Southern California environment news and trends

Controversial railyard expansion gets a hearing at LA City Council

Molly Peterson/KPCC

At a March harbor commission meeting, supporters of the Southern California International Gateway project wore orange. Opponents wore white.

Businesses and labor unions working at the ports will square off against community groups Wednesday as the L.A. city council considers approving a $500 million railyard planned near Wilmington. 

The Southern California International Gateway planned by the BNSF railway would enable cargo trucks to take shorter trips from dockside to train. The trucks would spew less pollution on a shorter trip, but the project's critics say the new railyard would add a million truck trips and thousands of train trips to the region each year. And that, they say, would cause significant health and environmental damage in the surrounding neighborhoods. Local opponents, including the East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, the Coalition for Clean Air, and the Natural Resources Defense Council want the railyard to be closer to the docks.

The city of Long Beach, its school district, and an L.A. County health official oppose the project, too. But trade unions and the L.A. Chamber of Commerce have lobbied hard for the railyard. They insist it will reduce pollution, and they say it will create thousands of jobs.

The railyard also has the support of L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the harbor commission. Because the proposed deal includes a 50-year lease, it will need the backing of two-thirds of the city council. 

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