INTRO: Spectacular growth in trade across the Pacific has generated severe congestion on the railways which serve the southern Californian ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. William D Middleton describes the Alameda Corridor - a US$2bn construction project to cure congestion and provide capacity for future growth
THE SAN PEDRO BAY ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have been cashing in on booming trade with the Pacific Rim that has made them the busiest in the USA. As this trade has doubled over the past decade, traffic through the ports has reached close to 100 million tonnes a year, and growth is expected to continue over the next few decades. High-value containerised freight is forecast to grow threefold over the next 25 years.
The twin ports now account for a quarter of the country’s international maritime trade, and this has provided a traffic bonanza for Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Union Pacific, the two major railways serving Los Angeles. But increasingly they have been handicapped by outdated infrastructure which connects the docks to their yards and main lines in central Los Angeles, over 30 km away.
Threading through built-up commercial and residential areas on four mainly single-track routes to and from the ports, trains up to 2·5 km long frequently conflict with other rail traffic. There are nearly 200 level crossings, restricting maximum speed to 32 km/h, and creating enormous congestion on crowded Los Angeles streets. Trains can sometimes take 5 or 6h to complete the journey, while the impact of steadily-growing lorry and rail traffic to and from the ports has become an increasingly contentious issue amongst residents.
The BNSF route meanders to the west from central Los Angeles through El Segundo and Torrance before reaching the ports. UP’s San Pedro branch starts at East Los Angeles yard, heads east and then south through Downey and North Long Beach, but UP acquired two further routes in the merger with Southern Pacific, and these are more centrally located. The first, SP’s Wilmington branch, shares a direct north-south alignment through Compton and Carson with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Blue Line light rail route, while the former SP San Pedro branch occupies a parallel corridor along Alameda Street.
The poor quality of rail access to the ports was recognised as far back as 1982, when the Southern California Association of Governments initiated a study that considered a range of alternative options for the corridor. The concept of a consolidated corridor was adopted in 1984 as the preferred and most cost-effective solution, and set the stage for the project now under way.
There was little progress until 1989, when Los Angeles and Long Beach established the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority, a single-purpose joint powers agency to plan and carry out the project. Since then, ACTA has been engaged in the difficult tasks of obtaining required approvals, concluding agreements with the railways and port authorities, and establishing a financial structure.
The US$2bn project is now entering the design and construction phase, with completion scheduled for 2001. The four existing routes and their 198 level crossings will be replaced by a single, fully grade-separated route extending 32 km from the ports to a connection with the existing rail network at Redondo junction, south of Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal.
About 16 km of the northern segment of the corridor, from Route 91 in Compton to 25th Street near Los Angeles city centre, will be placed in a depressed trench at the centre of the Alameda Street right-of-way. This will be 15·2m wide to accommodate two tracks designed for 64 km/h operation and a roadway for maintenance access, which could be converted to a third running track if required. An additional track at street level will serve local factories along this heavily-industrialised corridor.
The trench will provide an overhead clearance of 7·5m for double-stack container train operation. Vertical side walls will be braced by overhead crossbeams which provide support for part of the roadway and the industrial railway, which overhang the edges of the trench. Side streets running perpendicular to the corridor will cross the trench on bridges. South of Route 91, the Alameda Corridor tracks will run on the surface, with road traffic passing overhead on flyovers.
While the primary aim is to handle the 100 trains a day expected by 2020, the corridor will also ease road freight movements, which presently total more than 20000 each day. As well as eliminating the frequent delays at the many existing level crossings, the project will widen and improve the parallel Alameda Street roadway for lorry traffic.
Major construction will be required at the north end of the corridor where it joins existing rail lines (map inset). At 25th Street the new line will curve eastward and rise to surface level at Santa Fe Avenue. Two tracks will link the corridor with an existing bridge over the Los Angeles river and the main line to BNSF’s Hobart Yard, while a new three-track bridge over the river will link the corridor with UP’s East Los Angeles yard and former Southern Pacific lines to the north.
To avoid conflicting movements, a new double-track flyover and Los Angeles River bridge will carry Amtrak and Metrolink passenger services over the corridor line at Redondo Junction. Major grade separations will be constructed for Washington Boulevard and Santa Fe Avenue. Other work will include new road subways at three other locations and relocation of two large flood control box culverts. Major construction will be required at the corridor’s south end where a grade separation will carry the corridor over Henry Ford Avenue at the Dominguez Channel in Wilmington.
Funding and project management
Bringing the Alameda Corridor project to the construction stage has been a long and difficult process for ACTA. At the end of 1994 the ports and the railways completed the necessary purchase and sale agreements and a joint operating agreement for the corridor.
During 1995, passage of the National Highway System Designation Act authorised the project at federal level and designated it a high-priority intermodal corridor, eligible for a range of innovative federal financing options. Still at the federal level, the Department of Transportation approved a final environmental impact statement and the Surface Transportation Board granted permission for construction in the first half of 1996.
Lining up funding for the US$2bn project has been among the most difficult tasks facing the corridor authority. The last major element in the financing plan fell into place in January 1997, when President Clinton presided over a ceremony approving a US$400m federal loan to the project. To be funded from the Department of Transportation’s annual appropriation, the loan must be repaid over a 30-year period. Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act and other funds will increase the federal commitment to US$447m.
Funding at state level, largely from California’s Proposition 116 transportation bond measure of 1990, will total US$67·5m, while Los Angeles County MTA will contribute just over US$347m from a variety of sources. The two port authorities are each contributing US$200m, while ACTA will issue more than US$711m in revenue bonds. Federal loan and revenue bond payments will come from fees assessed against corridor users.
The completed corridor will be owned by the two ports, which acquired the Alameda Street right-of-way from Southern Pacific. An operating committee appointed by the ports, BNSF and UP will oversee operations. The railways will operate their own trains, while a ’neutral’ dispatcher will assure equitable access.
Design work is well advanced for work at the north end of the project. With finance in place, ACTA started work early in May on the bridge over the Los Angeles river at Redondo Junction. Tenders will be called late this year for the Redondo Junction flyover, while the two grade-separation projects at the north end and several major structures at the south end will follow in 1998 and 1999. Construction of the trenched section should begin in 1999.
ACTA’s programme manager for the project is the Alameda Corridor Engineering Team, a joint venture of Daniel, Mann, Johnson & Mendenhall, Moffat & Nichol, Jenkins/Gales & Martinez, Inc and Telacu that will develop preliminary designs and provide oversight and management of the final design.
Some work for the project is being completed by other agencies. The City of Carson has already completed a road flyover on Carson Street, and will build another at Sepulveda Boulevard. The City of Los Angeles is building a road overbridge at Anaheim Street, and will also construct one at Pacific Coast Highway.
While the project is presently scheduled for completion in 2001, ACTA is trying to shorten the construction period. ’We’re considering the use of a ’design-build’ procedure for construction of the mid-corridor trench section’ says ACTA General Manager Gill V Hicks. ’We believe this could shorten construction time by 20 months.’ o
CAPTION: Double-stack container trains access the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach on unsuitable infrastructure featuring many road crossings at grade. Reconstruction of the Alameda Corridor will increase capacity and cut congestion
The rebuilt Alameda Corridor will provide a double track main line in trench below road level, with a service road alongside which could be used to accommodate a third track later. Another track parallels a six-lane road at surface level, giving rail access to factories
Le corridor d’Alameda soulagera la congestion du port de Los Angeles
Un essor commercial spectaculaire à travers le Pacifique a produit une sérieuse congestion dans les chemins de fer qui desservent les ports de Los Angeles et de Long Beach en Californie du sud. William D Middleton décrit le corridor d’Alameda - un projet de construction de $2bn pour remédier à la congestion et fournir la capacité nécessaire à une croissance future. Une ligne à double voie à niveaux séparés entre les ports et les principales zones de garage et d entretien dans le centre de Los Angeles doit s’ouvrir d’ici 2001Alameda-Korridor wird Engpaß im Hafen von LA lindern
Die spektakuläre Zunahme des Handelsverkehrs über den Pazifik hat zu einer starken Überlastung der Eisenbahnen geführt, die die südkalifornischen Häfen in Los Angeles und Long Beach versorgen. William D Middleton beschreibt den Alameda-Korridor als ein $2bn teures Bauprojekt, das die Überlastung lindern und Kapazität für zukünftiges Wachstum schaffen soll. Die planfreie doppelgleisige Strecke zwischen den Häfen und den Hauptrangierbahnh