Tuesday, September 27, 2011

BNSF Unveils Draft EIR For $500M Los Angeles Port Rail Yard

Class I railroad Burlington Northern Santa Fe on Friday released draft environmental documents for a proposed $500 million rail facility to be located at the northeastern edge of the Port of Los Angeles.

The 153-acre proposed facility, named the Southern California International Gateway (SCIG), would serve as a intermodal train-building yard to compliment the existing on-dock rail systems at the port's various container terminals. Estimated to have a throughput capacity of 1.5 million containers a year, the facility is being touted by BNSF as the "greenest" facilities of its kind in the nation, featuring numerous methods of drastically reducing both pollution and the health risk to surrounding communities.

As part of the facility construction, BNSF will remediate an existing industrial site that currently requires cleanup.

To reduce pollution, BNSF plans to utilize wide-span all-electric cranes, ultra-low emission switching locomotives and low-emission rail yard equipment. The railroad has committed to initially allow only trucks meeting the port's Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) goal of 2007-or-newer trucks to transport cargo about four miles from the port terminals to the SCIG. BNSF plans for 90 percent of the facility truck fleet will be LNG or equivalent emissions vehicles by 2026. Trucks will be required to adhere to strict routes, avoiding residential areas by traveling on designated, industrial routes with GPS tracking to ensure adherence.

The more than 1,500-page Draft Environmental Impact Report, prepared by the Environmental Management Division of the port, also determined that the proposed SCIG would reduce area cancer risk 10 times more than the port's own standards.

This is the second time the project has gone out for public comment. In 2005, the port sought public comment on the scope of the EIR released Friday. Most of the public concern raised at the time related to air quality, public health and increases in traffic.

"The release of this report is a significant moment for green growth in Los Angeles," BNSF Chairman and CEO Matthew Rose said.

"Railroads are the most environmentally-friendly mode of surface transportation. We believe that this facility proves that 'green' and 'growth' can go together as the mayor and the ports have long promised."

During the three-year construction phase, approximately 1,500 jobs a year would be created, with estimates suggesting that they would create more than $85 million in federal, state and local taxes.

According to a study by IHS Global Insight, the SCIG upon completion will create up to 14,000 new direct and indirect jobs in Los Angeles and 22,000 new direct and indirect jobs in Southern California by 2036.