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Port of Long Beach Secures $52 Million to Fund Rail Project

In a bid to promote the efficient movement of cargo as it moves toward a 24/7 framework, the Port of Long Beach is beginning development on new in-terminal rail capabilities using a $52.3 million grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD).

The Pier B On-Dock Rail Support Facility will enable the gateway to transport more cargo by train, both upping the facility’s productivity and cutting carbon emissions by diverting the task from trucks. The project will be the centerpiece of the Port’s $1 billion rail capital improvement program, designed to reduce truck traffic in the terminals.

The funding comes as a part of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s effort to unclog the nation’s ports and promote a more streamlined supply chain, using $241 million in grants provided under the Biden administration’s short-term infrastructure improvement plan.

“U.S. maritime ports play a critical role in our supply chains,” Buttigieg said. “These investments in our nation’s ports will help support American jobs, efficient and resilient operations and faster delivery of goods to the American people.”

The project stands to reconfigure and expand Pier B’s existing rail yard, connecting trains on dock to the Alameda Corridor railway, a 20-mile stretch of track that joins the San Pedro Bay Complex with the BNSF Railway and the Union Pacific Railroad. Currently, Pier B’s rail facility serves as a storage and staging area used primarily for clean diesel locomotives owned by Pacific Harbor Line.

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No trucks will visit the Pier B facility, the Port said—instead, train segments will be brought to the location to be joined together into a full-sized train. In facilitating the more frequent assembly of longer trains, the facility will streamline rail operations and reduce the need for vehicles inside the complex. The process is cleaner,  Port executives said, and lessens the potential for time-sucking backups as trucks idle in wait for cargo.

“This is great news to hear at the end of what will be our busiest year ever,” Port of Long Beach executive director Mario Cordero said in a statement. “We appreciate the U.S. Department of Transportation’s support for this important project,” he added, noting that “it will help to move cargo more efficiently through the Port, getting needed products and goods to homes and businesses across America faster.”

The grant, funded by MARAD’s Port Infrastructure Development Program, is designed specifically for capital improvement projects at seaports across the nation. “Our federal partners have recognized the need to modernize the Port and support our push toward 24/7 operations,” Harbor Commission president Steven Neal explained. “These investments have benefits from coast to coast since cargo from the Port of Long Beach reaches every congressional district.”

Construction on the facility is slated to begin in 2023, with the first arrival, departure and storage tracks expected to see completion in 2025. More tracks will come online in 2030, the Port said, and the whole project will conclude in 2032.

The initiative supports the Port’s sustainability framework and goals to reduce emissions, especially amid the dramatic uptick in productivity seen in recent months. Earlier this month, managing director of planning and environmental affairs Heather Tomley said that increased transportation activity at the complex is “a significant source of pollution in the region.”

Between idling vessels off the coast and a flurry of trucks pulling cargo away from the gateway, activity at the San Pedro Bay Complex accounted for 5.4 percent of diesel particulate matter, 5.2 percent of nitrogen oxides and 3.2 percent of emissions of sulfur oxides within the South Coast Air Basin—which encompasses neighboring Orange County, much of Los Angeles County, Riverside County, and San Bernardino County.