Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Long Beach City and Port Officials Call for Zero Emission Railyard Expansion Option

A Long Beach City Councilmember and two members of the Port of Long Beach governing board are calling for the proposed multi-million dollar expansion of an intermodal railyard servicing the Southern California ports to embrace the idea of generating no net increase in air pollution when completed.

Freshman Councilmember James Johnson and Harbor Commissioners Mario Cordero and Thomas Fields are calling for a zero-emissions option to be included in the environmental impact report for the proposed expansion of the Intermodal Container Transfer Facility. The EIR, which is required before the project moves forward, is expected to be completed and released later this year.

The expansion project, if completed, would more than double the throughput of the 148-acre ICTF from 725,000 to 1.5 million containers per year. The facility, located about five miles north of the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, is operated by Class I railroad Union Pacific and is used primarily to consolidate containers onto rail for transport throughout the nation.

In a Jan. 18 letter to the ICTF Joint Powers Authority, a quasi-governmental group established in 1983 by the two ports to oversee the development of the ICTF, Johnson, Cordero and Fields point to the health impacts that goods movement transportation related to port activity have had on the surrounding communities.
"For many years, the reality has been that the growth of goods movement has brought regional benefits," said the letter, "while the communities proximate to the industry have borne the brunt of the costs."

The letter points out that one of the most serious contributors to these health impacts is the movement of cargo containers by short-haul trucks from the ports to the ICTF and asks the ICTF Joint Powers Authority to consider if there is a "better w ay to move these goods?"

The three officials state, "the technology currently exists to move containers to near-dock facilities without polluting our communities."

While there are no details in the letter as to which technology the three are referencing, the ports have in the past looked at various ideas such as a magnetic levitation or all-electric train shuttle system to handle the ports-to-ICTF traffic. One proposed idea for a maglev train system looked at several years ago was estimated to cost $100 million per mile, or about $500 million to construct at the time, not including the development of infrastructure to deliver the massive amounts of electrical power such a system would require.

Johnson, Cordero and Fields state "such zero-emissions goods-movement technology represents a true paradigm shift, as we would be able to move goods quickly and efficiently to market without sacrificing the health of our neighborhoods."

The letter goes on to state that the inclusion of such zero-emission technology in the ICTF project could increase the two ports competitiveness in the market by increasing goods movement efficiency.

Johnson, Cordero and Fields conclude their message by promising a forthcoming letter that will list "proposed mitigation measures to reduce and address potential neighborhood impacts."

The proposed expansion project, as currently envisioned, already includes numerous pollution mitigation options including the use of electric overhead cranes, cleaner-burning yard tractors, and ultra-low emissions locomotives.