How best to provide relief on region’s highways

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Hats off to farmers, plumbers, mechanics, and anyone else who
joins the fight with highway safety advocates, Safe Kids Coalition,
Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, Mothers Against Damned
Deregulation, Parents Against Tired Truckers and other grassroots
organizations.
Hats off to farmers, plumbers, mechanics, and anyone else who joins the fight with highway safety advocates, Safe Kids Coalition, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, Mothers Against Damned Deregulation, Parents Against Tired Truckers and other grassroots organizations.

Their support in the war against death and injuries from highway accidents is greatly appreciated. At a time when SBC’s residents are circulating an anti-growth petition that would, if enacted, unconstitutionally take their property rights without compensation, you have to admire their concern for their community.

Safety must be our highest priority, but how best do we achieve the goal? At what price? Since SBC gets back only 11 cents on the dollar from Sacramento (less from Washington), it will take SBC’s taxpayers $2,272,727,272.70 in new taxes to send to Sacramento to get the $250 million we need to build their freeway.

Whether a new freeway is built over Mt. Hamilton or from Casa de Fruta to U.S. 101, I think it’s a mistake to ignore a less-expensive option that would not take any new taxes, one which I have recommended to local government leaders.

The Titanic was “unsinkable,” yet where is it now? Humans and transport activity always have, and always will, yield accidents, no matter how much we pay. From rickshaws and Roman roads to Bullet Trains and lunar escalators, we cannot escape being human. But we must forever strive to achieve the safest modes of transport.

Faced with the introduction of Mexican trucks onto our highways, with gross vehicle weight “harmonized” among NAFTA partners, and lifting the freeze on long combination vehicles when TEA-21 is “reauthorized” this September, our region’s transportation infrastructure “missing link” is becoming more obvious.

We must restore intermodal facilities and divert tonnage off our highways and onto the rails.

Since Congress repealed the filed rate doctrine, basically abolishing common carriage with enactment of Trucking Industry Regulatory Reform Act in 1995, and California abolished PUC’s jurisdiction over trucking with the Motor Carriers of Property Permit Act in 1996, shippers and receivers like agri-business are liable to find themselves as co-defendants in actions alleging joint venture agreements between them and their carriers. So, one would think that they would want to avoid the exposure and move their traffic via TOFC-COFC intermodal service. What potential liabilities are their brokers and carriers causing them in distributing their produce in supply chain “partnershipping” arrangements? How can they even sleep at night, knowing that these potential liabilities exist?

Without laying an inch of new freeway, we could solve many of this region’s transportation problems by restoring intermodal facilities on the Central Coast. Silicon Valley has the distinction of being the largest urban area in North America without one. Without disturbing a steer or a salamander, without building any bullet trains, we could reduce highway congestion, air pollution, and road and bridge maintenance expenses. How? Just give commerce what other regions do: intermodal options. At present our region’s surface commerce must go over the road, either all the way to destination or to piggyback rams at Lathrop or Stockton.

When Congress gives birth to TEA-21’s successor later this year, I pray it will include restoration of intermodal facilities. Presently existing technology, lower rates, and $3.5 billion already appropriated and sitting unclaimed at FRA ought to mean that this “missing link” in the region’s transport infrastructure gains a spot on our long-range congestion management and transport plans.

Power players in the economy demand NAFTA “harmonized” GVW and LCV’s as part of TEA-21 reauthorization, and many in the Transportation Lawyers Association predict that Congress will allow it when the new highway bill is enacted. So, any region without intermodal options is going to suffer the consequences.

Restoring intermodal facilities would not require any new taxes, and would reduce fuel consumption in this region, save lives, reduce injuries, get farm produce to markets at less cost to our farmers, and keep local trucking jobs for local truckers whose livelihoods are threatened by new Mexican truck competition.

How do you spell relief on our highways: I-N-T-E-R-M-O-D-A-L.

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