The Port of Long Beach is planning to break ground this summer on the first segment of the $1.567 billion Pier B On-Dock Rail Support Facility. The project, also called “America’s Green Gateway,” will reconfigure, expand and enhance the existing Pier B rail yard, and directly connect to on-dock rail facilities and the Alameda Corridor railway.

The new facility will 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 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) to 4.7 million TEUs. The yard will also feature a depot for fueling 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. 

“The need for the project is for efficiency reasons,” said Mark Erickson, deputy chief harbor engineer, at a public information meeting on March 6. “One train can haul the equivalent of 750 truck trips worth of cargo. So our strategy at the Port of Long Beach is to strengthen our on-dock rail capacity and get goods to and from the Port by train rather than by truck.” 

The port has to date received more than $643 million in grant funds for the project. In 2023, state and federal partners granted $565 million to the project. Awards included $52.3 million from the U.S. Maritime Administration’s (MARAD) Port Infrastructure Development Program, $70.4 million from the CTC’s Trade Corridor Enhancement Program, $158.4 million from CalSTA’s Port Freight and Infrastructure Program and $283.4 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Mega Grant Program.

HDR is providing final engineering design services for the Pier B program, as well as site investigations, traffic studies, structural analyses, lighting analyses and more.

The Port of Long Beach handles trade valued at $200 billion annually and supports 2.6 million jobs across the United States, including 575,000 in Southern California. In April 2022, the U.S. Maritime Administration issued a Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision approving the Pier B program. 

Currently, about 22% of all cargo moving in and out of the port is handled by on-dock rail. The goal is to move at least 35% of cargo by on-dock rail.

By adding on-dock rail capacity, the project will improve rail operations throughout the San Pedro Bay ports complex. Officials say more cargo will move with less environmental impact, mitigating roadway traffic congestion and improving air quality. The project will also help the Port meet on-dock rail goals set in the San Pedro Bay Ports 2017 Clean Air Action Plan Update.

The overall project will be built in 10 segments, with full completion scheduled for 2032. The first job to start is the $20.6 million East Expansion Project, which is currently out to bid, with a Notice to Proceed anticipated to come this August or September, says Erickson.  

The existing Pier B rail facility serves as a storage and staging area for trains and is a critical juncture in the Port’s rail network. The facility is primarily used by Pacific Harbor Line, which provides rail dispatching and switching services. The project site in the Harbor District is south of 12th Street, north of Pier B Street, and west of the 710 Freeway. The Port is in the process of acquiring properties in the project’s footprint.

Because the port was built on top of an old oil field, Erickson says one of the most challenging elements of the project is the right-of-way phase because of the amount of utility coordination and relocation involved. HDR is working with the port and more than 40 utility owners and agencies with over 700 utility lines. Erickson says this work is “big part of the project cost and schedule.”