Alternative Ideas to Reduce Air Pollution

By: 
Vanessa Brintrup

As the county begins to enact a new plan to reduce emissions, transportation industry players propose alternative solutions. The Los Angeles Metro Board of Directors has already begun to focus on some key areas, such as traffic from the ports that impact the areas surrounding the 710 freeway.

The 710 freeway serves as a key transportation corridor for trucks leaving the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports. The influx of cargo trucks to and from Long Beach increases serious health concerns–the area flanking the 710 was dubbed the “diesel death zone” by locals and officials.

The board deferred on a plan on March 1 in order to widen the freeway following public criticism over increased air pollution and displacement concerns.

Instead of widening the entire 19-mile freeway, the board chose to back an alternate 710 plan that would add truck-bypass lanes and would focus on funding zero-emissions vehicles. The LA Times calculates the total funding at $1 billion, factoring in half-cent sales tax measures. It does estimate that another $5 billion is needed to complete the project in its entirety.

The guidelines for the current plan follow the Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP), which was first established in 2006 and targets major pollutants coming from the ports. Both ports handle about 40 percent of the nation’s imports and exports.

 Santa Maria Shipping, a transportation company, suggests utilizing new Marine 5 Highway ships to alleviate some of the land congestion by transporting more cargo by sea along the California coast.

A statement released by the company reads that the “New Marine 5 Highway ships might shift as many as 634,000 truck trips per year off the 710 and other California freeways. The cost for the ships would be about $500 million. The ships and on-dock rail facilities can be integrated into new automated zero emission container terminals, so it adheres to the two ports’ 2017 CAAP. Financing would come from a per-container fee and not taxpayers.”

This may be a viable solution considering that Port of Long Beach’s cargo traffic has increased gradually over the last five years. The port self-reports on its website that there was a 37 percent increase of in-bound traffic in February compared to last year.

Some transportation companies that do business at the ports have already implemented lower-emission standards for their trucks. Ability Tri-Modal, a land transportation company based in Carson, touts a “green fleet” of vehicles and stated in Feb. 2017 that it has installed electric lifts and eliminated unnecessary trips.

“I have a lot of hope for some of the alternates they come up with like a good hybrid using diesel and electric,” said head coach Greg Owens. “Diesel gets a bad rap, but it’s the most efficient fuel we’ve ever produced. It’s as clean as natural gas, no one wants to admit that.”

In addition to helping the environment, Owens says his company’s efforts also cut their costs. But county efforts to reduce emissions may have negative effects on the industry. “The thing that scares me the most is that a lot of the cities are talking about restricting truck traffic in and out of the facilities. That’s just nonsense,” said Owens.

Capping truck access from the ports could stifle industry growth and affect profits. Owens says his company has not faced additional pressure to reduce emissions yet, but he expects some from the county in the future.

Despite Owens’ fears, some measures to cut down on congestion within the ports are already in place.

As the Long Beach Business Journal reported in late March, the PierPass program in San Pedro may possibly change to an appointment system in the future. The program, run by non-profit PierPass Inc., works to minimize truck waiting queues within the ports, especially during shift changes. Flat fees for the night and day shifts have also been proposed, as opposed to incentive prices that are currently utilized to encourage night shift visits.

Though these recommendations may speed things along while loading and unloading cargo at the ports, they do little to help emissions once trucks head inland.

Tesla, one of tech billionaire Elon Musk’s leading companies, recently made headlines after it unveiled a prototype of its new, fully electric Tesla Semi truck. The Daily Breeze reported in November 2017 that the largest cargo transporter at the LA port reserved 10 of the new high-tech vehicles.

Commercial production of Tesla Semis is not scheduled to begin until 2019, but Tesla has already begun to use their own trucks to transport production materials between California and Nevada. Musk announced in February that he expects 100,000 electric trucks to be produced per year.

Fully electric trucks, paired with efforts already made at the ports, would likely reduce emissions in the surrounding area and the 710 significantly. Whether port companies are successful in attaining Tesla Semis is yet to be seen.

There is no easy solution to the pollution and congestion problem that affects the majority of SoCal. Striking the balance between industry and health concerns will take time and ingenuity. Luckily, there is no shortage of ideas.

vanessa@beachcomber.news

 

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