BNSF Railway and the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council this week finalized a project labor agreement worth more than $255 million for the construction of the proposed Southern California International Gateway (SCIG), representing more than half of BNSF’s $500 million private investment in the new facility, according to an announcement from the Port of Los Angeles.

The SCIG project involves the construction and operation of an intermodal railyard on outer port property. The proposed project site is located in an industrial area between Sepulveda Boulevard to the north, Pacific Coast Highway to the south, SR-47 to the east and the Dominquez Channel to the west.

SCIG will allow containers to be loaded onto rail just four miles from the docks, rather than traveling 24 miles on local roads and the 710 freeway to downtown rail facilities. SCIG will allow 1.5 million more containers to move by more efficient and environmentally preferred rail through the Alameda Corridor each year, greatly reducing truck traffic congestion in Southern California, the port says.

The PLA agreement governs safety, quality, and the timely construction of SCIG and will provide job and apprentice opportunities, according to the council. The construction jobs created during the three-year construction phase will also contribute more than $85 million in federal, state and local taxes.

The Port of Los Angeles’ SCIG draft environmental impact report is currently in the 90-day public comment period, which will continue until Dec. 22. Once the comments come back, the port will have to put together the final EIR, according to port spokeswoman Rachel Campbell.

“Then, hopefully, the EIR will be approved by the Harbor Commission and we can move on with the consultant section and construction phase,” said Campbell. “Realistically, I don’t think construction would begin until 2013. That’s a rough estimate.”

According to Robbie Hunter, executive secretary of the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council, the project is expected to create 1,500 union jobs annually over three years.

BNSF was created on Sept. 22, 1995, from the merger of Burlington Northern Inc. (parent company of Burlington Northern Railroad) and Santa Fe Pacific Corp. (parent company of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway). On Feb. 12, 2010, BNSF became a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc.