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    Major Port-Related Truck-To-Railroad Container Transfer Yard Proposed Next To WLB

    (Sept. 27, 2005) -- A 153-acre truck-to-railroad container transfer yard to serve the Ports of LB and L.A. is being proposed adjacent to WLB with operations the Port of L.A. acknowledges might permanently increase air emissions at and near the site due to increased rail and truck the expectation of reducing longer truck routes and their emissions regionally.

    As described on the Port of Los Angeles' website, the "Southern California International Gateway" (SCIG) proposed by BNSF Railway would have a "primary project area" stretching from roughly Sepulveda Blvd. to PCH, and from the Dominguez Channel to the Terminal Island Freeway for train loading and unloading operations. An additional approx. 27 acres south of PCH would serve as a corridor for tracks connecting the main area to the Alameda Corridor.

    The proposed truck to railroad facility is not on-dock rail (environmentally favored in stated policies of the Ports of LB and L.A.) but "near dock" rail, in which a currently unspecified number of daily trucks would haul containers from the Ports to the facility.

    To view a map (from the Port of L.A.'s materials) showing the primary project area location and "existing and anticipated primary truck routes (shown in the Port of L.A.'s materials), click here. The red line indicates current primary truck routes between Port facilities and BNSF's Hobart facility. The yellow line is "the currently anticipated primary local truck routes between Port facilities and the proposed facility.

    As cited by the Port of L.A., the project's objectives include helping to "manage current and anticipated growth in containerized cargo [by] reducing the distance of truck trips associated with increase in containerized cargo," increasing use of the Alameda Corridor and promoting "Port infrastructure improvements consistent with the Governor of California’s Goods Movement initiative."

    The proposal, which comes amid increasing public concern over airborne toxics attributable to Port, truck and railroad operations, could have local political impacts. LB Mayoral candidate Frank Colonna now chairs the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority board. The Port of L.A.'s documents don't indicate whether some of the land involved may include property owned by Southern CA Edison, whose (now exiting) president, Bob Foster, is also running for Mayor. Both candidates have prominently cited their environmental credentials in seeking the citywide office.

    7th district Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga, who has taken high visibility positions supporting clear air issues, is also seeking reelection. WLB has previously flexed its political muscle on the issue when it ousted one-term incumbent Councilman Mike Donelon in 1998 over a controversial container-related zoning matter, then denied him a political comeback in 2002.

    "We're preparing for the 'Mother Of All Battles' on this," veteran WLB neighborhood activist John Cross told He added in a serious, determined tone of voice: "This proposal directly affects our homes, our families, our neighborhoods and our schools. West Long Beach is very displeased with is being proposed."

    The Port of L.A.'s Notice of Preparation and Initial Study preceding preparation of the project's Environmental Impact Report (EIR) cites the shorter haul truck travel (through parts of WLB and vicinity) as one of the project's environmental selling points:

    [T]he SCIG Project is expected to divert truck traffic that is currently using nearby freeways, such as the 710, to a facility in closer proximity to the Port. This will create shorter truck trips for movement of containers from ships to rail, which is expected to ease traffic conditions on local freeways and reduce air quality impacts. The proposed location for the SCIG Project will provide direct access to the Alameda Corridor and will enable the Alameda Corridor to reach its potential in terms of train capacity, thereby further realizing the significant benefits that already result from using it, such as reduction of traffic congestion and improvement in air quality.

    Finally, by providing comparable near-dock rail service for the Class I railroads serving the Port, the SCIG Project would benefit carriers, shippers, and terminal operators, and further contribute to improving the movement of containerized cargo in an efficient manner.

    Other portions of the Port of L.A.'s narrative also cite the project's asserted environmental benefits;

    BNSF Railway proposes to make the SCIG Project an industry leading facility, both in terms of its capacity per acre to handle cargo and its sensitivity to the environment. BNSF Railway is currently investigating numerous new technologies designed to achieve these ends and expects this investigation to continue through the EIR process. In particular, BNSF Railway is:

  • Planning to incorporate an alternative to traditional diesel-powered railroad switch engines for use in the SCIG. Specifically, BNSF is:

    • Investigating multiple sequential low-emission engines for use as railroad switch engines;
    • Currently operating in Los Angeles the only four LNG-powered switch engines in existence in the United States and BNSF Railway will be evaluating the feasibility of using this technology in SCIG;
    • Already operating a battery-powered switch engine known as the "Green Goat" elsewhere in the Los Angeles area and BNSF Railway will be evaluating the feasibility of using this equipment in SCIG;

  • Planning to incorporate an alternative to traditional diesel-powered yard hostling trucks for use in the SCIG. Specifically, BNSF is:

    • Investigating LNG-fueled yard hostling trucks for operations within SCIG, as opposed to traditional, diesel-powered trucks, subject to available fuel supply and results of a demonstration project planned for spring 2006 to prove the operational feasibility of this technology;
    • Investigating use of certified on-road heavy duty vehicle engines in yard hostlers;
    • Investigating use of California Air Resources Board verified emission reduction technologies for either alternative (and possibly in addition to either alternative);

  • Planning to incorporate all-electric cranes into the facility, as opposed to traditional, diesel-powered cranes;
  • Maximizing the use of lower sulfur diesel fuel in locomotives; and
  • Incorporating Automatic Idling Reduction Devices in locomotives.
  • But in a section specifically addressing air quality, the document acknowledges:

    ...Operation of the intermodal facility might result in permanent increased air emissions at and near the site due to an increase in rail and truck traffic traveling to and from the site in connection with the proposed rail loading and unloading activities. These increased emissions might conflict with implementation of the applicable South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) Air Quality Attainment Plan (AQMP). This impact is potentially significant.

    It is anticipated that this Project would rather quickly divert a substantial amount of truck traffic off of nearby freeways, such as the 710 Freeway, and thereby reduce overall truck vehicle miles traveled and related air emissions in the region. The effect that these regional emissions reductions would have versus increases in local emissions at the site relative to implementation of applicable air quality plans will be evaluated in the EIR.

    Would the project violate any air quality standard or contribute substantially to an existing or projected air quality violation? "

    Potentially Significant Impact. The proposed Project is located in the SCAQMD, which has determined that this area is in extreme non-attainment for ozone and its precursors, oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and reactive organic gases (ROG). The area has also been identified by SCAQMD as having air toxic emissions in its MATES II study. As described above, the proposed Project could result in an increase in air emissions at the Project site and in the immediate site area...These increases might violate existing air quality standards for ozone and its precursors, and also for air toxic pollutants such as diesel particulate matter. This impact is potentially significant. This issue will be addressed in the EIR, and will include presentation and discussion of a protocol for assessment of public health risks.

    Would the project result in a cumulatively considerable net increase of any criteria pollutant for which the project region is non-attainment under an applicable federal or state ambient air quality standard (including releasing emissions that exceed quantitative thresholds for ozone precursors)?

    Potentially Significant Impact...The proposed Project might result in the potential for: (i) a cumulatively considerable net increase in air emissions at the site and immediate surrounding area that have the potential of violating existing air quality standards for ozone and its precursors; and, (ii) a cumulatively considerable net increase in health risks from air toxic pollutants such as diesel particulate matter. This impact is potentially significant. This issue will be addressed in the EIR.

    Would the project cause an increase in traffic that is substantial in relation to the existing traffic load and capacity of the street system (i.e., result in a substantial increase in either the number of vehicle trips, the volume-to-capacity ratio on roads, or congestion at intersections)?

    Potentially Significant Impact. The proposed Project would cause an increase in traffic load on existing major traffic arteries in the Project Site area...Increased vehicular movement on these major arteries would further occur during operation of the proposed intermodal facility due to an increase in truck traffic to and from the facility.

    These impacts are potentially significant. The EIR will analyze the Project traffic volumes before, during and after construction in relation to road capacities. It will also consider the regional effects of reductions in truck traffic on area Highways, such as the 710, which are anticipated as a result of the Project.

    Would the project exceed, either individually or cumulatively, a level-of-service standard established by the county congestion management agency for designated roads or highways?

    Potentially Significant Impact. Due to increased surface street traffic on major traffic arteries, the proposed Project could result in traffic exceeding a level-of-service standard for congestion management program intersections in the Port area. This impact is potentially significant and will be addressed in the EIR.

    The Port of L.A. has scheduled two public scoping meetings to "further define and accept testimony on the scope of the EIR":

    • Oct. 6 @ 6 p.m., Silverado Park Community Center [Long Beach]

    • Oct. 13, 2005 @ 6 p.m., Bannings Landing Community Center

    The Port of L.A.'s Notice of Preparation and related documents can be viewed in full (scroll down to "Southern California International Gateway Project" to download documents) by clicking here).

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