Don’t Drink the Tea. Think With the WE.

10 Days Left to Comment on “Green” Rail Yard That Would Bring Thousands of Jobs Per Year

Warren Buffett’s Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company and the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council are ramping up for the home stretch of planning for their joint venture, a $500 million green facility at the Port of Los Angeles. The facility, the Southern California International Gateway (SCIG), is a centerpiece in what is to be the “greenest” rail yard in the United States upon completion:

Developers say the Southern California International Gateway will revolutionize logistics for containers that come from the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles to downtown rail yards, now a 24-mile truck trip on the 710 Freeway. Freight will still load onto trucks, but the trip will be only four miles, eliminating more than 1.5 million truck trips each year from the 710.

Trucks will meet the port’s clean truck program, be equipped with GPS and driven along approved non-residential routes, which will improve air quality near the port.

$200 million of the total $500 million will be spent on the 153 acre site which is likely to bring 1,500 jobs a year to the Building Trades. Those involved are currently gathering support for the SCIG which still needs approval from the Port. The support of Buffet is likely to influence the outcome greatly.

“Warren Buffett is someone who recognizes a good business model, and that’s what PLAs are,” said Robbie Hunter, Executive-Secretary of the LA/OC Building Trades Council. One of the wealthiest men in the world, Buffett is currently in the news for calling for a fairer tax system in the US, to assure the richest Americans pay a higher share.

“The efficiency, the continuity of work, the time delivery, contractor base and skilled workforce all delivered through a PLA is something that BNSF absolutely desired for this project,” Hunter said.

There are only 10 more days left for the public to comment and voice it’s support. This can be done via until December 22nd. Proponents suggest the project will help reduce environmental risks for neighbors of the port as well as act as an example of green industry in an unexpected place. Most of all, the project will create 1,500 jobs for Union workers.

“We believe this facility proves that ‘green’ and ‘growth’ can go together as the Mayor and the ports have long promised,” said Matthew Rose, chairman and CEO of BNSF.

Community support will be crucial as the Port of Los Angeles Harbor Commissioners makes its decision on approving the SCIG by the first quarter of 2012. BNSF representatives said if all goes well, construction could begin in late 2013 or early 2014, with the facility fully operational after a two-year buildout.

“I think it was five years since we first met with (former Building Trades head) Richard Slawson, and we started thinking about getting a PLA,” Jimenez said.

Looking around at the major projects in the greater Los Angeles area, he realized most were done with a PLA.

“From the very beginning we wanted to build this rail yard, and we wanted it to be the greenest rail facility in the country,” Jimenez said. “And at the same time we wanted to tell the public we were creating good paying jobs, not just after it’s built but during construction.

“So we felt partnering with the Building Trades would give us that platform to create these good jobs. And it seemed like a positive way to present our project.”

BNSF has built facilities all over the country, and 93 percent of the company is unionized, while many jobs are contracted out to various Building Trades across the country, Jimenez pointed out.

“Working with organized labor is nothing new to us.”


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