California Ports - New directions for the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority

By: | at 08:00 PM | Channel(s): Intermodal News  Ports & Terminals  

Bi-city agency sponsoring regional programs
By Peter A. Buxbaum, AJOT
The Southern California press has been critical of the Alameda Corridor lately, claiming that the $2.5 billion rail project that connects the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to intermodal facilities in downtown LA is underutilized. But that has not stopped the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority, the bi-city agency that runs the rail line, from advancing regional transportation proposals that go far beyond the 20-mile stretch that was its original bailiwick.
ACTA was one of the prime movers behind the recently announced program to lengthen gate hours at the two Southern California ports. It is also studying the possibilities of expanding on-dock and near-dock rail facilities at the ports, improving bridges and freeways favored by truckers, and initiating a shuttle train that would serve the Inland Empire complex of regional distribution centers.
All of which have led some to query whether the authority has lost its bearings, considering the fact that the original rail line, which opened in 2002, is operating at only 25% of its capacity. ACTA CEO John Doherty recently defended the authority’s agenda in an exclusive interview with the AJOT.
“The corridor was designed for projected volumes of cargo in 2020,” Doherty said. “That doesn’t mean we don’t want to get more in if we can, but some people don’t understand the corridor was built to accommodate future growth.”
Doherty noted that throughput at the two giant Southern California ports is projected to triple over the next 15 to 20 years, from 12 million teus to 36 million. “With that growth will come more utilization of the Alameda Corridor,” Doherty predicted.
As for ACTA arrogating authority beyond its original scope, Doherty explained that the authority was first created to assess overall regional goods movement and was “not focused just on rail although the rail project was its original program.”
“The rail line was originally built as an environmental mitigation program for urban communities,” Doherty explained. “Before the Alameda Corridor was built, we had four surface branch lines that involved 200 grade crossings, with gates coming down every time a train went by.”
Doherty also noted that the ACTA board is made up of representatives of Los Angeles and Long Beach. “ACTA can expand its scope with the consent of both cities,” he argued. “As ACTA moves beyond its original rail focus, it is taking the knowledge it has garnered to promote additional rail as well as highway infrastructure projects.”
ACTA was instrumental, according to Doherty, in developing the program, announced two weeks ago and due to go into effect in November, to stretch the hours of operations at port terminals. A Southern California legislator had introduced a bill that would have mandated that move, in order to mitigate traffic volumes during regular business hours. Talks took place “with the cloud of legislation hanging over ours heads,” Doherty admitted. Still the threat of legislation galvanized the port community to develop the program to avert a mandate.
“The task was to open all 13 terminals for extended hours,” Doherty added. “We heard from truckers that unless all terminals were open, they could not take advantage of the extended hours.” ACTA’s role in the project was to provide data and analysis of traffic patterns. “We have become very educated in the paths and patterns of trucking in the region,” Doherty said.
A second ACTA initiative seeks to improve the utilization of on-dock rail facilities. Intermodal traffic destined to a common inland destination are consolidated on a single train, Doherty explained. If there is a surplus of containers, they are trucked away from the port and then linked up with the others at an inland intermodal facility. “We are exploring a better way to assemble those surplus containers at the port complex so they don’t have to go over the road,” Doherty explained.
A third program would initiate a shuttle train from the ports,

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Peter Buxbaum has been writing about international trade and transportation, as well as security, defense, technology, and foreign policy, for over 20 years. Besides contributing to the AJOT, Buxbaum's work has appeared in such leading publications as [em]Fortune, Forbes, Chief Executive, Computerworld, and Jane's Defence Weekly[/em]. He was educated at Columbia University.