Southern California's two busiest harbors, The Port of Los Angeles and The Port of Long Beach, are trying to stay competitive with major projects and renovations under construction and on the horizon. The LA complex is planning a new $500 million railyard, and in Long Beach, an old bridge is being replaced with $1 billion span.

The proposed Southern California International Gateway (SCIG) intermodal railyard project The Port of Los Angeles is designed to increase the efficiency of moving cargo in and out of the port. The Los Angeles Harbor Commission on March 7 approved the project and certified its final EIR.

The rail infrastructure project is being led by Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway, which is investing more than $500 million in private funds, and plans to develop and operate the nation’s greenest intermodal rail yard on a 185-acre site a couple miles north of the port.

Officials say container transfer facility will reduce truck traffic, freeway congestion and air pollution by eliminating approximately 1.3 million truck trips annually along a 24-mile stretch of the Long Beach (710) Freeway to BNSF’s Hobart Yard near downtown Los Angeles. 

“SCIG will establish a new national benchmark for the development of such facilities in California and across the country, as it will be the cleanest rail facility in history," said Matthew K. Rose, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer of BNSF in a recent press release.

The railway company put forth the SCIG idea in 2005, and quickly ran into environmental protests. With the Harbor Commission's recent ruling, the public now has 30 days to appeal before the project hits LA City Council's desk.

Construction is scheduled to start later this year and officials say it will create 1,500 direct and indirect jobs per year over three years. Expected to open in 2016, SCIG would generate up to 1,096 long-term jobs at full capacity. And for those who don't mind waiting about 30 years, the project is supposed to create up to 1,096 direct and indirect long-term jobs, bring in about $14.6 million in taxes by 2046.  

The SCIG facility is expected to handle approximately 570,800 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units or 20-foot containers) upon start-up and by 2035, it is projected to handle a maximum of 2.8 million TEUs.

At the Port of Long Beach, the landmark project is the $1 billion Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement, which broke ground January 8. The primary bridge at the port, the deteriorating Gerald Desmond opened in 1968 and was not designed to handle today's heavy traffic volumes.

The replacement will allow the Gerald Desmond Bridge to stay open while the new bridge is built next to it. The project is among $4.5 billion in current and planned improvements to further modernize the Port of Long Beach. Project officials say work on the new bridge will generate an average of 3,000 jobs a year during the five-year construction process.

The new bridge will allow the world's biggest cargo ships to reach the inner berths at the port and simultaneously expand a strategic highway that carries 15 % of all goods coming into the U.S.

With twin 50-story-high towers, the new bridge will be one of the tallest cable-stayed bridges in the United States and the first of its kind in California. The new bridge will raise the clearance over the channel from 155 ft to 200 ft, allowing the world's largest ships to enter the inner harbor.

Project officials say the new bridge also will improve speed and efficiency for land-based cargo movement and commuters. Commuters account for three-quarters of bridge traffic, which is nearly 70,000 daily vehicle trips. The Gerald Desmond Bridge links Terminal Island and the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles to downtown Long Beach and the 710 Freeway. Other features of the new bridge include a bike path, pedestrian path and scenic observation decks 200 feet above the water.

This project is a joint effort of the California Department of Transportation and the Port of Long Beach with funding also from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners last July awarded a $649.5 million contract to design and build the new bridge to a joint venture team headed by Shimmick Construction Co. Inc., FCC Construction S.A. and Impregilo S.p.A. (SFI). The project team also includes subcontractors Arup North America Ltd., and Biggs Cardosa Associates Inc.