Capdiamont\’s Weblog

Leo Sears: These are our choices
Friday 23 Nov 2007, 09:38
Filed under: Humboldt, Railroad

On one side we have the possibly of living wage jobs, the other, at best the drug trade, tourist jobs, and health benefits of the trail. No plan by Higgins and his group for living wage jobs.

”In the past quarter century, the major U.S. railroads have gone from bust to boom,” reported Reuters’ Nick Carey, and are “raking in record profits.””West Coast expects volume of cargo to double by 2020,” read a San Francisco Chronicle headline — severely overburdening our ports.
What does this mean for our local area? A bright future, if we latch on to the opportunity it presents our economy via the development of our harbor and the railroad.

A July 2007 report by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials estimates the doubling of truck freight and a 60 percent increase in rail freight by 2035 — accompanied by a doubling of rail-intermodal freight (standardized containers that can move by truck, ship or train) by 2040.

Their 140-page “Freight Rail Bottom Line Report” projects that each percentage of increase in rail-freight’s market share by 2020 would:

* “Allow nearly 600 million tons of additional freight to move by rail — enough to fill almost 15 million trucks per year,

* Reduce traffic congestion and save drivers almost $20 billion per year in time and fuel costs,

* Save taxpayers at least $17
billion in additional highway costs over 20 years,

* Reduce transportation costs for shippers by $25 billion per year — a savings which can then be passed on to consumers, and

* Create greater efficiencies for the entire transportation system by carrying trailer loads and containers on cost-efficient, low-emission intermodal trains for movements between cities.”

This presents an opportunity to development our deepwater port and railroad as a part of the burgeoning international trade — where blue-collar jobs in receiving, sorting, and warehousing are paying $40,000 to $60,000, and into the six-figure range for longshoremen and those with advanced skills.

But the close reelection of Roy Curless and the landslide for Pat Higgins as harbor commissioners show growing support for those opposed to such port development.

We have the choice of working toward a vibrant economy and an attractive job market, or becoming a marijuana center and touristy backwater awash in non-living-wage jobs.

The latter options are reflected in a recent “Civil Disobedience” article in The Journal by publisher Judy Hodgson, championing the virtues of replacing the rail from Eureka to Arcata with a foot path, and The Journal’s cover story about the role of marijuana in Arcata’s economy.

Hodgson tells of “a perfect day for civil disobedience” walking on the railroad tracks with two friends. She rhetorically questions the demand for a freight or tourist train, and warns “don’t be fooled” by their supporters.

Arcata, citing the lack of other economic growth, is actively supporting marijuana operations. Marijuana is reported to have become a top source of sales tax revenue the city — and one of their marijuana entrepreneurs is quoted saying, “Arcata embraces it” and the pot trade is what “makes this area survive.”

Economic growth — or economic isolation — these are our choices.

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