BNSF Railway Company has won approval from L.A. City Council for the controversial $500m railyard project near the neighbourhoods of Long Beach and Wilmington.
The new $500m rail yard on a 153-acre site, known as the Southern California International Gateway (SCIG) will significantly reduce road traffic.
Proponents of the project, including business and labour backers, state that thousands of jobs will be generated by the railyard close to the Terminal Island Freeway. It is also argued that pollution in the area will be reduced by SCIG’s shortening of cargo truck trips to and from freight trains. Local council representative Joe Buscaino has declared that the railyard will be essential for the the Port of Los Angeles to compete with the widening Panama Canal.
Buscaino said, “With a $500 million investment, this is a good project from both an environmental and economic point of view.” He continued, “This will be the cleanest rail yard ever built in this country and will mean a reduction in air pollution through better cargo handling and eliminating 1 million truck trips a year on the freeway.”
The project comes as a capital commitment plan pushes BNSF’s spending $450m higher than its capital spend total for 2012. As well as boosting BNSF’s presence in the area, the project will provide competition for a nearby railyard owned by Union Pacific. It is also progressing in tandem with a $137.7m intermodal railyard that will offer storage and staging for trains travelling between the port and the Alameda Corridor.
Environmental groups, community activists and regional air regulators oppose the project. A representative of the Natural Resources Defense Council has pledged the group will file a lawsuit to block construction of the railyard. Executive officer of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, Barry Wallerstein, highlighted the number of nitrous oxide emitting trucks that SCIG will bring close to homes.