By: Michael D. Antonovich & Brad Mitzelfelt
An Los Angeles Times story “Region’s Transit a hostage to Terrain” pointed to the lack of regional alternatives and mentioned several projects that are incredibly difficult and astronomically expensive, but ignored the easiest and least expensive project, the E-220/High Desert Corridor. It further ignored innovative transportation solutions including the inland ports concept to move freight efficiently and safely through our region.
The recent deadly crash and fire in the truck bypass tunnel on Interstate 5 at Highway 14 is tragic evidence of how critical it is to develop new transportation projects that improve mobility of goods and motorists in Southern California.
Shipments to our ports now account for almost 40% of all international trade nationally. 20,000 idling trucks wait hours at the harbor for their load -- belching diesel fumes and clogging our freeways and roadways. In the next few decades, shipments are expected to triple.
To address this growth, establishing Inland Ports and the High Desert Corridor are two vital projects that will enhance traffic safety, mobility, and improve air quality by removing thousands of trucks from Interstates 710, 210, 10, 5 and 15, and State Routes 60 and 14.
Inland ports in the Antelope and Victor Valleys would receive freight from the ports by rail and then transferred to trucks for distribution to the east and the north. These facilities would bring industry and jobs to both Valleys and would help alleviate our regional traffic crisis as trucks are diverted off County freeways and highways.
This cost-effective, win-win investment will increase economic activity at the Port and at the inland terminals – without the prohibitive costs and disruption that would occur by expanding local roadways and port facilities. Every freight train takes 200 trucks off streets and highways.
Dubbed the “E-220,” the High Desert Corridor will be an 8-lane, state-of-the-art expressway, running from Palmdale to Victorville and to points east.
The High Desert is growing into a major inland port complex. At both the Palmdale Airport and Southern California Logistics Airport (formerly George Air Force Base in Victorville), major inter-modal freight yards are in development or on the drawing board. These facilities will handle the large shipping containers which must now be put onto trucks and trains exclusively in the Los Angeles and Long Beach Harbors – creating new jobs in the High Desert and reducing the need for thousands of commuters to drive to work in the urban areas.
The time to implement these projects was yesterday -- not decades from now.
We need to fast track state legislation to eliminate the bureaucratic maze and on a fast track -- similar to the way the State completed the rebuilding of the Interstate 10 freeway bridge after the Northridge Earthquake in 1994.
The High Desert Corridor and Inland ports provide an historic opportunity to shape our future, enhance economic growth and clean the air – as envisioned when voters last year approved Proposition 1B, the $19.9 billion bond measure for transportation infrastructure.
This is why our two counties continue to work closely together on the High Desert Corridor Joint Powers Authority and Inland Port Task Force to implement these vital projects and encourage the state and federal governments to join us in this effort.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich represents the Fifth District, which includes the Antelope Valley.
San Bernardino County Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt represents the First District, which includes the Victor Valley.