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BNSF and Architects Cosponsor “Great Park” Design Competition for Commerce Rail Yard

11:30 AM PDT on April 1, 2013

(Yes, this was our April Fool's piece - DN)

With the certification of the Environmental Impact Report [EIR] by the Los Angeles Harbor Commission for the development of a near-dock railyard, Burlington North Santa Fe Railroad Company [BNSF] called  a joint press conference today with the City of Commerce Chapter of American Institute of Architects [AIA] to announce the future of another rail facility..the decommission of their Hobart Yard transfer facility in the City of Commerce.

This announcement had come as little surprise as numerous press releases for the proposed SCIG and accompanying Environmental Impact Report cited the intention to remove the 1.3 million trucks from the Interstate 710 Freeway.

BNSF representatives April Feuel stated, “SCIG will allow trucks to bring cargo from the ports just four miles before transferring them onto rail, rather than driving 20 miles up the 710 Freeway to BNSF's Commerce rail yard.”

The chair of the City of Commerce AIA followed, praised BNSF, noting that this realignment of rail infrastructure has created the opportunity to reimagine a bold future for the City of Commerce and neighboring communities of Maywood, Bell Garden and Montebello.

“The City of Commerce will see a bright future as the Hobart Yard is reimagined as a regional-scale park, complimented by community amenities and new job center.”

Representatives of the Commerce AIA and BNSF announced that they will be co-sponsoring an international competition to design a new 250 acre park that combines much needed public open space with economic generators, into a sustainable development that seamlessly integrates into the surrounding communities. 

“We imagine this park to be a grand initiative on par with the Wilmington Waterfront Park and Los Angeles Historic State Park developed near Chinatown on the site of another former railyard.”  Continuing, they stated that a park encompassing the Hobart Yard would be the largest in the region until reaching Elysian Park five miles away.

While many residents around the Hobart Yard are praising the news, West Long Beach residents continue to be dismayed by the near-dock rail facility proposed to be built behind their homes and schools.

In the same press conference, BNSF representatives shared their intention to mitigate the new facility’s impacts on West Long Beach. “BNSF will construct a permanent 12-foot high soundwall along the eastern side of the Terminal Island Freeway from W. 20th St. to Sepulveda Blvd. After construction of the soundwall, BNSF has offered to install landscaping along the entire length of the soundwall. BNSF will plant intensive landscaping on the western side of the Terminal Island Freeway between PCH and Sepulveda Boulevard.” 

This was a similar strategy proposed between the Los Angeles community of Wilmington and the Trans Pacific Terminal development before the Port of Los Angeles invested $70 million dollar [and 30 acres of Port property] to develop the mile-long, block-wide Wilmington Waterfront Park that now separates Angelenos from the port complex.

When reporters asked about developing a greenbelt along the proposed SCIG project similar to the Wilmington greenbelt, BNSF officials stated that like the Trans Pacific Terminal development, they only had in their budget one great park and they chose to locate in the City of Commerce.  AIA representatives followed up with that maybe after the 50 year lease between BNSF and the Port of Los Angeles expires, they can explore converting the railyard into a park, like Hobart.

Details of the design competition will be forth-coming but BNSF stated that their intention would be to develop the new park as soon as the SCIG project is completed, so cargo can be shifted from the Hobart Yard, and finally closed.

Local design enthusiasts have expressed excitement as rumors of James Corner Field Operations from the world famous High Line [linear park developed on former elevated train tracks in New York], 2013 Pritzker Prize winning architect Toyo Ito and Ken Smith Workshop, of Santa Fe Railyard Park fame are all mentioned to be considering entering the competition.  What is yet to be determined are next steps for the California Department of Transportation, as they determine the impacts of removing Hobart Yards truck traffic, and the need to expand the Interstate 710 Freeway.

(This post was actually written by Brian Ulaszewski)

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