The Port of Long Beach has announced its plan to bid in early 2024 for its first construction contract to begin works on the Pier B On-Dock Rail Support Facility.
The new facility is set to more than double the size of the existing Pier B rail yard from 82 acres to 171 acres and more than triple the volume of on-dock rail cargo the port can handle annually, from 1.5 million TEU to 4.7 million TEU.
The yard will also feature a depot for fuelling and servicing up to 30 locomotives at the same time and a full-service staging area to assemble and break down trains up to 10,000 feet long.
Approximately 25 per cent of the cargo that moves through the San Pedro Bay ports complex is destined for hubs like Chicago, Wichita, and Atlanta. On-dock rail is the best option for getting cargo to these inland destinations quickly, and longer trains streamline the process.
A single train travelling across the country is typically 2 miles long, said Deputy Chief Harbor Engineer Mark Erickson. “The new on-dock rail support facility is a game-changer that significantly increases our capacity to build and dispatch these long trains,” he added.
Constructing the facility reportedly involves adding more than 130,000 feet of rail, quadrupling the number of tracks from 12 to 48, widening the rail bridge over the Dominguez Channel from two to three tracks, and reconfiguring and improving nearby Pico Avenue and Pier B Street.
The programme will be built through 10 projects, starting with the rail yard’s East Expansion. The port plans to solicit bids for this first segment during the first quarter of 2024 and start construction in the fall. Before year’s end, the port also expects to seek construction bids on the locomotive facility, then begin construction in 2025.
“We’re eager to break ground and start laying new tracks for this transformative facility,” said Long Beach Harbor Commission President Bobby Olvera Jr.
“Expanding and modernising this rail yard allows our port to move more cargo faster, more efficiently and more safely to markets across the nation.”
“This is the first of a series of construction projects that make up the Pier B On-Dock Rail Support Facility programme,” said port CEO Mario Cordero.
“By augmenting our ability to increase velocity in container movement by rail and move more cargo by rail, the port is well-positioned to handle cargo growth, prevent supply chain delays and reduce emissions associated with port activity into the future.”
To date, the port has invested $140 million in pre-construction tasks for the Pier B programme. The sum is expected to reach $273 million when the port’s 2024 fiscal year ends in September. The money has gone primarily to design and planning costs.
The main contractors so far are HDR Inc., the global engineering firm providing design support, and Hill International, the Irvine-based company providing programme management support. The latter includes helping the port sequence each construction project. Most of the $1.567 billion price tag will be construction.
To defray costs, the port has actively pursued regional, state and federal funding. The port has won nearly $360 million in grants awarded from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the California Transportation Commission, and the Federal Maritime Administration. The port is also pursuing additional grant opportunities.
“As a landlord port, our job is stewardship and management of the property,” Erickson said.
“Pier B is moving forward, but additional grants allow the port to allocate more money for other major programmes like our Channel Deepening Project and the proposed Pier Wind development.”
Pier B is a major junction connecting the San Pedro Bay ports complex to the Alameda Corridor and major intermodal hubs along the transcontinental rail network. Every week, an average of 90 trains either depart or arrive from the Port of Long Beach on their way to and from destinations across the US.
Each double-stacked train moving cargo between the docks and the rest of the nation eliminates as many as 750 truck trips. “In addition to reducing roadway congestion, this goes a long way toward achieving our goals of decarbonising trade moving through our gateway,” Erickson said.
Currently, about 20 per cent of cargo comes and goes through the San Pedro Bay complex via on-dock rail. The Pier B On-Dock Rail Support Facility is critical to helping the ports boost on-dock rail use to 35 per cent, toward achieving their larger goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from port-related sources to 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050.
Environmental features incorporated into the Pier B programme include recycled asphalt and concrete to be used in road and railroad construction materials, drought-tolerant landscaping, and a new storm drain pump station designed to improve water quality within the harbour while reducing flood risk to the area.
Only equipment that meets Tier 4 emissions standards – California’s strictest pollution control rankings – will be used during construction. The port is also evaluating what infrastructure can go into the design now to support zero-emissions locomotives in the future.
The likely power sources are battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell technology.
More recently, it was announced that the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach will make $60 million in Clean Truck Fund (CTF) Rate funding available through the California Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP).