The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday approved a lease agreement with BNSF Railway Co. for the construction and operation of a controversial $500 million rail yard near the Port of Los Angeles.
The 11-2 vote in support of the 50-year lease agreement and related environmental certifications came despite opposition from community and environmental groups and the city of Long Beach.
BNSF plans to turn 150 acres of Wilmington industrial space about four miles north of the Port of Los Angeles into a facility for loading port cargo onto trains from trucks. The aim is to speed the handling of cargo and move more cargo onto trains. That would take trucks off local freeways. The project would also boost BNSF’s presence at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, helping the company compete with rival Union Pacific, which has a rail yard nearby.
Supporters say the plan will be a boon to business and the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach as they face increased competition. The lease would also bring an estimated $14 million in annual revenue to the Port of Los Angeles for the first five years and somewhat higher amounts after that.
Opponents say the new facility isn’t necessary and that it will increase the overall number of trucks and trains moving cargo from the port, thus increasing pollution and congestion.
Councilmembers Bernard Parks and Jan Perry voted against the project on Wednesday. Perry had introduced an amendment to require the agreement be re-opened every five years to consider the latest developments in clean fuel technology for the trucks and trains that would use the rail yard; the amendment was rejected.