The recent deadly crash and fire incident in the truck bypass tunnel at the Golden State (5) Freeway and Highway 14 is tragic evidence of how critical it is to develop new transportation projects that improve mobility of goods and motorists in Southern California.

Shipments to our ports now account for almost 40 percent of all international trade nationally. Twenty thousand idling trucks wait hours at the harbor for their load belching diesel fumes and clogging our freeways and roadways. In the next few decades, shipments are expected to triple.

To address this growth, establishing Inland Ports and the High Desert Corridor are two vital projects that will enhance traffic safety, mobility, and improve air quality by removing thousands of trucks from Interstates 710, 210, 10, 5 and 15, and State Routes 60 and 14.

Inland ports in the Antelope and Victor valleys would receive freight from the ports by rail and then transfer the freight to trucks for distribution to the east and the north.

These facilities would bring industry and jobs to both valleys and would help alleviate our regional traffic crisis as trucks are diverted off county freeways and highways.

This cost-effective, win-win investment will

increase economic activity at the port and at the inland terminals without the prohibitive costs and disruption that would occur by expanding local roadways and port facilities. Every freight train takes 200 trucks off streets and highways.

Dubbed the "E-220," the High Desert Corridor will be an eight-lane, state-of-the-art expressway, running from Palmdale to Victorville and to points east.

The High Desert is growing into a major inland port complex. At both the Palmdale Airport and Southern California Logistics Airport (formerly George Air Force Base in Victorville), major inter-modal freight yards are in development or on the drawing board. These facilities will handle the large shipping containers that must now be put onto trucks and trains exclusively in the Los Angeles and Long Beach Harbors creating new jobs in the High Desert and reducing the need for thousands of commuters to drive to work in the urban areas.

The time to implement these projects was yesterday not decades from now.

We need to fast-track state legislation to eliminate the bureaucratic maze similar to the way the state completed the rebuilding of the Santa Monica (10) Freeway bridge after the Northridge Earthquake in 1994.

The High Desert Corridor and Inland ports provide a historic opportunity to shape our future, enhance economic growth and clean the air as envisioned when voters last year approved Proposition 1B, the $19.9 billion bond measure for transportation infrastructure.

This is why our two counties continue to work closely together on the High Desert Corridor Joint Powers Authority and Inland Port Task Force implementing these vital projects and encouraging the state and federal governments to join us in this effort.

Michael Antonovich is a Los Angeles County supervisor who represents the Fifth District, which includes the Antelope Valley. Brad Mitzelfelt is a San Bernardino County supervisor who represents the First District, which includes Victor Valley.

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