Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A compromise can help fix the congestion in Northern California

Traffic relief
A compromise can help fix the congestion
Article Launched: 11/26/2007 06:53:10 AM PST

It took a while, but the inevitable fight between Southern and Northern California over $20 billion in transportation bonds that voters approved last year has exploded into the open.

The next allocation will be $2 billion designated to improve the movement of goods throughout the state. Each dollar of bond money must be matched with a dollar from another source, so $4 billion ultimately will go to improving highways and rail lines that serve ports.

Southern California has the nation's second- and third-largest ports at Los Angeles and Long Beach. It argues it should receive 85 percent of the money because its ports account for 85 percent of the container cargo processed at state ports. Consequently, it has submitted a wish list for $1.72 billion in projects.
Northern California says the formula used for most transportation projects - a 60-40 split between south and north -should be applied to the bond's Trade Corridors Improvement Fund. The Port of Oakland, the nation's fourth-busiest, also has great traffic improvement needs. Its proposals total $860 million.
Los Angeles officials, including Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, are taking a particularly hard stand. But what's needed is less huffing and puffing and more compromise for the good of the whole state.

While the volume of goods-related traffic in Southern California clearly means it should get more than the north, its push for 85 percent is just plain piggish.
A mere 15 percent for Northern California ignores heavy congestion from the Port of Oakland, which unlike the other state ports is used equally for imports and exports. The Oakland port also has greater growth potential.

A fair split would be in the 70 percent-30 percent vicinity.
Moving goods more efficiently also can improve the environment. If rail can move more container cargo throughout the state and beyond, this will mean fewer trucks on the road and less carbon dioxide in the air.

As it is, on any given day about 20,000 trucks use Interstate 580 to travel east and west, while 20,000 to 25,000 use Interstate 880 to go north and south. To reduce those numbers, roughly half the money requested in Northern California's proposals are rail-related.

To support Northern California's bid, a coalition of Bay Area, Sacramento and Central Valley officials has been formed. The 14 projects the group supports also include dredging and some highway improvements.
The California Transportation Commission will decide on the split. But state leaders from the north and south should fashion a more reasonable compromise before the matter is handed to them.

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