Long Beach joins environmental coalition in opposition to BNSF’s railyard project

Burlington Northern Santa Fe wants to build the Southern California International Gateway (SCIG) railyard project that it says will reduce truck traffic in the Port of Long Beach by utilizing the Alameda Corridor. The property sits along the Terminal Island Freeway (103) and Pacific Coast Highway, where rail and asphalt meet. Sept. 2012 file photo. (Daily Breeze staff photo)

A coalition of environmental groups, air quality regulators, businesses, the city of Long Beach and the state have filed initial legal briefs opposing construction of a planned rail loading facility near the ports that promises to ease semi-truck congestion on highways.

The coalition — which is suing the railroad company behind the Southern California International Gateway project and the city of Los Angeles, which approved it in 2013 — is worried about how the $500 million facility will impact neighboring communities in Carson, Wilmington, and West Long Beach.

The group alleges that the city’s environmental impact report “systematically understates” the impact on the environment and public health, including air quality, noise, and traffic, according to opening briefs, filed Friday in Contra Costa Superior Court.

Efforts in December to mediate outside the courts failed.

The city and BNSF Railway, the company behind the Gateway project, have touted the benefits of building a rail yard closer to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, arguing that it would reduce the distance that diesel trucks must carry cargo containers to railways, on which containers are shipped to other parts of the country.

The current rail loading facility for shipping containers is located 24 miles from the port in the city of Commerce. The new Gateway facility would be four miles from the port.

Gateway’s opponents say the environmental impact report mischaracterizes the facility. While it is closer to the ports, the new facility will not replace the current facility in Commerce, known as the Hobart railway. Rather, it will supplement that activity.

Domestic shipments will continue to run through the Hobart facility while international traffic would be routed through Gateway, a BNSF spokeswoman said in an email.

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