A group representing US apparel and footwear brands and importers has thrown its support behind a proposal by the Government to build a rail support facility at the port of Long Beach.

The Port of Long Beach last week published its final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for a proposal to redevelop a rail yard within the Harbor District to move cargo faster and with fewer environmental impacts. The public hearing will take place today (22 January) with a meeting of the Board of Harbor Commissioners.

The proposed 'Pier B Rail' yard project would shift more cargo to "on-dock rail", which places containers directly on trains at marine terminals.

Rick Helfenbein, CEO of the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), wrote an open letter to the Board of Harbor Commissioners late last week in support of the facility, which he said would "improve the efficiency and speed of cargo operations at terminals, helping to keep cargo moving smoothly through the Port".

"As such, this project is vital to keep the Port of Long Beach competitive and meet environmental goals outlined in the updated Clean Air Action Plan," he wrote. "It would provide more track space to connect smaller train segments coming from container cargo terminals, allowing the Port to enhance the use of on-dock rail. Moving more cargo by on-dock rail reduces the number of trucks on the road, easing traffic and curtailing emissions."

Without the Pier B facility, Helfenbein says the Port cannot meet a near-term goal of moving 35% of containers via on-dock rail or reach an eventual goal of 50%.

"It is the best option to accommodate future cargo growth and boost economic activity while sustaining 30,000 jobs in Long Beach that depend on the city's port."