Calling for additional clean-air measures at a proposed BNSF near-dock intermodal yard, the Long Beach Harbor Commission wants developers to look into zero-emission trucks and a buffer zone to protect neighboring communities.
The commission voted Monday to direct port staff to work with the Long Beach city administration in demanding additional environmental safeguards at the $500 million Southern California International Gateway project.
The proposed 153-acre intermodal yard, which would be located adjacent to the Union Pacific Railroad’s Intermodal Container Transfer Facility, is located in an industrial area in the city of Los Angeles, but it abuts a residential area of west Long Beach.
The Los Angeles Harbor Commission recently approved the environmental impact report for the SCIG facility. The next step in the approval process is for the Los Angeles City Council to take up the issue in the coming weeks.
Groups that have concerns with the proposed SCIG project are preparing to challenge the EIR as it now stands before the Los Angeles City Council. In addition to the city and Port of Long Beach, the Natural Resources Defense Council and neighborhood groups are expected to express their opposition to the city council.
As a regional initiative, the SCIG appears to be an acceptable strategy. Intermodal containers currently must be trucked from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to the BNSF Hobart yard, more than 20 miles away, near downtown Los Angeles. If SCIG is built, about 1.5 million truck trips a year would be removed from the Long Beach Freeway and would travel only four miles to the new BNSF yard.
However, Long Beach does not want to shoulder the entire environmental burden of both the truck traffic and the pollution that would result in a neighborhood that includes schools and residences.
Long Beach interests want a firm commitment by the developer, with timelines, to work toward zero-emission vehicles, such as electric trucks, to move containers from the harbor to the intermodal rail transfer yard.
Trucks that serve the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex are already the cleanest in the nation because of the ports’ clean-trucks programs. The 2007 and 2010 model-year trucks mandated for use in the harbor have reduced harmful diesel emissions by more than 80 percent.
BNSF also anticipates increased use of LNG-powered trucks, which are even cleaner than clean-diesel trucks. The railroad has also pledged to incorporate electric yard equipment and clean switcher locomotives into the operation.
However, local residents feel more can be done to reduce emissions. In addition to cleaner trucks, suggestions include creation of a buffer zone around the yard, and modifications to the Terminal Island Freeway and Alameda Street to improve truck flow from the harbor to the SCIG site.