California, we have a Panama problem.
A big Panama problem.
A pillar of California's economy is trade; we have the two largest ports in the country, Long Beach and Los Angeles. Much of the traffic comes from large freighters too big to get through the Panama Canal; containers in those ships get off here in Southern California and head to the eastern United States by rail.
But Panama has been expanding and deepening the canal. In 2014, the largest freighters will be able to go through -- creating perhaps a huge competitive threat to California.
How is the state responding?
Not well, the Economist reports.
Southern California should be responding by speeding up traffic through its port. Right now, containers have to be taken off ships, put on trucks (that are often stuck in LA traffic), and driven to railyards to be sent away. The ports need a new railyard, close by, so that containers move seamlessly from ship to train and into North America -- so Southern California can compete.
But plans to build such a yard are going nowhere. There's fighting between the ports, neighborhoods and interest groups, and no agreement on a plan of action. Elected officials haven't been able to bang heads and make something happen.
If only Sacramento was as focuse on this rail project as it is on high-speed rail.