Investing in trade corridor is critical to job growth in San Diego

October 31, 2014

As a lifelong San Diego resident, I am continually impressed by the diversity and growth of our region. We live in an area laden with assets and blessed with enormous potential. Take for example San Ysidro, gateway to the world’s most prosperous state; Imperial Beach, globally recognized for its environmental treasures and iconic scenery; and National City, known for its historic neighborhoods and highest concentration of jobs per capita in the county; and in the near future, the Chula Bayfront Project, which will undoubtedly also have a significant economic impact on our region.

Further south, and short drive away, anyone can experience Baja California, Mexico and its culture, world famous cuisine, festive music, increasing manufacturing hub, sophisticated arts, and environmental uniqueness that attracts visitors from all around the world.

This amazing region that we call home is also considered a “megaregion.” Megaregions are areas composed of two or more cities producing billions, and sometimes trillions of dollars in economic output. These areas tie human creativity with diversity and innovation and contribute a large share of the world’s scientific and technological progress. 

There are about 40 megaregions in the world, including the Los Angeles-San Diego-Tijuana corridor; or more narrowly, our very own Cali-Baja “mega” made up of 28,656 square miles of San Diego County, Imperial County and Baja California in Mexico. This corridor is among the largest in the world in output. Globalization has exposed this area to worldwide competition; therefore improving trade and commerce efforts through regional transportation investments is paramount. Efficiency in moving travelers and commodities from one destination to the next is key to attracting investment, creating jobs, and increasing the quality of life for Californians.

With this vision for the future, I championed SB 1228, a bill signed by Governor Brown, which continues the existence of the Trade Corridors Improvement Fund (TCIF) and strategically invests in transportation and trade corridor infrastructure improvements. This bill represents a commitment by the state of California to prioritize resources for smart economic growth.

International trade in California is an increasingly important component of the state’s $2 trillion economy. In 2013, California exported $168 billion in products, an increase of more than 4 percent over the amount exported in 2012. California has five major land ports of entry, yielding over $700 billion in economic activity. California is also home to 11 seaports on over 1,000 miles of coastline. Seaports generate billions of dollars for the economy and sustain millions of jobs. Land ports of entry and seaports create busy borders and harbors with heavy industrial commerce. It is imperative that safety issues and pollution generated by trade are mitigated in order to reduce those impacts and to allow additional growth in international trade.

Investments to the TCIF can be leveraged from Prop 1B funds and cap-and-trade monies. The cap-and-trade program is a market based regulation designed to reduce greenhouse gas. Funds are raised through the sale of carbon credits under the state’s carbon-trading program as directed by AB32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. We have high levels of pollution around our ports and borders, therefore our region can benefit from these funds.

As SB 1228 added cap-and-trade funding opportunities, I have been working with the California Environmental Protection (CalEPA) and California Air Resources Board (CARB), to ensure that their environmental screening methods can appropriately factor pollution from the more than 60,000,000 vehicle and 730,000 trucks crossing the San Diego-Baja California border annually, not to mention all the manufacturing plants that sit along the Tijuana-San Diego corridor. The outcome of this work has rendered a big win for South Bay San Diego, as two new environmental screening monitors will be in place by the spring on 2015 to accurately identify pollution in the area.

SB 1228 keeps California competitive, and I am proud to have authored this legislation. I’m also confident that both SB 1228 and our continued meetings with the leadership of CARB and CalEPA keeps San Diego’s megaregion well-positioned to best compete for funding for our trade corridor improvements. Working together – across our region, and up in Sacramento – is the best way to grow our economy, create jobs and bring prosperity to the people of San Diego.