Railroad Expansion Draws Concerns From Long Beach Residents

Published on
November 4, 2010

In my first few blogs, I've explained some of the environmental issues facing the city of Long Beach both today and in the long-term. The main point of concern is often pollution caused by operations at the Port of Long Beach. But another concern, perhaps just as dangerous to the community in terms of air pollution, are the nearby railyard facilities where cargo trains move in and out, all day and every day.

In Long Beach, it's the Intermodal Container Transfer Facility (ICTF), run by Union Pacific. In Los Angeles, it's the Southern California International Gateway (SCIG), run by BNSF. Both are planning massive expansions, and announced that they will produce a joint Environmental Impact Report (EIR) in Spring 2011.

The announcement was made during a meeting of the Joint Powers Authority (JPA), the governing body that will ultimately rule on the expansions. The four-member board is made up of harbor commissioners and executive directors at the ports of L.A. and L.B., and the meeting last week in west Long Beach was emotional as community members pleaded with the JPA to stop expansion unless pollution is greatly decreased.

The community lies next to the ICTF and suffers from some of the worst air quality in the nation, which contributes to higher asthma and lung disease rates. Twelve public speakers asked the JPA to think before approving the projects - many of the speakers were local residents but others worked in the area or represent environmental organizations.

It's still unclear what kind of environmental effect the railyard expansions could have on local air pollution. Union Pacific says that the "modernization," as they call it, will reduce pollution by 75% even as the facility doubles in size and traffic capacity. The JPA did not make any decisions last week as they wait for the joint-EIR to be produced. Check out this video that I shot and edited of some community residents expressing their concerns.