Trucking companies challenge L.A. port rail project

Six trucking companies sued the city of Los Angeles and its Harbor Commission, claiming they abused powers of eminent domain and violated environmental law to force the trucking operations off land in order to build a $500 million rail yard near the Port of Los Angeles.

The lawsuits challenge the city’s May 8 approval of a BNSF Railway final environmental review, and its issuance of a permit for the Southern California International Gateway project, according to a Courthouse News Service report.

The BNSF plans to build a 153-acre rail yard near Wilmington and Long Beach, about 4 miles from the busiest container port in the nation. The port complex in San Pedro spans 7,500 acres and stretches along 43 miles of oceanfront.

The trucking companies filed two complaints in Los Angeles Superior Court, claiming city approved the project without considering the environmental effects and the cost to business.

Construction will force the businesses to move under eminent domain, to the railroad’s profit and at the truckers cost, the lawsuits charge.

Fast Lane Transportation is the sole plaintiff in one lawsuit. Plaintiffs in the other complaint include California Cartage Co., Three Rivers Trucking, Los Angeles Grain Terminal and its parent company Mortimer & Wallace and affiliates, and San Pedro Forklift.

The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co. is named as a real party in interest in both complaints.

BNSF will take cargo to and from the port by rail rather than truck. The railroad says the Southern California International Gateway will reduce congestion on I-710, the Long Beach Freeway, and improve air quality at the port.

The trucking firms, calling themselves “port-dependent small business owners,” say they are “within the crosshairs of the project’s requirement that certain parcels of land be stripped from their owners and occupants to compile the necessary property to build the project.”

Claiming “substantial and abrupt changes to their current business operations,” the trucking companies claim the city violated the California Environmental Quality Act by failing to consider the “effects of transportation, land use and jobs, among other impacts, the project has on the petitioners and the community.”

The plaintiffs want the court to halt the project until the environmental impacts are addressed and mitigated in compliance with CEQA.

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