At the recommendation of Supervisor Pat Loe, the SBCBOS (11/27/07) unanimously included “truck-only” lanes in its approval of VTA’s northern most alternative for strategic improvements for regional highways, i.e., “East-West Connector.” While the Southern California Association of Governments had previously endorsed the same concept, the nation’s commerce and industry have been using a better form of freight transport – i.e., intermodal service. The 75 percent fuel savings, lower freight rates, and highway congestion and maintenance reductions, at truck-competitive service on trans-Mississippi loads induced U.S. industry to switch from trucks to intermodal even before fuel prices reached their current levels. Even the nation’s largest truckers have been tendering truckloads to railroads for longhaul moves, improving their bottom line.

So, when Robert Poole, Ph.D., from Reason Foundation, repeated his “truck-only lane” strategy at last year’s think tank meeting at MTC’s Oakland headquarters, I reminded the audience that we already have them, and their called “railroads.” Tires on concrete or asphalt cannot compete with steel wheels rolling over steel rails thanks to the coefficient of friction.

So, instead of building highway lanes restricted for truck use only, why not do as former Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta, Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.) chair of T&I in the House, our Governor’s Goods Movement Plan, and Jim Nicholas, chief, Highway Programs, Caltrans, Sacto (ret.), and the nation’s industrial and commercial leaders at NAM, NITL, etc., all say: “We need more intermodal.”

You can find legislative support for the idea in the national intermodal transportation policy in Title 49, United States Code. For additional legislative history, see my article, “ISTEA Reauthorization and the National Transportation Policy: Overlooked Externalities and Forgotten Felt Necessities,” 25 Transportation Law Journal, pp. 87-et seq. (1997).

Omitting presently existing technology from transport strategy is why many are calling for termination of the MPO structure in the next Highway Bill (due out in 2009).

If local leaders truly want to reduce highway deaths and injuries, highway congestion, and air pollution, then we must go back to the future, as I’ve been saying for more than 20-plus years now.

How can we justify higher taxes when we ignore private-sector options? Why are we (Silicon Valley and Salinas Valley) the largest urban area in North America without intermodal options? Why should shippers and receivers in this region be forced to dray loads to and from the piggyback ramps (intermodal facilities) at Lathrop (U.P.) and Stockton (BN-ATSF)?

If we are now quoting philosophers to local leaders, then how about, “There are none so blind as those who will not see.”

Joe Thompson, Tres Pinos

Previous articleTile Time
Next articleRobert C. Zuniga
A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here