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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Assessing the Environmental and Health Impacts of Port-Related Freight Movement in a Major Urban Transportation Corridor


The San Pedro Bay Ports (SPBP) complex of Los Angeles and Long Beach is the largest container port in the U.S., and a very important contributor to both California’s and the nation’s economies. Although the benefits of the SPBP activities are enjoyed by the whole country, the burden of the congestion and air pollution it generates falls mostly on the shoulders of people who live and work in the transportation corridor serving the SPBP. This corridor includes two busy freeways, the I-710 and the I-110, and a busy rail link, the Alameda corridor. The objective of this paper is to explore an integrated approach for evaluating the environmental and health impacts of freight operations between the SPBP complex and downtown Los Angeles, some 22 miles north. Our integrated approach combines a number of models, including a microscopic traffic simulation model and an emissions model to better estimate the impacts of congestion on air pollution, emission estimates from line-haul and switching train activities, a spatial dispersion model, and a health impact model. We analyze emissions for year 2005, which serves as a baseline in various air pollution inventories of the SPBP complex. Our results show that emissions concentrations are strongly affected by meteorological conditions and seasonal variations (winter is worse than summer); moreover, we found that health impacts from NOx and PM exposure exceed 200 million dollars, which justifies a number of regional initiatives to improve air quality. Our analysis is a starting point for analyzing the economic efficiency of these initiatives, which include modal shift (from trucks to trains) and the Clean Trucks Program.

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