Friday, August 5, 2016

BNSF Appeals POLA Railyard Ruling

By Mark Edward Nero

BNSF Railway said Aug. 2 that it would appeal a final ruling by a Superior Court judge stating that the Port of Los Angeles and City of Los Angeles must complete deeper analysis of possible environmental impacts before proceeding with a $500 million railyard project.

The Southern California International Gateway project, or SCIG, is aimed at expediting the transfer of international containers to intermodal trains at the largest US port complex and reducing truck congestion in the region.

But the judge’s decision means that the project, which has been in the planning process for a decade and tied up in litigation since 2013, could be delayed another two years.

BNSF is joined in its appeal by the city and Port of Los Angeles. They say that the lower court ruling is an “unprecedented expansion” of the scope of the California Environmental Quality Act. “BNSF is confident the appellate court will correctly apply the law, reverse the lower court ruling and maintain the existing scope of CEQA,” the railroad said in a prepared statement announcing the appeal.

The railway company also says that if built, the SCIG 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.

The proposed project would sit 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.

Originally, construction was due to begin in 2013 and open in 2016, but in June 2013, the City of Long Beach filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction against the project, saying that the SCIG would adversely affect its residents, businesses and schools by bringing more noise and air pollution to an area that has already suffered plenty over the years due to nearby port-related operations.