By Tim Hunt
More containers headed to Oakland and through the valleyUploaded: Dec 29, 2015
On New Year’s Eve, the largest container ship ever to visit the United States is set to dock at the Port of Oakland.
Calling it huge is simply an giant understatement. The Benjamin Franklin is 1,300 feet long (almost a quarter of a mile or more than four football fields) and 50 feet taller than the Empire State Building. It can carry up to 18,000 standard 20-foot containers—4,000 more than the average container ship and is the 10th largest ship traveling the oceans.
Why is this important to Tri-Valley residents and other folks along freeway corridors? Consider that’s 18,000 truck trips if all of those containers are moved on the highways—that’s primarily Interstate 580 through the Livermore Valley and Interstate 80 going northeast.
Anybody stuck in eastbound traffic on weekday afternoons on I-580 can see one or even two lanes often are jammed with trucks moving containers.
What’s required is moving more containers by rail whether they are long-haul or bound for warehouses in the San Joaquin Valley. The port is expanding its capabilities in this regard. Investing is additional capacity and potentially high-speed rail to move goods is a far better use of taxpayer funds that the absurdly expensive high-speed passenger rail that the governor continues to push.
Incidentally, the port is a huge job engine (it includes both the maritime operations and the Oakland Airport) supporting about 50,000 jobs between its employees and employees of various tenants. That positive impact ripples throughout the East Bay economy.
Congestion on the freeways was highlighted earlier this month and notable for some changes. The worst commute continues to be on I-80 during the mornings from Highway 4 to Oakland. Notably, the I-580 made the dubious list for the morning commute, ranking as the eighth most congested. The afternoon commute was not on the list nor was the morning southbound morning commute on I-680.
I-680 showed up twice in the afternoons—through the Danville corridor and the mess from Washington Boulevard over the Sunol grade. There’s some possibility of improvement for both with HOV lanes being converted to “hot lanes” with the option of single-passenger vehicles paying tolls. Work is underway north of I-580.
Hasn’t it been nice to cheer from the rain and snow. Ski conditions at the Sierra Nevada resorts are sensational with the mountains fully open for the holidays. The snow pack last week (the first official measurement is Wednesday) was at 112 percent of normal—way up from 54 percent last year. And rainfall at our house, since the first of November, is about 8 ¾ inches—a welcome change.
And we have yet to see a true El Nino generated “Pineapple Express.”
The irony is that those same El Nino conditions that hold promise for significantly more rainfall than normal have just the opposite effect in the Southern Hemisphere. I have been involved with Heart for Africa, a ministry operating a children’s home for orphaned and abandoned children in Swaziland (the tiny kingdom bordered by South Africa on three sies).
There were no fall rains this year and the normally torrential summer rains have not arrived. Heart for Africa has three dams on its 2,500 acres to serve its irrigated, drip-agriculture and the largest is now nearly empty. They are praying for rain just as people in California have been doing.