Bad Truck Accidents East to West While Regional Transportation Plans Call for…More Trucks

A bad accident with three trucks on the East 60 last Friday resulted in one fatality, injuries, and worse-than-usual Friday afternoon gridlock on routes in and around the San Gabriel Valley. An accident involving 9 big rigs on the South I-5 near Newhall yesterday morning shut down that side of the freeway for hours.

How are regional plans addressing truck safety, pollution, and congestion?
1. A proposed widening of the I-710 to accommodate more trucks
2. A proposed tunnel linking the I-710 to the 134/210 interchange, and
3. A proposed intermodal facility for trucks carrying freight from or to the ports.

The comment period has now ended for #1: the I-710 Corridor Project is in the final Environmental Impact Report phase. The SR-710 Study (#2), which includes a tunnel option, is of significant concern because of the increased truck traffic it will certainly bring onto freeways in Glendale, La Canada, Pasadena, and beyond.

The Southern California International Gateway project (#3) claims it will reduce trucks on the 710 and improve air quality, but environmental groups and area residents disagree (see LA Times’ October 21 coverage: Pollution drop from building rail yard near L.A. harbor disputed).

What communities from Long Beach to La Canada are calling for is a rail-based goods movement system takes most trucks off urban roadways. Responding to that call, SCIG’s Recirculated Draft Environmental Impact Report, Section 5, says:

Recently, considerable interest has developed in reducing the extent to which the Southern California goods movement system relies on diesel trucks for moving containers between the marine terminals in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and their immediate destinations at intermodal railyards and major distribution centers throughout the region. The goals of the effort are to reduce traffic on local highways, but more importantly to reduce the diesel emissions associated with goods movement. The term “Zero Emissions Container Movement System”, or ZECMS, has been applied to these alternative container movement concepts because most of them, relying on electric power alone, would not cause direct emissions in the local area.

The report goes on to say such technology has not yet been implemented elsewhere, that it has not been fully tested, that it would involve considerable work in securing new right-of-ways and that it would disrupt the existing logistics system. The question then is, are any of these good reasons not to accelerate study and deployment of ZECMS, instead of investing scarce resources on expanding a truck-based freight movement system that causes significant safety, pollution and congestion problems throughout the region?