Testimony on Improving Transportation Safety through Inclusion of a Goods Movement Factor
under the Reauthorized Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act
Presented to the Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation
Submitted by Bob Bartlett
SCAG First Vice President and Mayor, City of Monrovia
May 7, 1997


Good morning Chairman Warner and Members of the Subcommittee. My name is Bob Bartlett and I am the Mayor of the City of Monrovia located in Los Angeles County. I am also the First Vice President the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) and Chairman of the SCAG Administration Committee. SCAG is the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the six counties of Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside and Imperial and the 184 cities therein. Thank you for inviting me to participate in the hearing today. I am most appreciative of Senator Barbara Boxer's extra effort to ensure that Southern California is represented on today's important issue of the linkage between transportation safety and goods movement.

In my presentation I will cover two main topics: 1) improving border transportation infrastructure so that our roads are made safer; and 2) the SCAG proposal for including a goods movement factor in the reauthorized Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) and how it relates to improved transportation safety.

But before I begin, SCAG would like to stress that ISTEA is working well, and that as a signatory to the California Consensus Principles, we support retaining its basic form with only incremental changes. The established regional and local decision-making process should be retained in the reauthorization of ISTEA through the roles and responsibilities of Metropolitan Planning Organizations. Furthermore, SCAG finds the Congestion Mitigation/Air Quality (CMAQ) program works well and we support full CMAQ funding under the reauthorized ISTEA. The essence of the SCAG message is that the reauthorized ISTEA needs a revised formula that includes a goods movement factor so that our nation can achieve its twin goals of strong global competitiveness and safer transportation systems.


California's increasing need for improved border infrastructure stems from the 1994 enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the emergence of the United State, Mexico and Canada as the world's largest trade zone. With projections estimating that trade between Mexico and the United States will increase by 93% by the year 2000 which is only 2 1/2 years away, our state's border infrastructure is already experiencing growing pains. Fully one-third of all imports from Mexico come through California. While this is good for our nation's economy, it has substantially increased the burden on the transportation infrastructure at the border, causing congestion, delays and unsafe road and rail conditions. While it is often thought that a seamless system, moving goods unimpeded across the border exists, in fact, this is not the case.

The reality is that at some of California's five ports of entry border crossings, non-truck vehicular traffic has increased 138%, truck traffic has increased 257% and pedestrian crossings has increased 4130% between 1983 and 1991. Post-NAFTA, these numbers have so mushroomed that in 1995, our transportation system carried over 27 million northbound auto crossings annually with an estimated 83 million passengers. On the same roads we had 690 thousand northbound truck crossings in one year and nearly 16 million pedestrian crossings. Our ports of entry, many of which are composed of only two lane roads, have become chokepoints preventing the efficient movement of goods, giving way to costly time delays and unsafe road conditions.

Currently in California, border crossing delays range from 45 minutes in off-peak periods to 2 1/2 hours during peak periods. These delays are costly - to the point that 7 out of 10 U.S. industries and 5 out of 10 Mexican industries had at least 50% of survey respondents say they would pay a premium for time definite, guaranteed delivery. With the final stage of NAFTA implementation scheduled for the year 2000, when trucking companies from all three NAFTA countries will be allowed complete access into each country, these delay times will grow exponentially if we do not invest in border infrastructure expansion.

Border infrastructure improvements are also needed to ensure safer road conditions. In the U.S. over the five year period of 1990 through 1995, there has been an average of 41,600 annual traffic related fatalities. Truck occupants account for nearly 25% of these total annual fatalities. While most of these deadly accidents do not occur at the border, they do occur our regional transportation systems which are increasingly impacted by vehicles hauling NAFTA trade related goods.

In addition, regulatory differences between countries make safety conditions worse. Mexican trucks are generally three times as old as U.S. trucks and are not required to have front brakes, as do U.S. and Canadian trucks. Also, Mexican drivers do not have to obtain special training to transport hazardous materials, as do U.S. and Canadian drivers. Truckers in the U.S. are limited to 10 hours of daily driving time while Canadian truck drivers are limited to 13 hours a day. There is no limit on the number of hours Mexican truckers are allowed to drive daily. Finally, the U.S. is the only NAFTA signatory that requires random drug testing. The combination of harmonized regulations and infrastructure improvements will ensure smoother and safer transnational goods movement.

In the face of these trade and safety barriers, we still have the most extensive inspection program of the four border states. California inspects, on average, a whopping two percent of all vehicles crossing from Mexico. And we are doing the best! Our inadequate and antiquated infrastructure, compounded by the other major barrier of non-harmonized regulatory requirements, as I just mentioned, has made it impossible to provide on-time and safe transportation of goods to the rest of the nation. We do have plans for border infrastructure improvements such as construction of a permanent, six bay inspection facility located one-quarter of a mile away from the border at Otay Mesa in the City of San Diego. This port of entry, now served by an undivided roadway which increasingly experiences grid-lock due to accidents, is considered a safety hazard. The improvements are estimated to cost $10 million and yet this is not enough. Road and rail improvements at Otay Mesa and the other two ports of entry, San Ysidro and Tecate, in San Diego County are estimated at $347 million. This does not include the inspection facility or federal port of entry improvements that are also needed for the growing goods movement across the Mexican border.

We also have plans to improve the two border crossings in Imperial County, located in the SCAG region. To accommodate the more than 14 million crossings, composed of trucks, non-truck vehicles and passengers in 1995 at Calexico, and the approximate 1.6 million total crossings at Andrade, also called Calexico East, in the same year, we have plans for road expansions on three state routes, new truck inspection docks, state-of-the- art cargo facilities and rail modernization. The total cost for these critical projects is $323.5 million and yet less than one third of that total has the necessary funding commitments behind it. To complete these projects, we still need an additional $217.7 million and we need the federal government to play a key role in providing funding to alleviate these chokepoints. While state and local governments also must provide funding for these improvements, we need the federal government to be a strong partner so that our borders can support the trade growth that comes with the full implementation of NAFTA.

Senator Boxer, along with her co-sponsor Senator Bingaman, recognizes the federal responsibility for border infrastructure in the bill S. 408 which provides over $640 billion over four years in federal funding for the construction of new facilities as well as improvements on the existing system for our nation's trade needs. This bill contains a good mix of grants and loans while including the necessary requirement for state and local funding matches. We support this bill because it moves in the right direction of government partnerships in the full implementation of NAFTA.

We are also supportive of many of the Administration's motor vehicle safety provisions contained in the second part of its NEXTEA proposal. We desperately need the proposed adoption of international and national vehicle standards, harmonized with functionally equivalent or compatible U.S. commercial vehicle standards, as well as the proposed education campaign and proposed technical assistance to Mexico to assist them with implementing these essential safety standards.


Clearly the biggest reason for improving the infrastructure at border crossings is to accommodate the burgeoning goods movement associated with not just NAFTA but also our country's increasing commitment to global competitiveness. We can already see the impacts of global trade on our local highways in Southern California. SCAG recently completed a study of some of the most congested parts of our regional transportation system, specifically Interstates 5 and 15 and State Route 60 which are used by trucks to move freight from the Los Angeles Basin through San Bernardino and Riverside on to Las Vegas and the rest of the country. We discovered that if the growth trend continues, as much as 70% of the capacity of these highway lanes will be filled with trucks. Where will the cars go?

As the gateway to the Pacific Rim, California receives almost one third of the nation's imports from other countries in addition to Mexico and 60% of those goods move through our state by truck or train to the rest of the nation. We know that other states, particularly those with major water and air ports also share the burden of moving international goods destined for the rest of the country. Therefore, SCAG has developed a goods movement factor that allocates funds based on a state's relative share of international trade.

The current ISTEA gave high priority to clean air, congestion reduction and enhancements but failed to provide the same funding priority to freight despite requirements in the Act that states and Metropolitan Planning Organizations must plan for freight as part of the commitment to the nation's policy of intermodalism. The time has come to give the same priority to moving freight under the reauthorized ISTEA.

SCAG's freight factor formula allocates funds to the states in proportion to a combination of both the value of imported and exported freight moved through their customs districts and the mileage of both highway and rail in the state. Under the formula, each state receives a minimum allocation to acknowledge each state's role in freight movement. Also, the formula contains a pooling feature so that the states that have overlapping port areas or shared port authority such as New York and New Jersey receive an equitable distribution. Using this formula, the state of California could receive an increase of more than 1.5% over what it currently receives in total ISTEA funds. This is not a small figure given that the current ISTEA authorized $155 billion total over six years. Others states do proportionately well under our proposal.

SCAG recommends that the following freight projects, at a minimum, be eligible for funding under the proposed formula: connectors to intermodal facilities, grade crossing improvements, truck lanes and dedicated truck routes, and other bridge and highway improvements designed primarily to support freight transportation and increase safety. Funding for these projects is critical both to support increased trade and to ensure highly efficient transportation systems that are safer for drivers, passengers and pedestrians.

Contrary to popular belief, states with substantial international goods movement via truck do not benefit financially from the service of moving these goods. The only compensation we receive is from diesel gas tax which is not proportionately returned to the state because trucks, hauling goods on the interstate system, do not necessarily pay gas tax in the state whose roads they use the most. For example, trucks will fill up their tanks in Arizona but use the road system in California without buying gas and paying tax in our state. This proposal recognizes that allocating funding based on system use is a more equitable and simpler solution than changing truck drivers' gas pumping behavior or state gas tax rates.

We have received considerable support for the concept of including a goods movement factor in the reauthorized ISTEA formula from members of both the Senate and House, including the majority of the California delegation, as well as the U.S. DOT, state DOTs, ports, and key industry sectors. Today I ask that this subcommittee join the rest of the transportation policy making community in supporting a goods movement factor under the reauthorized ISTEA. CONCLUSION

The proposals to provide federal funding for the improvement and expansion of border infrastructure in support of full implementation of NAFTA, as well as inclusion of a goods movement factor that apportions funding based on a state's relative share of international trade need your support. It is not just California, but all states in the country that benefit not only from increased global competitiveness but also stronger transportation safety regulations and enforcement. To that end we look forward to working with the Subcommittee to assure that border crossing infrastructure improvements and an international goods movement factor, both which respond to Federal mandates and critical transportation related needs, are included in the next ISTEA and other related legislation to better implement our national transportation policies.