Whatever happened to the $820 million Port of Long Beach “Pier B On-Dock Rail Support Facility Project?” Well, as a concept, it’s still out there. You can get something of an update from the federal Permitting Dashboard but the project documents to move this forward might as well be hidden among those stacks of containers stuck in San Pedro Bay.
The Pier B project would reconfigure the pier’s layout from mostly truck service to an expanded rail infrastructure, facilitating a long-term Port goal that 30 to 35% of containers would be handled by on-dock rail. This is huge: adding 31 yard tracks and five arrival/departure tracks, expanding the yard from an existing 12 tracks (two main line tracks, 10 yard tracks, and no arrival/departure tracks) to a total of 48 tracks (two main tracks, 41 yard tracks, and five arrival/departure tracks). It will allow 10,000-foot long receiving/departure tracks, widen an existing rail bridge and construct an area for locomotive refueling within the yard. There are big impacts to the city’s streetscape, requiring changes to Interstate infrastructure, street realignments and some street closures to make room for rail access. Underground infrastructure will be similarly upended.
The port issued an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in December 2016. MARAD released a Draft EIS in July 2018. The Dashboard references an EIS that started in June 2019. A Record-of-Decision (ROD) from MARAD, allowing the project to move past the planning stage, was expected in December 2020 – a year ago. In December 2021, there’s still no ROD. Is real work imminent? Project staff wrote in an email that they are “cautiously optimistic that we could see the final EIS in the next month or so.” Maybe January or February 2022. Port congestion can take many forms.