As part of a larger effort to examine the feasibility of developing short-haul rail to the Inland Empire, Port of Long Beach CEO Jon Slangerup is in talks with the City of Ontario and the Morongo Band of Mission Indians about the possibility of building an inland port in Ontario or Cabazon.


Following the April 25 meeting of the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners, Jon Slangerup met in closed session with these groups as part of ongoing discussions about building an inland port. Michael Christensen, senior executive lead on supply chain optimization for the Port of Long Beach, said the talks have been going on for a month or two. The port is not yet actively pursuing a project, but is in an investigative phase, he said.


The Port of Long Beach is in the midst of a study to assess the feasibility and viability of developing short haul rail to the Inland Empire. Such a project would require the creation of an inland port, or inland intermodal facility, to offload the cargo, and load returning empties bound for the port.


“When you look at the cargo that comes through the Port of Long Beach, there is a high concentration of that cargo that goes into the Inland Empire,” Christensen said. Roughly 70 percent of imported cargo leaving the port is carried by truck, Christensen said. About one-third of that cargo goes to the Inland Empire. “We’re looking to see if a segment of that might better move by rail,” he explained.


Christensen said it would be “a while” before the study is finished, but added that a draft is circulating among port administration.


Moving more cargo by rail would reduce truck trips, thereby easing congestion on freeways and even at terminals, and reducing air emissions, according to Christensen. “One intermodal train can take as many as 750 trucks off the road,” he said. “Movements by rail can be up to four times more fuel efficient than movements by truck.”


So what does the trucking industry think about all this?


“We have done a lot of interviewing as part of our short-haul rail study, and some of the drayage contacts we have indicated an interest that [this] just might improve their bottom lines by not having to wait quite so long [due to congestion],” Christensen said. Most truckers are paid by the number of turns they make – in other words, the number of times they’re able to pick up a new load, deliver it, and then repeat. Less congestion could help them achieve more turns.


The process of examining short-haul rail and an inland port is still in the formative stages, Christensen said. He added, “Everything is very tentative, but there is a lot of interesting and a fair amount of excitement in terms of exploring this.”