SoCal Transport Sputters as Fires Ravage Region
Regional rail lines, airports forced to restrict operations
LOS ANGELES - 10-27-03 - Activity along'the usually-busting arterial system of rail lines, airports, and highways that link Southern California?with the rest of the country has slowed to a crawl as the wildfires ravaging the region from San Diego northward to the greater Los Angeles area continue to burn out of control.
More than 400,000 acres have been consumed by the fires - an area equal to about half of the state of Rhode Island or a tract of land approximately 14 times the size of Manhattan, according to the US Forest Service with the rail lines, airports, and highways connecting the region with both domestic and international points all severely impacted.
The major rail artery for intermodal rail service connecting the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach with the rest of the country, Canada, and Mexico was closed for most of the weekend, while several of the country's busiest airports - including Los Angeles International (LAX) - restricted or cancelled flights.
In addition, several major highways completed closed to traffic of any kind.
The Cajon Pass - the region's primary rail route for eastbound and westbound intermodal rail service - was blocked by flames for most of the weekend stalling more than 100 double-stack trains, according to sources.
The two railroads serving the region - the Union Pacific (UP) and Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) - both were forced to reroute trains as the Pass was only reopened for limited use late Sunday evening.?
According to John Bromley, a spokesman for the Union Pacific Railroad, which operates a vast rail facility in San Bernardino some 50 miles east of Los Angeles, 30 trains - half of which were intermodal - were delayed over the weekend with a number rerouted to the route linking the railroad's Riverside terminal with Yuma, Arizona.
"We anticipate getting back to normal operations within the next two days," Bromley said.
The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway had 82 intermodal trains, each carrying approximately 280 containers, on hold on the line's eastbound and westbound route through the Cajon Pass, BNSF spokesperson Lena Kent told the CalTrade Report.
"We're trying to minimize the interruption the backlog has caused, but it's touch-and-go at this point," Kent said. "We're moving one train at a time through the pass and it'll be a few days before we're caught up and assess the total impact of the fires on our service."
The highway system that forms an arterial network connecting the Southern California's distribution centers, ports, and airports with the rest of the country and Mexico has also been impacted.
According to the California Department of Transportation, several major north-south and east-west interstate freeways including the I-5 (which runs north and south from San Diego all the way to Vancouver, British Columbia), the I-15 (the major route between Southern California and Las Vegas), have been closed or limited in use.
In the greater Los Angeles area, a number of regional highways including the I-10 (San Bernardino) Freeway, and the 210 and 118 Freeways (which skirt the northern border of the San Fernando Valley, just northwest of downtown Los Angeles) have also been affected.
On the aviation side, Los Angeles-bound passenger and cargo flights were delayed an average of about six hours over the weekend, according to the Federal Aviation Administration in Washington, DC.
By late afternoon Sunday, though, the delay was pared down to just over three hours, but the longest delays had grown to more than 16 hours.
About 100 flight cancellations were recorded by major airlines at Los Angeles International Airport between midmorning and 5:00 pm Sunday, according to Nancy Castles, spokeswoman for the city airports department.
By late Sunday evening, FAA controllers at Los Angeles International were handling about half the normal hourly arrival rate of 70 aircraft, she said.
On Monday, a check of the major airlines serving LAX indicated about 220 inbound and outbound flights - or about 13% of the airport's daily 1,700 landings and takeoffs - expected for the entire day Monday.
No cancellations were reported by the nearly 40 foreign air carriers serving the airport, Castles said.
The flight cancellations are part of an effort to reduce the load on the Southern California air traffic control system with the reduction in the number of flights resulting in delays of up to 90 minutes on those flights that are still operating - "a significant improvements over yesterday's hours-long delays," she said.
Problems for the region's air traffic began Sunday morning when the Federal Aviation Administration's Southern California Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facility at Miramar, near San Diego, was evacuated when it was threatened by one of the wildfires raging in the area.
The facility's functions were transferred to an air traffic control center near Palmdale, east of Los Angeles in the Mojave Desert, which normally handles high-altitude commercial air traffic.
It's currently not known when the Miramar TRACON facility will reopen, but a number of air traffic controllers were reportedly dispatched late Sunday to the control tower at LAX, increasing the number of arrival flights from 30 per hour to 60 per hour.
The airport's normal rate is 70 arrivals per hour, said Castles, adding that "the arrival rate is important as this impacts the number of aircraft that are available to turn around and depart."
back, or read the latest Front Page stories:
France OKs Online ''Sharing'' of Copyrighted Material
PARIS, France – 12/23/05 – France’s Lower House has voted to endorse amended legislation that, in effect, legalizes the online sharing of music and movies in direct opposition to the government’s efforts to curb the rising tide of IP piracy; under the original bill, IP pirates would have faced $360,000 in fines and up to three years in jail, but, instead, the amended law will legalize file-sharing by anyone paying a monthly royalties duty of about $8.50.
Senate Axes Byrd Amendment, Step 2 Cotton Program
WASHINGTON, DC – 12/22/05 – The Senate has passed a complicated budget reduction plan that includes provisions repealing both the controversial Byrd Amendment anti-dumping mechanism and the Step 2 Program that provides export subsidies to US cotton growers; the Bush Administration pushed hard for repeal of the programs, both of which had been ruled in violation of international trade law by the World Trade Organization.
US Wants Central America FTA In Place ASAP
WASHINGTON, DC – 12/20/05 – The Bush Administration has said it is ready to implement the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) as soon as possible after January 1 ''so that US and regional businesses can begin taking advantage of its benefits in the shortest possible time;'' the US is looking to create a seamless transition between the nations participating in the Caribbean Basin Initiative-Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBI-CBTPA) and the CAFTA-DR, according to the Office of the US Trade Representative.