Friday, April 5, 2013

Long Beach City, Port Appeal SCIG Project

A conflict between the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach over a proposed BNSF rail yard is continuing to grow.

The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners this week voted to support a City of Long Beach appeal of the Southern California International Gateway rail yard project that was approved March 7 by the Port of Los Angeles.

The City of Long Beach has appealed the Port of Los Angeles’ approval of the project to the Los Angeles City Council, which is expected to vote on the project in the coming weeks. Long Beach officials have opposed the project as it stands, saying it doesn’t sufficiently reduce the impact on western Long Beach.

The 153-acre SCIG facility proposed by BNSF Railway Co. sits just outside West Long Beach, alongside the Terminal Island Freeway on land owned by the Port of LA. The project, if built, would serve on-dock rail facilities at both the Port of Long Beach and the Port of Los Angeles.

Long Beach officials, however, say much of its impact would negatively affect nearby Long Beach residents, businesses and schools.

Local residents and environmental activists on the Long Beach side have claimed the facility would bring more noise and air pollution to an area that has already suffered from plenty of both over the years due to port-related activities.

“Everyone can do better on this project than has been done so far,” Long Beach Harbor Commission President Susan Anderson Wise said.

At an April 1 board meeting, Wise, along with commissioners Rich Dines, Nick Sramek and Doug Drummond, voted to direct port staff to work with the City of Long Beach to help find solutions for the issues the city raised against the project.

Commissioner Thomas Fields recused himself because of a possible conflict of interest related to his investments.

BNSF and the Port of LA say if the project’s constructed, it would reduce truck traffic, freeway congestion and air pollution by eliminating about 1.3 million truck trips annually along a 24-mile stretch of the Long Beach (710) Freeway to BNSF’s Hobart Yard near downtown LA.

Construction, which is scheduled to begin later this year, could create an estimated 1,500 direct and indirect jobs per year over three years, according to BNSF. The rail yard’s expected to generate up to 1,096 long-term jobs at full capacity when it opens in 2016.

The City of Long Beach’s appeal of the project is on behalf of the entire city, including its Harbor Department, which is the Port of Long Beach. However, harbor commissioners said they felt it was important to go on the record with their support of the appeal and to call for solutions.

“LA needs to treat Long Beach like a neighbor, not just dump the project over here without mitigation and changes,” Commissioner Sramek said.