted, repacked and sent out on trucks. As more customers expect two-day delivery for online purchases, that form of delivery will only become more dominant, he said.

“For short distances, trucks are the cheapest and the most economic mode there is,” Ikhrata said. “To expect Alameda Corridor to do more than it’s doing now is not going to work.”

Highway officials began to study the problems of the 710 more than two decades ago. In 2003, as cities along the route asked for a fix to their traffic problems, and as officials studied options, advocates learned that up to 1,000 homes and businesses could be demolished to make way for extra freeway lanes.

The resulting outcry put the project on pause — but only temporarily.

The idea returned several years later, only to be stymied by a funding shortfall and the worst economic recession since World War II. The project eventually secured enough funding for environmental reviews, guaranteed through two half-cent sales taxes that Los Angeles County voters approved in 2008 and 2016.

Caltrans and Metro officials eventually reduced by half the number of people who would lose their homes and businesses. They now estimate that the $6-billion project would displace 436 people and the $10-billion option would displace 484 people.

“When I saw those numbers, I thought, ‘Oh no, not this again,’ ” said Alan Hose, a Long Beach resident who served on a 710 advisory committee in 2004. The group of concerned residents, environmentalists and others had pushed Caltrans and Metro to design the freeway without displacing anyone. Officials say that is impossible.

Still, the number of people who would be forced to move remains a sticking point on the project. Immigrants living in the country illegally would not be eligible for federal relocation benefits, advocates said.

At a recent Metro meeting, Los Angeles City Councilman and Metro director Mike Bonin described the figures as “scary high.” Evictions could permanently alter the rhythm of life for communities near the freeway, he said, as they did for neighborhoods near Los Angeles International Airport.

“I can still see people talking about the homes taken away to accommodate LAX expansion decades ago,” Bonin said. “Folks still talk about the folks who lost their homes in Chavez Ravine. It haunts and scars an area for a long time.”

Advocates for the southern half of the 710 have said that they feel they’ve been treated differently from the preservation and environmental advocates who battled a proposed 4.5-mile extension of the northern half of the 710.

The northern project would have redirected the hundreds of trucks that spill onto surface streets in Alhambra at the freeway’s abrupt ending, but would have required building through, or tunneling under, hundreds of single-family homes in El Sereno, Pasadena and South Pasadena.

The ugly, decades-long fight ended last year when Metro dropped its support for the project, agreed not to fund any major construction on it, and redirected the funds to local street improvements.

“This is not the kind of response that happened when the folks up in South Pasadena had questions about freeway development — a radically different neighborhood,” said Long Beach resident Leanne Noble at a Metro meeting last month. “Our neighborhoods also have the right to stability and to health.”

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For decades, the 710 Freeway has been the commercial spine of Southern California, funneling the trucks carrying thousands of tons of furniture, clothes, televisions and other goods from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach into the region’s sprawling network of freeways and warehouses.

Apr 28, 2018

Retrenchment from global trade will hurt U.S. workers and logistics network

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The ports in Southern California, and all the vast freight rail and intermodal infrastructure that support them, are on the front lines of the current uncertainties surrounding U.S. trade policy. The volatility surrounding international trade has been intense, particularly with China and our North American trading partners. While this dynamic underscores the strength and importance of U.S. trade, these heightened tensions also illuminate the vulnerability of the healthiest U.S. economy since the 2008 recession.

It also obfuscates a key point: Trade is good for American workers and our national economy.

At the core of the nation’s economic strength is the ability to move goods efficiently, a modern-day phenomenon that trucks, railroads, ships and ports make possible with a sophisticated logistics network. With it comes quality jobs and the ability to sell and consume goods seamlessly and globally, as we now come to expect in the digital era. Actions that would inhibit trade could have sizable negative repercussions to American jobs and the economy.

For future prosperity and the ability to enjoy these present-day realities, federal policymakers must recognize that an unnecessary trade war would do far more harm than good.

This starts with understanding the value of trade to key sectors that directly and indirectly employ millions, chiefly the seaport and private freight rail sectors we represent.

The cargo activity through U.S. ports supports a whopping 23 million American jobs, and every $1 billion worth of goods shipped through U.S. seaports — some of which, including in Southern California, connect closely to railroads — create 15,000 jobs. In total, seaports handle 2 billion tons of cargo annually, including food, clothing, medicine, fuel, raw materials, components, building materials, electronics and toys. And these materials flow out as well as in for domestic companies to use and consumers to enjoy.

Freight railroads, equally essential to the flow of goods and similarly reliant upon sensible trade policy, conservatively estimate that international trade — which includes commerce across North America as well as Asia and Europe — accounts for more than 40 percent of rail traffic. The sustained movement of goods via rail reduces highway congestion, provides environmental benefits and supports some 1.5 million jobs.

Surprisingly, railroads deliver nearly twice as much to export as they import. This is only possible, of course, with healthy ports that account for over one quarter of U.S. economic activity.

To maintain this economic powerhouse, we encourage the Trump administration and Congress to consider the economic and employment impact on seaports, rail hubs and their surrounding communities prior to imposing trade sanctions on imports from other nations.

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Promulgating thoughtful trade policy — that which favors reciprocal international trade liberalization on a fair and equitable basis — also means correcting what is sometimes misunderstood.

For example, the North American Free Trade Agreement, which negotiators are cautiously optimistic will be resolved in early May, has been a net positive to the U.S. economy — especially for U.S. railroads and auto manufacturers. Trade among Canada, Mexico and the U.S. has tripled since its enactment in 1993 while U.S. manufactured exports to Canada and Mexico account for 2 domestic million jobs. The ability to invest across the continent helps supports industries that may otherwise flee the region altogether.

Similarly, efficiency aiding technologies — not free trade agreements — have contributed most significantly to generational job shifts and a new-look U.S. economy. Yet this is nothing new. Cars displaced horses years ago, while digital banking now replaces tellers. All told, the U.S. is at record low unemployment and many high-skilled jobs remain unfilled.

Clearly, trade continues to support us all. Policymakers in Washington must work swiftly to restore market certainties and forge paths to expand U.S. exports, rather than create new import restrictions.

Additionally, we strongly encourage continued U.S. participation in comprehensive negotiations to expand trade of goods and services on a fair and equitable basis. Flirtations with rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are a positive development, as are signs that China is coming to the table. We hope progress will continue.

Online Edition

The ports in Southern California, and all the vast freight rail and intermodal infrastructure that support them, are on the front lines of the current uncertainties surrounding U.S. trade policy. The volatility surrounding international trade has been intense, particularly with China and our North American trading partners. While this dynamic underscores the strength and importance of U.S. trade, these heightened tensions also illuminate the vulnerability of the healthiest U.S. economy since the 2008 recession.