2 Calif. ports expand hours to ease truck traffic

Plan targets congestion, smog caused by vehicles

July 24, 2005|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

LOS ANGELES - The twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach began operating on weekends and evenings yesterday in an initiative designed to ease Southern California's worst-in-the-nation traffic congestion and smog.

By expanding beyond regular Monday-through-Friday business hours, officials hope to reduce the ports' tangle of shipping trucks, which would also cut exhaust emissions released when the vehicles sit in stalled traffic.

"The economic benefits [of the port] are not without a cost to our quality of life," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said yesterday as he described the program while trucks revved in the distance. He said the new plan would make the port a "greener and a more conscientious neighbor."

The combined ports are the fifth-largest in the world, with more than 35 percent of all waterborne container cargo passing through them, according to port officials.

The amount of cargo at the ports soared by almost 40 percent between 2000 and 2004, largely because of increased shipments from China. The increase has added to traffic congestion and smog in the Los Angeles area, where both are the worst in the country.

The program, administered by the nonprofit group PierPASS Inc., will charge shippers extra fees if they deliver or retrieve cargo containers during the peak hours of 3 a.m. to 6 p.m. Shippers can avoid the fee by shifting their cargo movements to evening or weekend hours.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters held a rally Friday criticizing aspects of the plan.

Miguel Lopez, international port representative for the Teamsters, said the longer hours could tempt drivers to break federal rules prohibiting them from driving more than 10 hours straight, which could lead to exhaustion and more accidents.

Ryan Rauzon, a spokesman for PierPASS, said the new hours would allow truckers to make more money if they chose and complete more deliveries in off-hours than they could at peak times.

"You're stuck in the middle of the day," he said. "You're not going anywhere."

Rauzon also said the longer hours had created up to 550 new jobs for longshoremen who unload shipments.

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