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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

West Coast port shutdown draining dollars from railroads, importers


The week-old labor dispute between longshoremen and West Coast ports that's put the kibosh on all port activity quickly is straining an already weakened national economy.

On Oct. 5, Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. (LAEDC) estimated that the port shutdown so far has cost San Diego, and San Fernando and San Gabriel Valley more than a quarter billion dollars in lost trade.

And Union Pacific Railroad estimates that the situation is costing the Class I between $4 million and $5 million per day.

If the lockout continues, it soon will affect the entire U.S. economy, said UP Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dick Davidson in a prepared statement.

"The economy — and the country — doesn’t need this right now," he said.

As UP and Burlington Northern Santa Fe continue to embargo western container traffic, LAEDC Senior Vice President Wally Baker believes the absence of that traffic will make government and port officials, and shippers think twice about railroads' role in the region's transportation system.

"More than 20 percent of all U.S. customs revenues are collected on products that go through our eastbound freight and rail corridors each year," he said. "Unfortunately, rail corridors are sometimes the transportation equivalent of Rodney Dangerfield — they just don't get [any] respect. Maybe, the West Coast labor dispute will change everyone's attitude about freight rail across the country."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 10/7/2002