The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach (POLA-LB) have long been the main entry way for imported goods coming through the Pacific for many years. With 40 percent of all imported goods coming through the POLA-LB, Southern California has more than a half million jobs tied directly to international trade. From dockworkers on the coast to distribution centers inland, the local economy and many livelihoods are dependent on the flow of cargo through the region. However, with global competition tightening and importers constantly calculating and comparing shipping costs through other ports, Southern California’s position in global trade is in danger of eroding at the expense of numerous jobs.
Congresswoman Janice Hahn of San Pedro recently introduced a bill aimed at dedicating a pool of funds to significantly upgrade the ports to protect competitive advantage. Rep. Hahn’s bill would reallocate 5 percent of import fees collected at U.S. borders and create a dedicated fund, estimated to be $2 billion annually, for ports and other transportation entities to pull from for infrastructure improvements and upgrades. One example is a POLA-LB $648 million proposed upgrade in rail and roadway improvements to help speed the handling of the millions of containers that come through annually. Not only will this improve port performance, but the project is estimated to create 10,000 full-time jobs as well.
This past Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council approved a resolution backing the bill, moving closer to becoming a law. The bill has 37 co-sponsors so far, with one being of the majority party. With congress in a Republican majority, it is unlikely that the bill as it stands will gain more support until a new revenue stream is identified to pay for it.