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New Details Coming On Long Beach Railyard Expansion & Its Environmental Effects

New Details Coming On Long Beach Railyard Expansion & Its Environmental Effects

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With my first entry in this blog, I described some of the potential environmental effects that could be caused by massive expansions at the Port of Long Beach and nearby facilities. With our Reporting On Health Fellowship beginning this weekend, I thought I would post another quick update with a few details.

One of the most important projects that will be taking shape soon is the Union Pacific railroad company's expansion of their Intermodal Container Transer Facility (ICTF), a nearly 150-acre facility located about five miles from the Port of Long Beach. It's also bordered to the east and north by communities, some of which have asthma and lung disease rates that are among the highest in the nation.

To discuss the potential project, a four-member panel called the Joint Powers Authority (JPA) will meet in Long Beach on October 26. This meeting is vital because it will provide updates on the JPA assessment of the project. During a similar meeting last year, about one dozen community residents appealed to the board to block expansion. The expansion will be designed to accomodate double the number of cargo containers handled at the facility (up to 1.5 million per year), and double the number of trucks and trains needed to transport this cargo.

As with many projects of this scale, it is difficult to tell what exact effect it will have on the surrounding environmental once completed. Without a doubt, this will take a toll on the already polluted air in Long Beach. But could the expansion actually better the situation?

Union Pacific says that through the use of diesel or electric cranes, as well as ulta-low emission trains like this one, the facility expansion will actually reduce pollution. Perhaps even by as much as 75% once the expansion is up and running. That's a lofty claim, and the community is still waiting on results from an Environmental Impact Report that hasn't been released yet. It's also caused some to ask why the railyard isn't taking steps to implement these improvements already. Even the JPA last year admitted that Union Pacific has refused to take these environmental steps unless their facility expansion is approved.

We'll learn a lot more about the project during next week's meeting, so I'm sure I'll have more to report in the coming weeks.

The fellowship begins on Friday, so check back here for frequent updates. You can also follow my thoughts throughout this weekend at my Twitter tag, @RyanZumMallen or through the #chjf hashtag.

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