The collapse of a multibillion-dollar infrastructure bond package in the state Legislature earlier this month is unwelcome news for shipping, logistics and trucking companies and their customers looking for congestion relief around the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
With the bond not making the June ballot and iffy at best for the November vote, the nearly $2 billion that had been earmarked for improvements to the state's goods movement network including up to $1 billion for highways, rail lines and bridges out of the local ports is for now off the table.
"It's very disappointing that this bond is not on the June ballot. The congestion gets worse every year," said Robert Krieger, president of Krieger Worldwide, a logistics provider in Rancho Dominguez. "Those shippers and end customers that can, will route cargo to other ports. Those that can't, will have to put up with longer delays in getting their products."
Krieger and other port funding advocates said that it won't take much to repeat the nightmarish congestion that virtually shut down port operations two years ago. That's when labor shortages created bottlenecks in the rail lines leaving the port, which in turn left cargo sitting on the docks and led to ships waiting for nearly two weeks to get into the Port of Los Angeles.
To head off just such a scenario, port interests, business groups and local elected officials made a big push with frequent trips up to Sacramento to ensure that significant funds for port-related infrastructure would be included in any bond package.
Cobbling together an infrastructure bond was front-and-center in Sacramento ever since Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a massive $68 billion bond deal in his January State of the State address.
But the infrastructure bond got caught up in Sacramento politics as various interest groups each pushed for funding. The powerful teachers unions sought funds for more schools, local government officials wanted funds for affordable housing, farmers and Central Valley officials lobbied for monies to shore up aging levees and water agencies wanted monies for massive water storage projects.
And just when a deal on a $48 billion bond proposal seemed close at hand in early March, some Republican lawmakers balked at the expense, while others tried to get their pet projects in and the negotiations hit another impasse. Finally, on March 15 the deal collapsed completely.
As of late last week, negotiators from the Democratic leadership and the administration of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger were still trying to hammer out some sort of infrastructure bond package for the November ballot.
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