Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) hailed Thursday night's unanimous recommendation by the five-member Port of Los Angeles Harbor Commission to approve the railroad's controversial proposal to build a $500 million, 185-acre intermodal facility on the west side of Long Beach, Calif.
BNSF first proposed the project, known as the "Southern California International Gateway" (SCIG), in 2005, and the required process to obtain environmental approvals began in 2006. The project has run into roadblocks from environmentalists and residents, who say the diesel fuel emissions from trucks at the facility will worsen air quality in an already heavily-polluted part of Long Beach.
The public has 30 days to appeal the decision before it goes before the Los Angeles City Council for review. BNSF spokeswoman Lena Kent said in a voicemail reply on Friday that the railroad expects appeals to be filed opposing the commission's ruling. The City of Los Angeles and the Port of Los Angeles have jurisdiction over the process, though the city of Long Beach will be the most affected. The proposed facility would serve the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which comprise the nation's busiest port complex.
Kent said BNSF is preparing to begin work in 2014 should the project be cleared. BNSF already operates a rail yard in Los Angeles, but it is not within close proximity of either port. The proposed facility will be built on land that is currently used as an industrial site, and the Fort Worth, Texas-based railroad has vowed that the yard will set new environmental standards for future terminals in California and nationwide.
In a statement on Friday, BNSF Chairman and CEO Matthew K. Rose said last night's vote "validates that building SCIG is the right choice for green growth in Los Angeles and will be a new environmental model for the rest of the country."
BNSF said the new facility will help eliminate millions of truck miles from Interstate 710—commonly known as the "Long Beach Freeway"—a 23-mile north-south highway that runs through Los Angeles County. The facility will feature all-electric cranes, ultra low-emission switching locomotives, and low-emission rail yard equipment, BNSF said. The railroad said it would only allow vehicles built in 2010 or later to transport cargo between the marine terminals and the facility.
By 2026, 90 percent of the fleet at the facility will be trucks powered by liquefied natural gas or vehicles with an equivalent level of emissions, BNSF said.