SAN PEDRO, Calif. (AP) -- Los Angeles Harbor Commissioners voted Thursday to move ahead with a $500 million rail project to transfer cargo inland by rail from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
Commissioners approved the project in a 4-0 vote, allowing Burlington Northern Santa Fe to develop the 185-acre site about four miles north of the San Pedro Bay port complex.
Proponents of the measure said it would eliminate millions of truck trips carrying cargo on Interstate 710.
"Modernizing our transportation infrastructure is crucial to creating jobs, strengthening our economy and improving our quality of life in Los Angeles," Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino said in a release following the decision.
Opponents were critical of its location, saying the rail yard will bring pollution to nearby schools, parks and child facilities.
Construction is due to begin later this year and is expected to create about 1,500 jobs over three years.
National Resources Defense Council attorney Morgan Wyenn criticized the proposal in advance of Thursday's vote, calling it "one of the most racist ideas proposed by the city for decades."
Wyenn says the rail yard will bring asthma- and cancer-causing air pollution into a low-income, mostly minority neighborhood, and it will be located near an elementary school, a high school, a day care center, a park and a center for homeless children, in addition to residential neighborhoods.
Wyenn said the port's environmental analysis was flawed, and the development would worsen the area's air pollution, not improve it.
BNSF issued a release applauding the decision, with Chairman and CEO Matthew K. Rose saying a decision in favor of the project was "the right choice for green growth in Los Angeles and will be a new environmental model for the rest of the country."
For the new project, BNSF has pledged to clean up the existing industrial site to install all-electric cranes, and low-emission locomotives and equipment.