Ray LaHood visits Port of Oakland

July 2, 2009 6:31:32 PM PDT
The Port of Oakland is asking for some help and the secretary of transportation came to listen Thursday.

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As the port struggles with environmental, it wants the federal government to change the way goods move among Northern California ports.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says there are likely to be major changes ahead for the state's ports. The days of competition are gone; it is time to start working together.

"Maybe there ought to be a port czar that really gets up every day and thinks about how the ports in California can collaborate together," LaHood said.

The Port of Oakland is the third busiest container port on the West Coast. But in the first five months of this year, container traffic was down nearly 14 percent from the same time last year and the port says global trade is projected to drop another 10 percent.

At the same time, the port is under increasing pressure to clean up its polluted air, which can be expensive.

"If each port is busy trying to address health and environmental needs of its community, no port should be economically disadvantaged because it's stepped up to those issues," Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums said.

So the Port of Oakland is asking LaHood to level the playing field.

"What we're recommending is that, as you heard, there be a national goods moving policy," Port of Oakland spokesperson Omar Benjamin said.

That policy could include a new way to move goods between the ports of Oakland, Stockton and Sacramento; getting containers off of trucks and onto barges, on what is being called the "Marine Highway."

"We will be putting a good deal of emphasis on the Marine Highway, really using the Marine Highway to get trucks off the road, to clean up the air and to provide the kinds of transportation mode that is transformational," LaHood said.

There is also $1.5 billion in transportation stimulus funds still up for grabs. The port will be applying.

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