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Long Beach Port Panel in Quandary Over Move to Increase Dockside Rail Service

January 24, 1988|CHRIS WOODYARD | Times Staff Writer

The environmental report says noise from a passing freight train at 50 feet exceeds the maximum decibel level allowed in the city's residental areas.

If ITS wants on-dock rail and Union Pacific wants to run more long trains, Harwood suggests that the port levy a fee on each container loaded on-dock to build grade separations at four major intersections, as well as sound walls.

Long Beach City Councilman Ray Grabinski, whose district also includes the Union Pacific branch line, said he, too, believes residents deserve a break.

"We're not going to allow the impact to be increased two or four or five times without some compensation for these folks," he said.

Noise Suppression Costly

The environmental report pegs costs of installing sound walls, which would "have a significant potential to reduce noise impacts," at $40 million for protection of all residential areas along the 18.5-mile Union Pacific line. The report also states that noise can be minimized by running the trains during the daytime when people are not as likely to be jarred out of their sleep.

"As a practical matter, however, container terminal and intermodal railroad operations are driven by ship arrivals and the ability to turn a ship around as quickly as possible," the report states. "Each day's ship delay can cost upward of $50,000 per day."

As if to underscore the point, the report states that ITS plans to have trains arrive in its yards at 5 a.m. and leave at 4 a.m. the next day.

Rail Line Proposed

While the Long Beach City Council has not taken a position on dockside rail, it has endorsed the plan to reroute trains from the port to a proposed consolidated rail line through Wilmington which would use Southern Pacific track. The plan, however will not happen soon, if at all.

The Southern California Assn. of Governments (SCAG) has been trying to coordinate the project as a route that would disturb the fewest number of people, compared to Union Pacific's tracks through Long Beach or Santa Fe Railroad's route through the South Bay.

About 7,900 people--many of them buffered from noise by adjoining warehouses--live within 500 feet of the proposed 16.9-mile consolidated route. That is about half as many as Union Pacific's line and a third of the number who live within earshot of Santa Fe's route.

Stalled by Funding Dispute

But so far, the project has been mired by funding disputes between the federal, state and county governments, eight cities and ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. Long Beach and its port are backing the project, but cities like South Gate and Vernon balk, said Gill Hicks, principal planner for SCAG.

The environmental report estimates that it will take at least three years to arrange financing and two years for construction. The period in which "the community may experience some adverse impacts" was nonetheless described as a "short time" by port Executive Director Jim McJunkin in a memorandum last month to a city councilman.

Southern Pacific Reluctant

Southern Pacific has been open to negotiation although so far it is reluctant to permit its tracks to Los Angeles Harbor to become a corridor for competitors. The railroad is also staunchly opposed to on-dock rail, which would siphon business from its $62-million intermodal container center. John Tierney, an assistant vice president for Southern Pacific, said that both ports examined, then rejected the notion of on-dock rail service several years ago and instead favored development of an inland intermodel terminal.

"We put up the money and put up the bonds," Tierney said. "We feel we went in there in good faith."

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