The Port of Long Beach, the nation's second busiest port, is close to completing the first of several rail projects aimed at adding capacity.
At ports across North America, you'll see the usual big ships, stacks of containers and cranes. Trains are also becoming a much more frequent sight as ports are investing in rail infrastructure as an economical, eco-friendly and efficient way to move freight.
California's Port of Long Beach is the second-busiest seaport in the United States moving more then $155 billion worth of goods annually. The port is also pursuing greater use of on-dock rail, which eliminates truck trips because it allows cargo containers to be rail-hauled directly to and from marine terminals. The port is close to finishing the first of several rail-focused projects that will enhance rail efficiency, expand on-dock rail capacity and are part of its overall modernization program.
"The port has 100 miles of track that are crucial to the movement of cargo. The port is intent upon increasing the percentage of its containerized cargo that is transported by on-dock rail and as such, has been working to make improvements in the rail infrastructure to eliminate chokepoints and derailment hazards. Green Port Gateway is one of several rail projects planned for the port to add the capacity needed to accommodate additional rail traffic," said Lee Peterson, media relations with the Port of Long Beach.
"The Green Port Gateway adds a much-needed third track to the route that connects the port's Piers G, J and F to the region's freight rail system. Where just two tracks had reached south to those important piers, there is now a third and this relieves what had been a chokepoint in the port's rail system," he said.
The Green Port Gateway not only adds crucial on-dock rail capacity to the port, but also includes the realignment of railroad tracks and a road near Ocean Boulevard and will add a Pier F Rail Support Yard to serve the future Middle Harbor terminal, which will be expanded from 10,000 linear feet to 75,000. As an example of the capacity and efficiency the port will gain once the Green Port Gateway project is complete, the addition of a third track under Ocean Boulevard will allow the Metro Ports bulk-loading facility on Pier G to perform switching operations without affecting mainline traffic.
Peterson says workers demolished and removed existing tracks, laid 29,000 linear feet of new tracks, built 6,000 linear feet of retaining walls and required the shifting of a heavily-traveled roadway to accommodate the additional rail line. The project is still on schedule to be completed by July 2014.
"The challenge was to rebuild and improve a rail line that must continue to operate to allow the flow of cargo. In addition, the project required the shifting of a roadway that must be kept open for the same reason. Construction managers worked with terminal operators and railroad operators to time the project in order to reduce the impact on the flow of cargo," said Peterson.
On that note, Peterson mentions communication between all stakeholders as a key element to the project's successful completion.
"Coordination and communication among the program manager, construction manager, contractor, terminals and railway operator were the factors that contributed to the success of the project," said Peterson.
The project is being constructed in part with state and federal transportation funds. The U.S. Department of Transportation's Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) III program provided $17 million and California's Prop. 1B transportation measure provided $31.75 million toward the $83.7-million project.
The Green Port Gateway is the first of four rail construction projects underway or scheduled to begin over the next year to enhance on-dock rail. It's also part of the San Pedro Bay Ports Rail Enhancement Program, which includes several projects by the Port of Long Beach, the Port of Los Angeles and the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority.
Another project in the port's rail enhancement plan is the Pier B Rail Yard. According to HDR, Inc., who is providing engineering services for the yard, the project entails realigning B Street to accommodate new yard tracks; constructing approximately 80,000 feet of track; designing classification yard facilities and/or a potential Near Dock ICTF Facility and conducting feasibility studies, alternative analysis and preliminary engineering for potential grade separations.
In support of the port's Green Port Policy, HDR is also performing design and technology studies. HDR says sustainable design will be an integral part of overall facility planning, design, operation and maintenance in support of the port's Green Port Policy.