Commerce Raises Concerns Over Proposed Railyard

By Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou, EGP Staff Writer

Officials in the industrial city of Commerce are wondering why they were not considered in an environmental impact study on a port project with potentially far reaching impacts on goods transportation throughout Southern California.

Mayor Joe Aguilar and the city council on Jan. 17 voted to submit a letter in response to the draft environmental impact study for the Southern California International Gateway, SCIG, a 153-acre intermodal facility near Carson and Wilmington, just four miles from the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Commerce Plantea Inquietudes Acerca del Propuesto Patio de Maniobras Cerca de los Puertos

Though located twenty miles away, the Port of Los Angeles railyard project could nevertheless have significant impacts on their city’s air quality, traffic volumes, and noise levels, say Commerce officials.

Commerce is home to four railyards, three of which are owned by Burlington Northern and Santa Fe, BNSF, encompassing 530 acres, as well as numerous warehouses and industrial businesses. The city is also surrounded by four major freeways – the I-5, SR-60, I-10 and the I-710.

A regional goods movement project such as the SCIG facility should include a study of how their city would be affected, say Commerce officials.

The Los Angeles Harbor Department, which owns the majority of the project’s land is working with privately owned railroad company BNSF to propose and build the facility by as early as 2013.

BNSF and the ports say they are responding to growing goods shipment activity and are in need of a new intermodal railyard to coordinate the distribution of the goods coming through the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports.

The yard will be used to transfer cargo between container trucks and rail, with the goal of moving more goods by rail. Project planners say their goal is to decrease truck congestion and delays.

In a draft letter, Commerce officials raised concerns that an environmental impact study of the project failed to show data on how their city, a major trade and goods movement hub, would be impacted by the project being proposed by BNSF and the ports.

The BNSF Hobart railyard in Commerce “is among the largest intermodal facility in the entire United States and is directly linked to both the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach,” Commerce Assistant Planning Director Alex Hamilton said at the Jan. 17 council meeting.

Commerce officials do not agree with the scope of the impact report, which only addresses a limited “affected area” close to the ports and does not look at places along the rail corridors connected to the proposed facility.

They also point out that Commerce’s BNSF Hobart railyard is mentioned throughout the project’s environmental impact report.

According to the city’s draft letter, the environmental impact report indicates that BNSF is planning to make changes at the Hobart Yard in Commerce in the event the SCIG project does not get built.

The benefits of the project are also based on general statements and not backed up by specific data, say Commerce officials. The report failed to look at how the project would affect traffic volumes on specific streets in Commerce that are frequented by trucks, they said, adding they are concerned the project may actually increase traffic locally in Commerce.

The project’s objective of promoting more rail shipment along the north-south Alameda Corridor, and lessen truck congestion on surface streets, is also concerning to Commerce officials.

In addition to creating more delays at rail crossings throughout Commerce, the increased reliance on rail could still have a negative impact on their city, which has for years dealt with ongoing concerns about the negative health impacts of railyards on its residents, officials say.

The city’s Northwest, Ayers, and Bandini Rosini residential neighborhoods are located next to the BNSF Hobart yard. The cancer rate is higher for residents living next to railyards, the city’s letter states.

In their letter, officials also raised the issue of environmental justice for Commerce residents, saying their 13,000 residents are “largely minorities” with a high percentage of low-income families and individuals.

The city is requesting that the port study the health impact of increased railyard emissions that could come from more rail traffic, and to propose mitigation measures.

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January 26, 2012  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.


One Response to “Commerce Raises Concerns Over Proposed Railyard”

  1. John on January 28th, 2012 9:44 am

    I don’t know of any study or report that can prove conclusively that living next to a rail yard causes higher incidents of cancer. Can you please post a link to any materials you know of that show this? I searched Google and found nothing yet the Commerce city officials state this as if its a fact. Also, I drive down Washington Blvd every day. There are so many trucks on the roads of Commerce that spew more smoke in one hour than all the locomotives emit in a week. I guess Commerce is using the “deep pockets” mentality and attacking the railroads for more cash.

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