by Jodi Summers

Cargo is all about TEUs. The Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit is the approximate volume of a 20-foot-long (6.1 m) intermodal cargo container, a standard-sized metal box which can be easily transferred between different modes of transportation, such as ships, trains and trucks. TEUs are used to describe the capacity of container ships and container terminals.

If combined, the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles would be the world’s sixth-busiest port complex (11.8 million total TEU). In layman’s terms, it means 11.8 million containers pass through the ports each year. Some ships that dock in the Port of Los Angeles tie up at modern piers and unload their cargo directly onto a rail network. Others tie up at older piers, where the cargo must be loaded onto trucks. The trucks then haul the containers 24 miles up the 710 Freeway to BNSF Railway’s Hobart facility, where they are loaded onto trains and transferred across the nation. Wooo! Hoooo! This is exciting stuff!

BNSF Railways of Dallas has a plan to significantly shorten the haul for 1.5 million of those containers each year > it’s called the Southern California International Gateway. It will link to the new millennium Alameda corridor train line, which can handle significantly more volume than the 40 trains that currently pass daily. FYI, Each train that’s loaded equals around 280 trucks.

The Primary Project Area is 153-acre swath of land extends from Sepulveda Blvd. to the north, Pacific Coast Highway to the south, the Dominguez Channel to the west, and the Terminal Island Freeway to the east. The Southern California International Gateway would be for train loading and unloading, overall site management and administrative support activities. At present, the land is generally used for cross docking (cargo transfer from one mode of transportation to another mode, such as from a container to a trailer. ), warehousing, and container and/or trailer maintenance servicing and storage. Good to know.

BNSF has proposed a plan for more on-dock rail loading, which loads the containers onto rail closer to the ports, shortening truck trips, creating less traffic and promoting cleaner air and hopefully making life a bit more pleasant for the 9,818,605 +/- people who live in L.A. County. The project has bumped along through political red tape for seven years without being either approved or rejected. Seriously.

The Southern California International Gateway facility will vie for LEED qualification. Among many green features the site promotes are wide-span mounted electric cranes that produce zero emissions and less noise, as well as low-emissions locomotives. On the downside, the Sepulveda Bridge would need to be rebuilt.

The Southern California International Gateway would stimulate trade and 1,500 union jobs for the construction of the $500-million rail loading yard. The deal is worth an estimated $255 million in wages for the three-year construction period. In the long run, operations would be hundreds of jobs. Pundits believe the indirect impact of improved transportation and efficiency at the port could produce as many as 22,000 more jobs over the long term.

The Southern California International Gateway is the obvious next phase of the build-out surrounding Pier S > the $650 million green container shipping depot on Terminal Island at the Port of Long Beach. This terminal is expected to showcase sustainable goods movement and generate up to 40,000 jobs in the region.

The Southern California International Gateway is heralded to be “the greenest intermodal facility in the nation.” A bold claim. If they can green up the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, which are the busiest in the country, then all ports become viable for greening.

The plan “allows us to bring containers from the port in an environmentally friendly way,” notes the BNSF spokesperson.

Founded in 1911, the 3,200-acre POLB is a premier gateway for trade between the United States and Asia. Today, the POLB’s loaded containers account for 1/3 of containers moving through all California ports, 1/4 moving through all West Coast ports and nearly 1 in 5 moving through all U.S. ports.

Check out the BNSF Southern California International Gateway promotional video:



Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. SNF Railway and the LA/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council have reached a $255 million labor agreement for construction of a new intermodal facility, the Southern California International Gateway (SCIG) The labor agreement governs safety, quality, and the timely construction of SCIG and marks a large share of BNSF’s $500 million investment in the project. Construction of SCIG is planned to take three years.

  2. After being replaced by Honolulu for a year, Los Angeles once again earned the title of the most congested metro area in the country. In 2012, on a Friday at 5 p.m., the average driver wasted more than 28 minutes in traffic. Four of the 10 most congested corridors last year were in the Los Angeles area. The worst is an eight-mile stretch on Interstate 405. Los Angeles also had the second highest population density of any metro area in 2010, behind only New York, at 2,646 people per square mile. Only these two metro areas exceeded 2,000 people per square mile that year. However, in Los Angeles, commuters were far less likely to get to work via public transportation. In 2011, just 6.2% of area workers took public transit to work, versus 31.1% in the New York area.

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