Los Angeles City Council signs off on BNSF’s Southern California International Gateway project
May 09, 2013 - LM Editorial
Following a March decision by the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissions to recommend approval of Class I railroad carrier BNSF Railway’s Southern California International Gateway (SCIG) project, BNSF received more good news yesterday, when the Los Angeles City Council voted to approve the $500 million project.
BNSF officials say the SCIG will be a state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly, near-dock intermodal facility that will have 90 percent less emissions than traditional intermodal yards and will be four miles from the Port of Los Angeles. They added SCIG will eliminate millions of truck miles annually from the 710 Freeway and other local freeways, reducing traffic congestion and improving air quality and add a significant number of jobs.
“We applaud the Los Angeles City Council, the Mayor’s Office and the Port of Los Angeles Harbor Commissioners for their commitment to green growth,” said Matthew K. Rose, BNSF Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, in a statement. “With their input, BNSF’s SCIG project is setting a new standard of excellence in reducing emissions and realizing a positive impact on local communities. We are investing more than $500 million in private funds to build this state-of-the-art facility, which will help keep the San Pedro ports competitive, and we look forward to the jobs, air quality and traffic benefits the facility will bring to Southern California.”
The company said that when complete the SCIG will eliminate tons of truck miles on the 710 Freeway and will house the SCIG on an existing industrial site, which it said “will set a new benchmark for future facilities in California.”
What’s more, it said that the SCIG will be comprised of wide-span all-electric cranes, ultra-low emission switching locomotives, and low-emission rail yard equipment. And it intends to allow only trucks that meet the ports Clean Air Action Plan goal of 2010 or alternatively only have newer trucks transport cargo between the marine terminals and the facility, with 90 percent of the truck fleet to be LNG or equivalent emissions vehicles by 2026.
BNSF initially began looking for a new intermodal site in Southern California in 2002, when the Alameda Corridor opened up, with the Corridor opening on the premise that both on-dock and near-dock facilities would feed the corridor, said BNSF Director of Public Affairs Lena Kent in a recent interview.
“We then started looking around for properties around then and in 2003 we submitted a letter to both the Port of Los Angeles (POLA) and the Port of Long Beach (POLB) to ask if either would be interested in working with us on a new intermodal facility. POLA picked BNSF in 2005 to begin working on a new facility and had the project location and own the majority of the property where we are proposing to build the facility. But in 2006 a new administration came in with a new Mayor and he selected Geraldine Knapp to be executive director at POLA, so we had to wait for the draft EIR (environmental impact report) to come out, which took a number of years.”
In the meantime, though, BNSF met with a number of residents and businesses in the Los Angeles area to listen to what their concerns were regarding the SCIG, said Kent.
She explained that many of the concerns had to do with dirty trucks coming into and out of their neighborhoods as well as pollution, explaining that a trucking company currently resides on the planned SCIG site.
“Many of the enhancements to the project were based on the feedback we received from the community,” said Kent.
BNSF in turn identified an industrial truck route to the SCIG site, with no trucks allowed to enter residential neighborhoods. These trucks will be equipped with GPS tracking to make sure they are on the designated truck route. This route would also include a ramp which would go directly into and out of the SCIG facility and take the Terminal Island Freeway back to the port.
Currently in this area, BNSF has containers loaded on-dock and for those that cannot be loaded on dock, they are transported 24 miles to its Los Angeles-based Hobart Intermodal Facility off the 710, which Kent said is one of the busiest intermodal facilities in the country.
Chief among opposing concerns is increased levels of air pollution resulting from SCIG.
Kent noted that studies conducted by an independent third-party group hired by POLA have shown that the air quality would improve in the neighborhood adjacent to the proposed SCIG site, as well as air quality along the 710 Freeway where trucks are traveling to the Hobart facility.
Kent declined to provide BNSF’s projections regarding operational metrics of the SCIG. But she did point out how POLA has projected increased cargo volumes in the coming years and said that infrastructure will be needed to meet that cargo demand, which the SCIG would help to do.
And should this project get the green light, Kent said BNSF’s Hobart intermodal facility will remain intact to handle domestic traffic.
BNSF said it has committed to allow only trucks meeting the San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) goal of allowing only trucks built in or after 2010 to transport cargo between the marine terminals and the facility, adding that by 2023, 75 percent of the truck fleet will be comprised of LNG of equivalent emissions vehicles, with that figure pegged at 90 percent by 2026.
And it added that BNSF will contribute up to $3 million to the joint Port of Los Angeles-Port of Long Beach Technology Advancement Program to further the development of zero-emission goods-movement technologies.
In terms of jobs, BNSF said that by 2036 IHS Global Insight forecasts SCIG will create 22,000 new direct and indirect jobs in Southern California, including 14,000 new and indirect jobs in Los Angeles.
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