Inland Empire’s Future Rests on Transportation Infrastructure
More than $2 trillion worth of goods are transported into and through Southern California each year, making it one of the region’s most important economic drivers and biggest job creators. However, as freight volumes increase, the potential impact on the area’s transportation network and air quality could be profound.
Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments, says mitigating that impact is a key element of the Association’s 2016-2040 Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy. Overall, the plan identifies $555 billion in needed transportation system improvements over the next 24 years, including nearly $75 billion specific to goods movement.
Compounding the challenge is a growing population and the continued expansion of international trade through ports of entry. More than 32.5 percent of all cargo containers move through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Much of that impact is felt in the Inland Empire. Riverside and San Bernardino counties combine for nearly 220,000 truck trips a day and account for more than half of the 1,310 miles of roadways in Southern California that have been designated as part of the national Primary Freight Network.
Accordingly, both counties are well represented in the 2016-2040 RTP/SCS. Of roadway-specific goods movement projects included in the plan, the Inland Empire accounts for nearly $2.4 billion in proposed spending. Other types of goods movement-related projects, such as grade separations and rail system improvements, would account for another $1.25 billion.
A crucial consideration of the RTP/SCS is the interconnected nature of the region; system improvements in Los Angeles County can benefit Riverside County, and vice versa. Conversely, the cost of doing nothing will impact the whole interconnected region. This is particularly important in the context of goods movement, which directly or indirectly represents one-third of all jobs and economic activity in the six-county SCAG region. Even a slight dip in market share caused by an inefficient transportation network could have grave consequences on the region as a whole.
“The Inland Empire, Southern California and the nation need a vibrant goods movement industry. Investing in infrastructure is critical to ensuring that,” notes Ikhrata. “We encourage you to become familiar with the RTP/SCS and to encourage lawmakers at the state and federal level to make the funding of transportation improvements an ongoing priority.”