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Inland Seeks a Say-So on Transit

San Bernardino and Riverside county leaders want state officials to address the problems associated with cargo transport in the region.

September 28, 2006|Sara Lin | Times Staff Writer

Cargo entering the United States through ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach doesn't stop at the L.A. County line, and neither should government funding for overburdened highways and railways, elected officials from Riverside and San Bernardino counties said Wednesday.

Leaders in the two counties have banded together to remind California's elected officials that the increase in imports has had a major effect on traffic, air quality and jobs across county lines.

"There are tendencies by leaders in Los Angeles County and legislators from Los Angeles to focus on goods movement as a port issue only. But it's not just a port issue," said San Bernardino County Supervisor William Postmus. "A huge share of those containers move by truck down our freeways in the Inland Empire."

About a dozen elected officials gathered Wednesday morning at the historic Santa Fe train depot in San Bernardino to call for a regional plan to address health, infrastructure and employment issues associated with growth at the two ports. Organizers hope to have the statement signed by representatives from each of the Inland Empire's 48 cities and both counties before sending it to all of California's elected officials.

Today, the Los Angeles-Long Beach seaport complex is the fifth-busiest in the world. Container traffic, which more than doubled in the last decade, is expected to nearly triple in the next 15 years.

Too often, said Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge, transportation officials forget about the Inland Empire when trying to accommodate more trade, even though it is where Southern California's main truck and rail routes intersect. The region's two major railroads -- Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Union Pacific -- meet in Colton in San Bernardino County and often create traffic jams at railroad crossings on major roads.

Meanwhile, truck traffic on two heavily traveled area routes, the 10 and 60 freeways, is expected to double by 2025, according to the Southern California Assn. of Governments.

"We're on a significant national trade route," Loveridge said. "We're asking for our fair share."

Riverside-based economist John Husing said the federal government's foreign policies had helped push a lot of manufacturing and production of goods to Asia, increasing the amount of imported goods. Yet little, if any, of the tariffs the federal government collects goes toward improving rail lines or freeways, he says.

"That has to change," he said.

But as elected officials talked about increasing rail and road infrastructure to handle more cargo traffic, slow-growth advocates stood in the back of the hall with placards that read "Community First, Smart Growth" and "Diesel Starts With Die."

"Talking about [transit improvements] is fine, but what about alternative fuels, low-sulfur diesel or natural gas for the trucks and trains?" said Jan Misquez, 45, of San Bernardino. "They need to address the health impacts that are already there."

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