The Port of Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners on Wednesday directed port staff to enter into negotiations with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. to lease port-owned land for a near-dock rail facility.

Upon completion in 2009, the Wilmington facility, located three miles north of the L.A. and Long Beach ports, could reduce truck trips on nearby freeways by as many as 1 million per year.

The near-dock facility also take away the competitive edge held by rival Union Pacific Corp., which for years has been operating a similar facility adjacent to the future BNSF site.

BNSF operations are less efficient because their cargo is first hauled for the ports by truck 20 miles along the 710 freeway to its rail yard in Commerce.

"The new facility would significantly increase our capacity to service the ports' customers and to strengthen the role of international trade in the Southern California economy in an environmentally responsible manner," said BNSF Chairman and Chief Executive Matthew Rose in a prepared statement.

Construction costs have yet to be tabulated, but the operation would create 800 to 1,000 new jobs, generating $40 million in direct wages and benefits per year, according to the company.

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