(May 8, 2007) -- BNSF Railway Co. has announced what it calls "significant enhancements" to its proposed Southern California International Gateway (SCIG) project, a large "near dock" container transfer facility that would rely on trucks to haul containers from the Ports to a location straddling WLB/L.A.
In a written release, BNSF said that in addition to its "original commitments, which include electric cranes, LNG or equivalent yard tractors and low-emission switch engines -- making the facility the cleanest in the United States, BNSF today commits to the following enhancements in connection with SCIG:
- 100 percent of the truck fleet servicing SCIG will be 2007 or newer upon facility opening –
exceeding compliance with the San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP).
- Trucks serving SCIG will be limited to traveling on specified non-residential truck routes and
be equipped with global positioning satellite (GPS) devices to monitor and enforce
- BNSF’s operating contractor will give qualified local residents first priority for all new job
offers at SCIG.
- BNSF will fund a workforce training program to assist area residents in obtaining these jobs.
- BNSF will plant an "urban forest" at the site to improve air quality and aesthetics.
- BNSF will fund construction of a sound wall east of SCIG to diminish current freeway noise
and looks forward to working with local residents to determine its location.
BNSF said it "also commits to participating in the new CAAP [Ports' "Clean Air Action Plan"] Technology Committee to continually reevaluate alternative cargo movement technology."
In a release, BNSF's president/CEO Matthew K. Rose said the railroad had "spoken one-on-one with more than 200 households near the facility and received feedback from hundreds of key stakeholders. We listened to their concerns and are adding several important features to make SCIG the greenest rail facility in the United States. We believe these
enhancements are consistent with local elected officials’ vision for green growth and job creation."
But BNSF's "enhancements" laid an egg with John Cross, VP of the WLB Association and a leading spokesman against the project. "As far as we know, the residents of the West Side [of LB] are still totally opposed to this project. The only place for a rail yard now is in the Port proper," Mr. Cross told LBReport.com.
The Port of Los Angeles, lead agency on the project, acknowledges it would increase pollution in adjacent WLB neighborhoods but contends it would reduce truck traffic regionally.
SCIG's supporters include Randy Gordon, President/CEO of the LB Area Chamber of Commerce. "It’s not whether the cargo will continue to arrive at the ports, but how we will handle it when it does. With this announcement, BNSF has really stepped up to promote green growth," Mr. Gordon said...quoted in BNSF's release.
"Our forecasts show that SCIG will take millions of truck miles off the regional freeway system and we believe these measures will help accomplish that and also help protect the air quality in the neighborhoods adjacent to SCIG, by allowing only clean trucks to serve the rail facility in a controlled manner from day one," BNSF President/CEO Rose said.
The SCIG came up in connection with the LB City Council's support for SB 947, the "Port Investment" bill by State Senator Alan Lowenthal (D., LB-SP-PV) (container fees to fund port capacity expansion with "mitigation" but not "no net increase" in pollution).
Following an LBReport.com editorial in which we charged that under Sen. Lowenthal's bill, the container fees could be used to fund the SCIG, Senator Lowenthal sent an email which didn't deny the charge...but said the SCIG "is not mentioned in the bill and it is not referred to in the bill in any way. I do not support the proposed SCIG."