City plans new elevated rail system for port freight transportation, but it won’t come cheap • Long Beach Post News
Known as “Freedom Village”, the proposal would involve the creation of an elevated magnetic levitation system that would move cargo containers from the port to a futuristic rail system that could be suspended above existing roads.
The rail system could reduce annual truck trips on Highway 710 by 30,000 a year, according to a white paper from the Infrastructure Funding Alliance, a nonprofit group that pitched the idea to port and city officials. the town of Long Beach. It would use similar technology already used in commercial rail systems in Asia.
The containers would be transported to a new freight village north of the Cal Cartage site near West Long Beach where they could be transported by truck or rail to the Los Angeles rail yards or to their final destinations.
The ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles handled a record 20 million container units in 2021, with vessels anchored offshore being commonplace waiting to be unloaded. Federal and state lawmakers have pledged to invest in port complexes to expedite the movement of goods.
“The bottlenecks caused by the pandemic and the cost increases now resulting from what is happening in the supply chain should be a sufficient signal that the current system must be changed,” said Mark Pisano, president of Infrastructure Funding. Alliance “It’s a vehicle to modify the current system.”
Pisano, who previously served as head of the Southern California Association of Governments, added that current freeways were not designed to handle the volume of truck traffic currently at ports.
City Council will vote Tuesday night on whether to devote more resources to studying the idea, with several committees holding public meetings and city officials gathering more details on the financing, operation of the project and its impact on jobs at the port.
“We want to look at the pros and cons,” said councilor Cindy Allen, who asks for further consideration of the idea. “I think it’s the right first step at this stage and it will allow us to have additional information and analysis of all the details of the project.”
Allen said she would like to hold at least three community meetings to gauge public interest while the city considers whether it has an interest in continuing with the project.
How is it paid?
Freedom Village would cost over $500 million if all of its phases were implemented. Pisano said his group would apply for federal and state grants, but they don’t want to bet the project’s future on funding that may not materialize.
If the city chooses to go ahead with this project, it will have to create a special financing district and issue revenue-backed bonds, Pisano said. In order to create a financing district, revenue streams should be identified to show that they cover the repayment of bonds issued.
Pisano is confident that the project could pay for itself between the fees that would be charged for cargo containers to use the airlift system, the sale of excess energy created and stored in battery cells that could also be used to powering the port and the potential sale of land freed up by removing utility lines that currently supply power to the port.
The funding district could choose to allow a portion of the funding district’s property taxes to be used as a source to help pay off the bonds, but Pisano said that’s not currently part of his group’s proposal. However, the white paper noted that if the city chooses to include the city’s central business district in the footprint, the combination of reduced emissions and truck traffic could result in a substantial increase in land value. estimated, from which the city and the neighborhood could benefit. from.
Ultimately, the district would be responsible for the bonds, but Pisano said the project would benefit both the public and private sectors. Pisano said the project received early support from environmental justice groups who want cleaner air and a better quality of life for frontline communities and from labor groups who would be employed during the construction process and after the construction. completion of the project.
Allen said she’s worried the city will have to waive property taxes to help the project, but said it’s time to start taking bold steps to reduce pollution on the west side of town. Allen, a breast cancer survivor, pointed to her own upbringing in West Long Beach and linked it to her cancer, which she said was not hereditary.
“We need to start taking steps to improve our local health delivery for our frontline communities,” Allen said.
What are the benefits?
The white paper highlights the project’s potential to both speed up the movement of goods while reducing pollution and simultaneously creating excess energy, which can be stored and used for quayside purposes like powering ships. or distributed for use in electric vehicles.
It touts an ability to initially move 1,200 containers per day on its system, with the potential to move up to 10,000 containers to and from port complexes daily once the project is fully built.
This reduction in truck trips (10.8 million per year according to the newspaper) could significantly reduce pollution while freeing up land along the Los Angeles River for the production of open space or housing.
The annual emissions reductions cited in the document are substantial, with more than 240 million kilograms of carbon dioxide and other pollutants like diesel particulates potentially removed from the region’s air.
Pisano said that while the bonds would be issued to help fund the project, income from rents, fees for using the freight transportation system and the sale of power generation that could be generated through the the project’s use of battery storage technology. It is proposed to integrate the superconducting tape which will generate the energy into the air cargo transportation system.
The ability to fund the project was made possible by recent state legislation that allows elected bodies like a city council or board of supervisors to create improved infrastructure funding districts. Districts can issue revenue-backed bonds and also waive their rights to certain tax revenues for 45 years.
The most recently passed law, Assembly Bill 313, allows for the creation of these districts to pay for things like highways, water treatment facilities, libraries, parks and port infrastructure, among other uses. AB 313 would also exempt Long Beach Unified and Long Beach City College from losing their share of property taxes in a funding district.
Long Beach has struck similar deals in recent months to help fund two downtown housing projects that sought to create more affordable housing for middle-income households. These agreements could see the city eventually buy out the properties over the next few decades, and an agreement has been drafted so that the city will not forfeit its share of property taxes during the term of the agreement.
Pisano said the project would operate as a public-private partnership where it would be owned by the newly formed district but would have an operator who would be decided through a request for proposals process. It could be the port, a private entity or a nonprofit organization, Pisano said.
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