Tuesday, September 13, 2011

LA/LB Congestion Myth Lingers On Campaign Trail

Some myths just won't die, especially on the political campaign trail.

Take for example Bob Filner, a six-term Congressional House Democrat representing the southern San Diego area, who has been on the campaign trail running for mayor of San Diego since June.

One of his frequent go-to-points is a call for infrastructure development at the San Diego commercial port he claims could attract more cargo from other West Coast ports. San Diego now handles about 2 percent of the annual cargo levels seen at the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports to the north.

In interviews, Filner has said that, if properly developed, the San Diego port "could live off the droppings of LA and Long Beach."

In a recent television interview he was asked if the San Diego port would be a difficult sale to customers already at other ports.

Filner said no, because it takes ships "six days of waiting before you can get into LA or Long Beach."

Filner was called to task on his statement by the Voice of San Diego news website.

The Marine Exchange of Southern California, which serves the Southern California ports in a role similar to air traffic controllers, slammed Filner's comment as both inaccurate and horribly out of date.

"I don't want to call a congressman a liar," Marine Exchange executive director Capt. Dick McKenna told the Voice, "but that's just not true."

McKenna explained that for roughly five months in 2004 a longshore and rail labor shortage at the two ports cause significant delays at the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports. At the peak, more than a hundred ships piled up at anchorages outside the ports waiting to get to dock, some waiting up to eight days – although McKenna said that a three to four day wait was more common.

To solve the problem, thousands of new longshoremen and rail workers were hired and the congestion problems evaporated by the end of 2004.

Only the myth remains.

"It has stayed in the vernacular that these [Southern California] ports are congested and nothing could be further from the truth," McKenna told the website. "It's amazing to me how longstanding this [perception] has become. There's no waiting here."
The Voice of San Diego notified Filner's campaign of the information, but received no reply.