Photos by Asia Morris.
The 'Green Port Gateway' Rail project’s completion was celebrated Wednesday morning by local, state and national dignitaries.
Three locomotives stood on the new rails behind each of the project's proud partners, who delivered words of gratitude to those who made the feat a reality, a feat that will reduce emissions by eliminating nearly 2.3 million truck trips in and out of the port and 300,000 tons of greenhouse gases over the next two decades.
The speakers at the celebration included Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, U.S. Department of Transportation representative Eric Shen, Caltrans District 7 Director Carrie Bowen, Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners President Lori Ann Guzmán and Port of Long Beach (POLB) CEO Jon Slangerup.
In an effort to enhance efficiency and increase the port’s “on-dock” rail capacity, the $93.4 million project will reduce said truck trips and ease rail traffic at the nation’s busiest port complex. On-dock rail allows trains to rail-haul containers directly to and from marine terminals, in this case, the port’s southeast terminals, including the new Middle Harbor terminal, Pier G and Pier J.
The 'Green Port Gateway' Rail project realigns tracks near Ocean Boulevard, adds a third line and about 30,000 feet of new track. The third track allows the Metro Ports bulk-loading facility on Pier G to perform switching operations without affecting mainline traffic, according to the POLB. Previously, there were only two main lines, one in and one out.
Now the new and realigned rails will serve the terminals that handle about half of all cargo that flows through the complex, the Long Beach Container Terminal, the International Transportation Service and Pacific Container Terminal.
"This was a critical bottleneck solution for managing the growth that we've been experiencing," said Slangerup. "This project will help the POLB meet their specific goal in the near term of hitting 35 percent of on-dock rail capacity, while the complex has graduated from 23 percent on-dock rail capacity one year ago to 28 percent today."
He said that within two years, the port will be at 35 percent, with a goal to push toward 50 percent over the long term.
"It's a very, very aggressive project, but I'll tell you, it is what drives all of the benefits of the environmental focus that we have here for the port," said Slangerup.
Federal and state funding was used to help pay for the project which generated more than 300 jobs during its construction. Funding partners include the U.S. Department of Transportation's TIGER III program (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) and the state's Prop. 1B transportation measure, which provided $23 million toward the $93.4 million project.
The project was greenlighted by the port in late 2012 and included realignment of a critical rail pathway and the reconstruction of part of Harbor Scenic Drive and more than a mile of retaining walls. The project officially kicked off in March 2013.
The completion of the Green Port Gateway project comes at a key time for the POLB. The port is now halfway through its massive 10-year, $4.5 billion Capital Improvement Program, which includes major projects such as the Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement and the Middle Harbor Redevelopment Project. It is also the 10th anniversary since the port committed to its Green Port Policy.
Additionally, the port set consecutive records in July and August for highest volume of cargo traffic in its 104-year history.
"Even with our trade volumes at historic highs it's still important for us to remain environmentally sustainable and to be sensitive to the impacts on the community," said Guzmán. She thanked the federal and state partners that made the project possible.
"This is a great example of when government does work," she said.
According to the POLB, the port plans $1 billion in rail projects over the next decade as part of its broader modernization program to create a more competitive and environmentally conscious
“Port of the Future.”
For more information about the POLB and its resounding developments, click here.