State funds suspended for SoCal ports truck program
California state officials have informed the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles that state Proposition 1B funds designated for the ports' truck re-regulation program have been suspended for the near future.
The California Air Resources Board explained to the ports in a Dec. 23 letter that due to the current legislative budget stalemate, the State Treasurer's Office has been unable to access the bond market to generate funds for bond programs such as the Prop 1B goods movement projects.
The $20 billion Prop 1B, approved by voters in 2006, was to fund transportation projects throughout the state related to congestion, the movement of goods, air quality and transportation security.
The two neighboring Southern California ports, the nation's busiest container ports, were set to tap hundreds of millions from the fund to replace older drayage trucks as part of the ports' truck program, which began on Oct. 1. The funds were to be paid out in the form of grants, loans and incentives to trucking firms participating in the five-year program to replace more than 19,000 drayage trucks servicing the ports with cleaner-burning 2007 or newer models.
An additional $1.6 billion for the program was supposed to come from a $35-per-TEU container tax established by the two ports.
The ports had planned on the state funds providing initial monies for the truck program until the container tax collection could begin, however, collection of the tax has been delayed due to technical problems and legal challenges by the federal government.
Until there is an effective resolution to the budget crisis, said the CARB letter to the ports, 'we must instruct you to suspend entering into any new equipment project or other contracts that would be funded from Proposition 1B grant monies or expending funds for contracts that you have already signed.'
The Port of Long Beach confirmed that CARB could no longer provide Prop 1B funds for the truck program, but said that port officials had put aside $72 million in port funds that should cover the truck program in the near term. The port hopes that the set aside port funds will carry the program through until federal government concerns about the program can be resolved and collection of the container tax can begin.
Last week, Port of Los Angeles officials began distributing an estimated $44 million in incentive checks to over 100 trucking firms that signed up early to participate in the truck program. Check recipients will receive $20,000 in port funds for each 2007 or newer model truck brought into port drayage. ' Keith Higginbotham