As the Port of Los Angeles prepares for the opening of the widened Panama Canal in 2014, the goods movement industry is doing its part to make sure that Los Angeles is ready to meet the challenge with innovative, environmentally friendly projects and technology. Modernizing the terminals, deepening the channel, cleaning the trucks and developing near-dock rail facilities are all essential to maintaining our region’s competitiveness.

Last week the Port of Los Angeles (POLA) released the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for BNSF Railway Company’s proposed Southern California International Gateway (SCIG), which will allow containers coming into POLA to be loaded onto rail, four miles from the docks. The containers will no longer have to be trucked through the local communities and onto the 710 Freeway for delivery at rail yards more than 20 miles away. Designed to move 1.5 million additional containers through the Alameda Corridor each year, SCIG will greatly reduce truck traffic congestion, while creating thousands of jobs and earning the designation of greenest intermodal facility in the United States.

Wide-span all-electric cranes, ultra-low emission switching locomotives and low-emission rail yard equipment will replace what is currently an industrial site. During the three-year construction phase, BNSF anticipates creating 1,500 jobs annually and contributing more than $85 million in federal, state and local taxes. Studies show that once completed, SCIG will create 22,000 new direct and indirect jobs in Southern California by 2036 – 14,000 of which will be right here in Los Angeles. In addition, BNSF is committed to investing in the local community through a jobs training program and priority hiring for qualified local applicants. These are good jobs – in an industry that is the lifeblood of our regional economy. Support good jobs, less traffic and better air quality by voicing your support of SCIG today.

All this will be accomplished while advancing L.A.’s leadership in green growth. Removing 1.5 million truck trips from the 710 Freeway every year will contribute to cleaner, more healthful air. BNSF will only allow the use of trucks meeting the POLA’s Clean Air Action Plan goal of 2007 or newer trucks. And within the next decade and a half, 90 percent of the fleet will be liquefied natural gas or equivalent emissions vehicles. The SCIG is expected to go above and beyond environmentally-friendly standards set by the Port.

With unemployment at 12 percent in L.A. County, opportunities to develop infrastructure while creating well-paying local jobs should be a high priority. The Southern California International Gateway will provide for just the type of growth that is critically needed in the region and will send a signal to the business community that sensible growth is possible in the City of Los Angeles.