BNSF intermodal facility on hold as Port of Los Angeles and City ponder next move
A $500 million intermodal project in Southern California is on indefinite hold as its backers, the Port of Los Angeles, the City of Los Angeles and BNSF, wrangle with legal challenges over the new facility.
The five members of the Port of Los Angeles’ harbor commission will meet with their attorneys today on the future of the Southern California International Gateway, a 153-acre, near-dock railyard aimed at handling the growing container volumes coming out of the top two ports in the U.S.
Under the plan, BNSF will build the near-dock railyard on land to be leased from the Los Angeles Harbor Department for fifty years. The project, which would take three years to complete, would first handle 570,800 twenty foot equivalent units (teus), before eventually hitting full capacity of 2.8 million teus.
But the Gateway project, which was first proposed in 2005, must go back to the drawing board due to extensive legal challenges from the nearby City of Long Beach, residents and businesses adjacent to the project.
The opponents scored a legal victory in January when a California appellate court partially upheld a decision from a lower court that said the Gateway’s sponsors did not address certain issues in the final environmental impact report.
The appellate court said that the City of Los Angeles will have to “suspend project activities” until a revised environmental impact report is submitted.
The Port of Los Angeles said in a statement that it has already set aside its prior approval of the environmental impact report as well as the 50-year operating permit to BNSF. It said the onus is now on the City of Los Angeles and BNSF to find a way to move it through the regulatory process.
“The City has suspended all (Gateway) project activities, which shall not resume unless the City and BNSF take future actions to certify a revised (environmental impact report) . . . and adopt related environmental and project approvals,” the Port of Los Angeles said.
The City of Long Beach, parts of which the Gateway site will straddle, has opposed the project due to its impact on local residents. Attorneys for Long Beach have highlighted that the all-hours intermodal facility would be located near schools and homes.