Container traffic at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles surged in September, driven by strong growth at the Port of Long Beach, which edged out its sister port in handling the most cargo.

Combined, the two ports handled 1.3 million 20-foot equivalent units in September, an 18.2 percent increase from the year-ago period, when labor shortages and port congestion kept container traffic unusually low. September, the peak holiday-season month for imports, showed an 8.3 percent increase in traffic from August, according to the data released by the ports Friday.

Most of September's surge came from the Port of Long Beach, where traffic rose 23.4 percent from a year earlier and 17.2 percent from August, to 663,496 containers. Long Beach can accommodate the largest ships transporting Chinese imports while Los Angeles can't. L.A.'s port handled 663,495 containers in September just one fewer than Long Beach up 11.9 percent from a year ago and 1.8 percent from August.

Los Angeles handled 663,495 containers in September, 1.8 percent over August and 11.9 percent over last year.

Separately, port officials said they have succeeded in reducing peak-hour truck traffic on the Long Beach (710) Freeway by about 24 percent. The PierPass program, which diverts cargo and truck trips to off-peak hours, has resulted in a half-million truck trips moving to nights or Saturdays, the Alameda Corridor Transporation Authority said.

The program also reduced container traffic in peak hours by 30 to 33 percent, ahead of its goal of 15 to 20 percent in the first year of operation.

The program by non-profit PierPass Inc. charges a fee for containters that are shipped through the ports during weekdays.

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