For more than two decades, the Port of Long Beach has envisioned transforming its Pier B yard into a modern, high-tech on-dock rail support facility.
Now that the project has passed the federal environmental review process, the centerpiece of the port’s rail infrastructure improvement program can quickly move from vision to reality.
“This step unlocks our access to federal funding and allows our Port Board Commissioners to make the remaining local decisions needed to innovate on this critical link to expedite rail freight between the Port and major markets nationwide,” said port executive director Mario Cordero. . “The Pier B in-dock rail support installation advances all of our goals of accelerating the flow of goods: increasing in-dock rail efficiency, reducing shipping costs and reducing the supply chain’s carbon footprint. ‘supply.”
“Years of planning, studies, community outreach and working with many stakeholders have brought us to this point,” said Harbor Commission Chairman Steven Neal. “The Commission looks forward to reviewing the detailed designs, right-of-way decisions and construction recommendations for a substantial project that will strengthen our country’s cargo network and Long Beach’s position as a competitive, world-class port. “
FEDS GREENLIGHT PIER B
On April 7, the US Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration released its Record of Decision certifying the Federal Environmental Impact Statement and approving the project. The discovery triggers the release of $52.3 million in grants. MARAD awarded the project in December subject to EIS approval. The federal grant is significant seed money for the first phase of the $1.547 billion program to reconfigure, expand and improve the port’s existing Pier B rail yard. Additionally, the port received $26.3 million in grants from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the California Department of Transportation, bringing the total amount the port has secured to date from its government partners to nearly $79 million.
The multi-jurisdictional membership reflects the importance of Pier B’s on-dock rail support facility to the country’s supply chain. The project centers on a full-service preparation facility allowing trains up to 20,000 feet in length – nearly 4 miles – to be assembled or disassembled safely and efficiently. It also includes space dedicated to maintaining locomotives and railcars and streamlining feeder routes to the Alameda Corridor, the freeway for freight trains running through metropolitan Los Angeles and connecting the ports of San Pedro Bay to the rest of the country.
“The new rail facility will increase the speed of rail operations at docks throughout our port, as well as the complex as a whole,” said Mark Erickson, the port’s deputy chief engineer. “Every time we eliminate a single bottleneck, the entire network benefits. The Platform B platform support rail facility will address multiple large-scale inefficiencies. »
Plans call for the project to be built in 12 segments, beginning with the design, procurement and construction of the first five stages from 2023 to 2026. These are the installation of locomotives; the westward expansion of the existing site and the realignment of Pier B Street; expansion of the site to the east; relocation of a Los Angeles County flood pump station; and the widening of the Dominguez Canal Bridge to accommodate a third lane. The entire facility is expected to be completed by 2032. Throughout, the work will involve the reconfiguration of city streets for better circulation and the repositioning of public services.
In total, the new facility will more than double the size of the existing yard from 82 acres to 171 acres. It will add more than 130,000 feet of rail, quadrupling the number of tracks from 12 to 48 sets: two main lines, five inbound/outbound tracks and 41 yard-wide tracks for preparation, storage and repairs.
THE BIG PICTURE
A modern and expanded rail facility at Pier B enables the port to achieve its long-standing goal of moving at least 35% of freight by rail alongside. The objective is both operational and environmental. By streamlining on-dock rail service, the new facility will reduce traffic congestion and the carbon footprint of the port and extended supply chain. “It’s a trifecta,” Erickson said. “A long, double-stacked train carrying goods from the docks to the heartland eliminates approximately 2,000 truck trips, improving traffic and reducing emissions.” Currently, approximately 22% of all cargo entering and leaving the port is handled by rail alongside.
The economic benefits are substantial. During construction, the project will create approximately 1,135 jobs. When complete, the new facility will reduce the cost of doing business for shippers, which will attract more cargo to Long Beach and generate additional permanent jobs.
The Pier B project was driven by increased industry demand for in-dock rail service and steady forecasts of increases in containerized freight volumes. Planning began long before the pandemic-induced surge that has since seen container throughput at the Port of Long Beach reach 9.4 million twenty-foot equivalent units in 2021, an increase of more than 15% from to the previous year and an all-time high. “The cargo onslaught amplified existing inefficiencies,” Erickson said. “Although no one could have foreseen these events, it is clear that our long-term planning is about to pay off.”
Like all major port redevelopment projects, the quayside rail support installation at Quay B will complement the port’s community grant program. The grants fund local public health and environmental projects to mitigate port-related impacts on air and water quality, traffic, and noise. Since 2009, the Port has committed more than $65 million to the program, including $1.55 million from the Pier B project, and awarded more than $30 million in grants.
PROGRESS AND NEXT STEPS
In addition to securing the initial funding for the rail support installation on the Quay B wharf, the port has done extensive preparation in anticipation of construction. To date, the port has finalized the state-required environmental impact report, which the Board of Harbor Commissioners certified in 2018; developed preliminary design packages for the first five phases; collaborated with utilities and agencies on electrical, water, and gas line relocation plans; and has held quarterly public outreach meetings since fall 2020 to keep the community informed about the project, answer questions, and get feedback. Ongoing communications efforts include educating Wilmington residents and businesses and Los Angeles city officials about the portion of the existing rail yard already located within the Los Angeles city limits and plans to enlarge it.
Immediate next steps include obtaining two coastal development permits, one from Los Angeles and the other from the California Coastal Commission, for which port applications are pending. The port can now also move forward with the acquisition of several private properties to assemble the area needed for the expansion of the rail facility. All are industrial or commercial, and the process includes relocation assistance.
Over the next few weeks, the Harbor Board of Commissioners will be called upon to examine the project’s budget. In February, they were told that the price of $1.547 billion represented an 80% increase over the 2018 estimate. The same forces driving up costs across all industries, namely inflation and rising prices, are at stake. “Concrete drain pipes alone are up 45%, and that’s just one example of the higher cost of construction materials,” Erickson said. The same goes for the area’s property market, which has warmed up in recent years, he added. “In Southern California, prices have doubled and are still climbing.”
In addition, elements of the project have been improved. Improvements include replacing existing tracks that would originally have remained. “They will be over 30 when the new tracks are laid,” Erickson said. “Complete replacement will ensure a high-capacity, high-efficiency facility that will not require major maintenance in the first few years.
Contingency and incidentals are calculated as a percentage of the total, so what the port has to set aside for these expenses has also increased. To ensure the new estimate is reliable, the port brought in a third party to review the numbers.
One of the upsides of the pandemic is that it has highlighted the importance of a strong supply chain. The way goods move and the need to improve America’s freight network are now garnering wide attention, from the halls of Congress to people at home. This deep understanding led to the passage of the Infrastructure Act of 2021, which will fund more than $1 trillion in port, airport, highway, and rail improvements in the United States. Similarly, California Governor Gavin Newsom has proposed $4.9 billion to improve the state’s transportation infrastructure. “Investment is starting to catch up with needs,” Cordero said. “Pier B is a transformative project for the whole nation.”
Source: Port of Long Beach