Monday, March 4, 2024

The Port of Long Beach’s massive Pier B expansion project scored a huge grant—and how that affects those on the Westside

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The Port of Long Beach will receive $283M from the federal government in order to further fund its $1.57B Pier B expansion project, set to begin breaking ground next year and continue through in phases until its completion in 2032.

Part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Mega Grant Program, the money for “America’s Green Gateway,” as the Port as dubbed it, follows a $158.4M award from the state, according to California Transportation Secretary Toks Omishakin, who led a state delegation in the nation’s capital over the summer with top U.S. transportation officials.

So what, exactly, is the Port of Long Beach’s ‘America’s Green Gateway’ project?

Mainly, this expansion of Pier B—one of the Port’s northernmost facilities that loads trucks which head west to put cargo onto trains that eventually head through the Alameda Corridor to get those containers across the nation—focuses on on-dock rail development.

In other words, rather than transferring cargo from marine terminals to trucks and then having those trucks transfer them to trains, this will allow cargo to be directly put onto trains from the dock of Pier B. And most importantly, significantly reduces truck traffic in the area.

The project is an essential cog of the Port alignment with the San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan that was updated in 2017, where the Port of Long Beach set a goal of moving 35% of containers onto on-dock, at-grade rail.

But why is this important for West Long Beach and the surrounding areas for people who might live there?

West Long Beach, Wilmington, and its surrounding residential areas are the communities most impacted by both the Port of Long Beach and the Port of Los Angeles: People who live near the harbor suffer from higher asthma rates and face a higher risk of developing cancer from air pollution than do people living elsewhere in the region, with this number disproportionately geared toward our Black and Brown residents.

The drop in truck traffic won’t be tiny but hugely significant—as in 5M truck trips will be eliminated per year, according to the Port, meaning 16.7M gallons of diesel consumption will also be eradicated when the project is running at full capacity.

According to the project’s environmental impact report, sulfur oxides will drop by a dramatic 80%, nitrogen oxides by 26%, diesel particulates by 85%, and greenhouse gases by 64%.

This isn’t to say that EIR reports haven’t been manipulated before: The Port of Los Angeles was sued by the City of Long Beach in 2013 over its Southern California International Gateway rail project after it was revealed that marginalized communities in Wilmington and West Long Beach were falsely told the project would make them “better off.

But if we are to trust our own Port and the findings within their massive EIR, the project could very well have a potentially amazing impact on air quality, especially as the use of far more efficient trains continue their increase.

The Port of Long Beach’s Pier B expansion by the numbers

The expansion project will massive increase the footprint of Pier B—82 acres to 171 acres—and more than triple the volume of on-dock rail cargo the Port of Long Beach can handle annually—from 1.5M units to 4.7M.

Along with this, the project will increase the number of trains to 17, something the Port said would have been essential during the pandemic-induced backup of cargo unloading in 2021, when ships sat for weeks in the ocean waiting to access the ports. This also adds 5 new, 10,000-foot long arrival and departure tracks with 36 new support tracks.

Brian Addison
Brian Addison
Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 25 nominations and three additional wins. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.

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