Posted by: changholt | April 27, 2010

More than a Port

Last week I commented on how the US needs adequate infrastructure, so international commerce can succeed.

Locally, in Southern California, we have the two largest ports in the United States the Port of Long Beach and the Port of Los Angeles (that are literally side by side). The Port of Long Beach moved forward last month with its plan to replace the deteriorating Gerald Desmond Bridge. Port officials say the current bridge — which was built in 1968 and crosses a key shipping channel in Long Beach — is too low to the water, rendering that part of the Cerritos Channel impassable to the world’s biggest cargo ships, which can hold more than 14,000 containers. In addition, this is the exact same design and year built as the bridge in Minnesota that collapsed just a few years ago. The bridge’s other main problem, port officials say, is that it wasn’t built to carry the traffic it does now, adding stress to the structure. It has been outfitted with nylon mesh “diapers” for several years to catch chunks of falling concrete.

Those in favor of the project are expected to argue that the port has no choice but to build a new bridge. Critics are expected to express dissatisfaction with any change that would allow even more traffic along congested routes such as the nearby 710 Freeway.

The planned structure would cost an estimated $1.1 billion over a five-year construction period.

Connections with land-based transportation services, such as rail and roads, are crucial to a ports successful operation. Regardless, of a port’s facilities, it’s only as good as its inland transportation infrastructure. The problems with Long Beach and Los Angeles’ Ports is that they are constrained by the infrastructure just outsides its doors.  Without good transportation, southern Californians will be at a competitive disadvantage when try to sell their goods and services overseas.

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