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10/11/2012 8:00:00 AM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

So. California Intermodal Yard Advances After Port of L.A. Clears BNSF Project

By Rip Watson, Senior Reporter

This story appears in the Oct. 8 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

BNSF Railway’s intermodal container project in Southern California took a step forward late last month, when a revised environmental impact statement was issued that supports construction of the $500 million project.

The Port of Los Angeles report backs construction of a scaled-down version of the Southern California Intermodal Gateway project from an environmental perspective that still would handle 1.3 million truck trips annually. An earlier report in 2011 didn’t make any conclusion about the best choice from an environmental standpoint.

The facility is intended by the railway to move intermodal operations closer to the Los Angeles and Long Beach port terminals and cut back on highway trips for shipments that currently travel about 24 miles one-way from the ports to an existing rail terminal.

“The proposed project and the reduced project alternative are the alternatives with the least significant impacts,” the report said. “Impacts exist under both scenarios, although the specific impacts occur in different locations and differ in severity. Since the reduced project alternative has, by definition, less activity than the proposed project, it is the environmentally superior alternative.”

The revised assessment was outlined in a 93-page executive summary that covered cargo demand, air quality, health risks and other issues. BNSF first proposed the project almost a decade ago, and the project has been under review since.

The full-scale project option would accommodate 2 million truck trips per year.

Los Angeles and Long Beach are the nation’s two largest ports and handle about 40% of U.S. imports, with an annual throughput of about 13 million industry standard units.

Separately, in late September, the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners awarded a contract for a $36.8 million rail project and the Los Angeles port’s board approved spending $7.5 million to complete a dredging project.

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