$7.4M grant brings electric bikes to Stockton. Here’s how, where to rent one

If you’re out and about in Stockton, you may see one of the new 105 pedal-assisted electric bikes that are now available for public transportation. The city’s new electric bike-share program — made possible by a $7.4 million grant awarded to the San Joaquin Council of Governments from the state’s Sustainable Transportation Equity Project — launched last Saturday with a Rise ‘N’ Ride event at University of the Pacific. Olivia Mitchell, a sophomore at Pacific, smiled as she tested an e-bike near the university’s William Knox Memorial Library during the launch event.

“I don’t drive, so transportation can be a really big issue for me trying to get to campus,” Mitchell said. “This could help me get to campus and it could also help me get off campus to explore Stockton.”

The program is intended to help Stocktonians like Mitchell get around the city in a clean and cost-effective way.

“I think having more transportation options is really important, especially affordable transportation options,” said Tyler Madell, a program manager for Shared Mobility. Along with SJCOG, Madell has led the planning of Stockton’s electric bike-share program since 2020.

How to rent an e-bike in Stockton

It costs 15 cents per minute to ride an e-bike, according to Bike Stockton’s website. Residents also have the option to sign up for an annual membership priced at $40 per year. The membership includes up to 30 minutes of free ride time per day and a discounted rate of 5 cents per minute after the initial 30 minutes.

“A big thing for us is making these programs affordable across the board. You know, having really affordable rates to make sure people can use these services regularly in the community, whether it’s for running errands or going to work, or even riding recreationally,” Madell said. “Stockton is a very car-centric city as we know … this is an effort to kind of move away from that and create more options for residents.”

Matthew Amen, a Yosemite Street Village neighborhood resident, said he is an advocate for eco-friendly travel, and often uses alternatives to driving a car.

“I have a very urban mentality. Even though I’m from Stockton, I’ve lived in major cities and I love the fact that you can be in a space where you don’t need a car,” Amen said. “I’m looking forward to being able to utilize these bikes to get to where I need to go. From an economic standpoint, it’s a great way to experience the beauty of the city.”Those who are interested in renting an e-bike must download the Bike Stockton app, create an account, and scan a QR code for the e-bike to unlock.

Where to find the e-bikes in Stockton

The e-bikes can be found at five hubs located around the city:

  • DeCarli Plaza
  • Downtown Transit Center
  • Miracle Mile
  • University of the Pacific
  • Yosemite Street Village

The locations of the hubs were determined through community input and connectivity to transit, said Christine Corrales, senior regional planner for SJCOG.

“A key piece when it came to locating the hubs was thinking about how much access residents could have to the sites. For example, it’s ideal to place the bikes in locations that are not gated off to enable 24-hour access,” Corrales said. “We’re also trying to make sure that we can reach as many people as possible, so ideal places are places where there are lots of residents who live in the vicinity, and who can benefit from these services.”

While most of the hubs are located in central Stockton and the downtown area, Corrales said the goal is to expand to south Stockton in the next three to six months.


Ground broken on $15M transit maintenance facility in Selma

After years of discussion, ground was broken Friday on a $15 million maintenance facility for the Fresno County Rural Transit Agency in Selma.

“This particular project was just on the map not too long ago,” said Fresno County Supervisor Steve Brandau. “In some ways, it takes time. In some ways, it comes quickly. I’m so glad that we’re standing here at the groundbreaking and can really get this project rolling.”

The groundbreaking ceremony featured talks from speakers and local officials including representatives from the offices of Congressman Jim Costa and Senator Anna Caballero.

“We know FCRTA is a vital lifeline for so many who need to get to their health appointments, senior centers, in to receive food,” Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula said at the event. “We also know FCRTA provides great services for the elderly and the disabled.”

The new facility, approved in 2018 for an acre of land at 1821 Pacific Ave., will be a center for maintenance and operations for the transit agency and includes a 10,000 square foot, four-bay maintenance facility. The facility is also planned to include a 5,000 square foot dispatching and administration office.

“It wasn’t inevitable that we were standing here today,” said Selma Mayor Scott Robertson. “First, there were three prospective cities that bid for the privilege of providing the site.”

Robertson joked that the city won the site for its “charming mayor” but added that the city was chosen because of its proximity to Highway 43 and the Golden State Corridor. The facility will be named in honor of former Fowler mayor David Cardenas, who died in March 2022. Brandau called Cardenas the best elected official of all time, himself included.

“David used to come to Selma all the time,” Robertson said. “He rose to the top of our local government, served on every board you can think of selflessly, but he always had good humor and he was always brilliant.”

The transit project is a partnership between Selma and the transit agency. According to the approved agreement in 2018 FCRTA purchased the acre of land from the city for $150,000, part of which will be leased back to the city. Selma will provide employees to work at the fleet maintenance facility and added several positions to that end including a transit manager, fleet maintenance manager, custodian, equipment mechanic, maintenance workers, transit mechanic and shuttle driver.


Amazon opens third fulfillment center in Tracy

Amazon officially opened their latest Tracy fulfillment center with a ribbon cutting on Friday at the 3.7 million-square-foot facility on East Grant Line Road. Director of operations Vincent Wong cut the ribbon for the facility, named SCK6, which had a soft opening in October. Assistant General Manager Mohammed Khan said the building will have approximately 1,500 employees and 3,000 robots in the building at 15000 East Grant Line Road.

At maximum capacity he said Amazon will be able to ship 1 million units a day from the facility, which is the online retailer’s second advanced robotics fulfillment center. Wong welcomed the crowd of employees, some dressed in San Jose Sharks attire, along with invited guests to the dedication.

“We are honored to serve the people of Tracy and especially honored to support our work force here in this place. At Amazon, people are our most valuable asset and resources,” Wong said. “Promotion actually plays an important part in their growth and (our employees are) promoted for recognizing our people and reaching their goals. At Amazon, we start with the community in which we work and live, including myself, we are committed to uniting Tracy and leveraging our resources for good. Since the beginning of 2022 we actually provided more than $4 million in donations for our community here and also in in-kind donations and volunteer hours.”

SCK6 is the fourth logistics center opened in Tracy by the online retailer. Mayor Nancy Young welcomed the new facility to the Tracy community noting that her youngest son had just started working at SCK6 the night before.

“When I got on council it was really hard, and even as my children were growing up, it was a challenge to get a job in the city of Tracy, especially for young people because they were really competing with a lot of adults trying to just hold on their homes and make their ends meet,” Young said. “But when Amazon came here it was the first really big opportunity for a lot of young adults and adults alike to be able to get a really good paying job to be able to take care of their finances. I’m just really excited that this is a great addition to continue to grow our community, to grow our economy and I just want to say thank you all for being a part of this and I encourage each and every one of the Sharkies, each and every one of the workers out there to keep moving forward knowing that you can continue to grow wherever you are, blossom wherever you are.”

San Joaquin County Fifth District Supervisor Robert Rickman joined in welcoming the new facility that had been in the planning stages since he was mayor of Tracy.

“When we approved this facility when I was mayor of Tracy one of the issues we ran into was this was going to be the biggest building in the city of Tracy. So, we had to work with Amazon, adjust our zoning in order to get this building built,” Rickman said. “So driving up and down Grant Line Road and seeing just a dirt field to what it is now is just absolutely amazing.”

New jobs generated by the facility will be a boon to the surrounding communities.

“One of our jobs as elected officials is to bring more jobs, bring awesome companies to our counties, to our cities, and Amazon you have fulfilled that role. The building behind me, what you see, you see local employment — people from Tracy, Stockton, Manteca, Ripon, Lodi, Livermore, the entire surrounding communities — coming to Tracy and making a living, not just for themselves but for their families their spouses and their children,” Rickman said.

He noted the health and education benefits their employees their employees and the company’s work with schools and education will make a difference in the community.

“Your footprint isn’t just here in this parking lot on Grant Line Road but encompasses the entire city of Tracy and San Joaquin County where our population is approximately 800,000 people that live here in the county,” Rickman said.

Amazon has three major centers in town include its OAK4 fulfillment center that opened in 2013, just south SCK6. Two more and two centers in the Prologis International Park of Commerce on the west side of town.


Standalone battery energy storage coming to eastern Kern

A battery project coming to eastern Kern will be just the third in the county’s large and diverse energy portfolio to provide lithium electricity storage on a standalone basis, apart from photovoltaic solar panels. Dallas-based Leeward Renewable Energy’s 126,000-megawatt Antelope Valley BESS, for battery energy storage system, will be sited between two PV solar projects it already owns and operates. It is expected to deliver more than 500 megawatt-hours of power during peak demand, enough for 100,000 homes for four hours after the sun goes down.

Leeward recently announced it has signed a 15-year agreement to provide power from the project to Southern California Edison. Construction is expected to be complete in early 2024. Leeward said it is the company’s first standalone battery energy storage project, designed to support resiliency and reliability of the state power grid while meeting the most stringent safety requirements.

“We are proud to partner with Southern California Edison to help meet California’s zero-carbon goals and facilitate the transition to a cleaner and more reliable power grid that will directly address the urgent need for energy capacity in the state,” Leeward’s chief commercial officer, Eran Mahrer, said in a news release last month. “LRE looks forward to our continued long-term partnership with SCE, the county and the community as we develop and operate Antelope Valley BESS.”

The project is to be built adjacent to Leeward’s 100-megawatt Rabbitbrush solar-plus-storage project, and next to its 174-megawatt Chapparal Springs project providing electrical generation and storage. Leeward said the projects demonstrate its commitment to be a long-term partner with the community on employment and other economic benefits, as well as protections and enhancements for the community and the environment. The county’s top energy permitting official, Director Lorelei Oviatt of the Planning and Natural Resources Department, said the project is part of “the new frontier, which is lithium batteries.”

She noted the state puts limitations on standalone battery energy storage projects, usually insisting they be paired with a solar generation facility. Oviatt noted the project will pay its full property taxes, unlike PV solar projects, which enjoy a large exemption from such taxes in California. It will pay almost as much in property taxes as an Amazon fulfillment center, she noted. The county Board of Supervisors encourages such investments, Oviatt added, saying, “We certainly would like to have more of them.”


More than $260M in projects will improve Highway 58 over next five years

More than $260 million in improvements to Highway 58 between Tehachapi and Bakersfield are in the works over the next five years. Last week, the Kern Council of Governments announced that the California Transportation Commission awarded $9.3 million for the final ramp for the interchange at Highway 99 and Highway 58 as part of more than $2.2 billion to fund projects across the state. According to a news release issued by KernCOG, the Highway 58 mainline connection from Highway 99 to the 7-mile Westside Parkway freeway is scheduled to open to traffic with a ribbon-cutting this September, providing connectivity to Interstate 5 via Stockdale Highway west of Bakersfield.

“The new funding is critical to help keep heavy-duty vehicles off our neighborhood streets, providing smoother traffic flows and thereby reducing emissions, including in many of our historically disadvantaged communities,” said Ahron Hakimi, executive director of KernCOG. Once the connector is open, the agency said, two more Highway 99 and 58 interchange ramps will be completed over the next several years — the 58 westbound to northbound and the 99 southbound to westbound movements.

According to Caltrans, the estimated construction cost for the Centennial Corridor Southbound Highway 99 and westbound Highway 58 Connector project is more than $29 million. It is expected to be complete by summer 2028. The funding to complete the final ramp for the 99-to-58 freeway-to-freeway interchange comes from the Trade Corridor Enhancement Program. The program is funded by state and federal fuel taxes, including the Senate Bill 1 Transportation Improvement Fee.

Closer to Tehachapi, as reported by officials from the city of Tehachapi, Caltrans is moving forward with the $165 million Keene Pavement Project and a $65.9 million truck climbing lane project. The Keene Pavement Project will remove four curves, replace disintegrating pavement and make other improvements on a 10- to 12-mile stretch of Highway 58 just west of Tehachapi. That section of the highway has been the scene of numerous accidents in recent years, including big rig crashes that resulted in closures lasting many hours. According to the Caltrans District 9 quarterly report, the project will begin in March 2026 and is expected to be completed by November 2026. District 9 also oversees another long-awaited project — a truck climbing lane on eastbound 58 between Bakersfield and Tehachapi.

Although two or three segments of truck climbing lanes have been discussed through the years, the project expected to be underway first is what Caltrans calls the most critical section of Highway 58 through the Tehachapi Mountains  —  from approximately 0.8 miles east of the junction with State Route 223 to 0.4 miles west of Hart Flat Road.   This project was originally proposed to begin in 2027. However, city officials have reported ongoing efforts to work with Caltrans, state Sen. Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, and KernCOG to consolidate the truck climbing lane project with the Keene Pavement Project, with both to begin in 2026 or as early as 2025.

At a Tehachapi City Council meeting in May, Councilman Phil Smith said Grove set up a meeting between local officials and the new Caltrans Director Tony Tavares, who was appointed to lead the state’s transportation agency in June 2022. Smith has served on the Tehachapi City Council since 1986 and as a member of the Kern COG Board of Directors since 1995. He has advocated for improvements to Highway 58 — and specifically the truck climbing lanes.

He said city officials were encouraged in an initial meeting when Tavares said that Highway 58 is “an extremely significant route.” And Caltrans District 9 Director Ryan Dermody said it is “the most important route in District 9.”  Hakimi, of KernCOG — which is the county’s transportation planning agency — and Tehachapi City Manager Greg Garrett have also been involved in the meetings, Smith said, along with city Development Services Director Jay Schlosser. Garrett and Smith have since reported that Caltrans has committed to funding and moving forward with the truck climbing lane project.

The segment of the project expected to be completed first is the most easterly of planned truck passing lanes on the eastbound side of Highway 58 between Bakersfield and Tehachapi, Smith said. The lower elevation section of the highway is part of Caltrans District 6, headquartered in Fresno, and details of when that part of the project might move forward are not currently available. District 9 is headquartered in Bishop.


Big mixed-use development planned for Hanford along Hwy. 198 | Around Kings County

Property owners on the north side of Hwy 198 between 11th and 12th avenues have filed an ambitious plan for a large mixed-use project just under 40 acres being processed by the City of Hanford. Named Hanford Place, consultant firm QK has submitted for a conditional use permit and mitigated negative declaration on the project. No developer or medical agent has been named.

The proposed project would include the following: a 22,525-square-foot ambulatory surgery center; a 12,445-square-foot specialty clinic; two 12,445-square-foot medical office buildings; a 12,445- square-foot psychiatric health facility; a 100,000-square-foot, a four-story 105-room hotel with a conference center and pool; a 35,000-square-foot nursing college; a 54,611-square-foot skilled nursing facility; a 34,480-square-foot memory care facility; a 34,380-square-foot assisted living facility; a three-story 90-unit multi-family apartment; 41,500 square feet of medical/commercial uses; and a five-acre bio infiltration basin. The application says construction should begin in March of 2024.

New vehicle registrations in California are predicted to approach 1.8 million units this year and increase 6.9 percent from 2022 according to the California New Car Dealers Assn.

Following three years of below average sales, pent-up demand is at elevated levels as the volume of postponed purchases continues to grow. This will be the driving force for the market for the remainder of the year, say the dealers. Weakening consumer affordability will hold back the release of pent-up demand, but improving vehicle inventories should be sufficient to push sales above current levels.

New light vehicle registrations in California increased 5.8 percent in the first quarter of this year versus the year earlier, slightly below the 8.4 percent improvement in national sales. New vehicle registrations in the state increased for the second consecutive quarter in 1Q ’23. Prior to the fourth quarter of last year, the market declined by more than 10 percent for four consecutive quarters. California’s new vehicle market is predicted to increase higher than last year’s results in the remaining three quarters of this year.

 Among items of interest, estimated electric vehicle market share approached 20 percent in 1Q ’23; Tesla Model Y was Best-Seller in California; Best Full Size Pickup: Ford F-Series; Toyota retained the title of Top Selling Brand in California in 1Q ’23.

Wonderful Renewable Energy, LLC filed an application for a development code text change to allow for permitted uses in the Light Industrial (IL) zone district to be permitted in the Rural Commercial (CR) zone district subject to the approval of a Site Plan Review zoning permit. Wonderful wants to establish a biomass wood yard to manage wood or nut waste for biomass conversion to power generation. The Kings County Planning Commission approved the application this month.

The Wonderful Company is the world’s largest almond and pistachio grower, generating 250,000 tons of nut waste per year, made up of wood, hulls and shells). The industry is looking to turn these liabilities into carbon-negative revenue via reliable electricity and bio-char production. Besides waste nuts and shells, the company removes large numbers of trees each year including thousands of nut tree acres due the drought, anticipating a lack of water to sustain some orchards. The Wonderful Company announced in 2019 it will use 100 percent renewable electricity across all its U.S. operations by 2025.

Cotton mapping for the San Joaquin Valley by CDFA was completed the week of June 1, 2023 confirming lower planting estimates in each county.

The current total mapped acreage for the SJV is 93,229 acres (down from 125,449 acres in 2022). The breakdown of cotton acreage is 30,799 acres in Fresno County (down from 34,290 acres in 2022), 7,226 acres in Kern County (down from 9,591 acres in 2022), 34,701 acres in Kings County (down from 46,988 acres in 2022), 18,875 acres in Merced County (down from 29,113 acres in 2022), 86 acres in Madera County (down from 254 acres in 2022), and 1,542 acres in Tulare County (down from 5,213 acres in 2022)

German power generation company RWE has announced that it has linked its 137MW utility-scale battery energy storage system (BESS), called Fifth Standard, to the California independent system operator. Located in western Fresno County, the BESS project is the company’s largest facility to date in the US. The project also includes a 150MWac solar PV facility, which is expected to be completed in August 2023.

It will feature 369,334 solar photovoltaic panels covering 1,600 acres. The facility will power 26,000 homes in the region and support California’s clean energy goals as the state works toward its net-zero target of 2045. The excess energy will not be sent to the grid, but instead will be stored in an on-site lithium-ion battery energy storage facility with up to 548 megawatt-hours of capacity. The power storage system will allow the plant to maximize its value by releasing solar energy when electric demand is highest.

RWE Clean Energy CEO Mark Noyes stated: “Projects like Fifth Standard, with its co-located battery storage system, will become increasingly important to help ensure that as renewables form a bigger part of the energy mix, the electricity produced can be used when it is needed most.

“In our case, future growth is backed by a project development pipeline comprising more than 24GW in onshore wind, solar and battery storage, one of the largest in the US.”


Hydrogen-fueled airplane lands, makes home in Mojave

The Mojave Air & Space Port has found a renewable-energy tenant that appears to fit neatly within the facility’s history of aerospace innovation. Hawthorne-based Universal Hydrogen Co. uses hydrogen fuel cell technology to help power a modified 40-passenger regional airliner. It recently put the concept to work in flying one it calls “Lightning McClean” south from Moses Lake, Wash. An announcement Friday that the company will move flight tests of its zero-emission drivetrain technology to eastern Kern is expected to boost Mojave’s reputation as a place where aviation feats never before achieved are able to take wing.

“Bringing Universal Hydrogen to the Mojave Air & Space Port is a big win for us and the local community,” the air and space port’s general manager, Tim Reid, said in a news release heralding the company’s arrival in Mojave.

“With their research and development,” he added, “Universal Hydrogen’s technology will be a total game changer for zero emissions flight within the next decade, meeting the environmental goals of California while advancing the industry with a new, sustainable energy source.”

The company said its De Havilland Canada DHC-8 airliner is powered on one side by a renewable-hydrogen fuel powertrain. During the first four legs of the 800-mile trip from Washington, the fuel cell was throttled down after takeoff. But on the final portion, hydrogen was used for the duration of the more than one-hour flight, marking “the longest flight by a hydrogen fuel cell powertrain to date.” Universal Hydrogen plans to launch commercial service by late 2025. Along with that, it has a goal of certifying a powertrain conversion kit for retrofitting existing regional aircraft to fly on hydrogen fuel. Its idea is to transport renewable hydrogen from production sites by putting it in modular capsules and moving it along existing freight networks.

Earlier this year the company notched an initial, successful flight test. It was followed by four additional tests. During its second test flight, Universal Hydrogen reported, its aircraft flew for 30 minutes at 170 knots, reaching an altitude of 5,000 feet. Then, on June 12, the company said it reached 10,000 feet. The company’s news release Friday said moving its flight testing regimen to Mojave “will allow the company to take advantage of a strong engineering talent pool in Mojave as well as nearby Los Angeles.” Universal Hydrogen has been awarded a $5 million development grant from the California Office of Business Development.

Aviation is seen as one of the toughest industries to decarbonize. But in the company’s news release, California Energy Commission Chairman David Hochschild expressed hope, stating that Universal Hydrogen “is proving that true zero emission is achievable” using hydrogen as airplane fuel.

Plus, he said it’s good for the local economy.

“Basing their test flight operations in Mojave will supercharge a site of significant aviation and space history, and create good-paying jobs for Californians as we ramp up our efforts to combat climate change,” Hochschild stated.

The Mojave Air & Space Port opened in 1935 and has since established itself as a hub of aviation innovation. In 1986, the Rutan Model 76 Voyager became the first aircraft to fly around the world without stopping to refuel after taking off from the facility. Among other success stories originating there was that of SpaceShipOne, a pioneering craft whose launch from the port in 2004 was seen as an important step toward privately funded human spaceflight.


Electric truck stop near Bakersfield gearing up for 31 chargers by January

Kern County’s first all-electric truck stop is on track to open 31 charging stations this year — about half of them to be powered by solar panels on-site, the head of the Long Beach company behind the project announced Thursday. WattEV founder and CEO Salim Youssefzadeh said the 110-acre site 2 miles north of Merle Haggard Drive along Highway 65 will be one of four charging stations operational by the end of this year in Bakersfield, Gardena, Long Beach and San Bernardino. The one along Highway 65 is expected to be the largest, with the most charging capacity, because of the availability of surrounding land. WattEV expects to open more stations next year along Highway 65 and Interstate 5, extending the company’s reach as far north as Sacramento.

Funded mostly by private investment but subsidized by about $60 million in state and federal grants, the project serves California’s goals of achieving carbon neutrality by 2045 while also cutting a primary source of particulate air pollution in the Central Valley. The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District has voiced support for the project, saying in 2021 it “recognizes the importance of zero and near zero transportation projects in the valley and the potential for battery electric medium and heavy-duty trucks to create significant reductions in criteria air pollutant emissions.”

The company aims to deliver more than just battery-charging services: Its all-inclusive, trucking-as-a-service business model is designed to reduce carriers’ financial risk by setting a monthly rate for providing and refueling delivery trucks. Youssefzadeh said WattEV has purchased 14 Nikola electric trucks and has 87 Volvos on order to serve customers by January. Trucks not owned by WattEV will also be able to charge up at the station.

How fast the company scales up will be determined on demand for its services, he said — and things look good so far, given distribution centers’ and trucking companies’ environmental and sustainability targets.

“We’re definitely seeing a lot of demand and interest, shippers as well as the carriers,” Youssefzadeh said.

They’re interested in the technology, “but they don’t necessarily want to deal with the unknowns, for the upfront costs of the infrastructure or the truck.”

WattEV expects to offer a kind of valet service at some of its stations: Drivers would drive to the truck stop in their own car, get into a fully charged rig parked at the site, then return later to drop it off for the night and drive home in their own car. The site along Highway 65 is planned to open with 5 megawatts of solar served by a 2-megawatt-hour battery storage system, Youssefzadeh said. Initially, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. will provide the property 640 kilowatts of power, to be upgraded to 7 megawatts. Eventually the property will generate and use 25 megawatts of solar power, he said. By year’s end, he said, there are to be 16 360-kilowatt chargers served by PG&E, and 15 240-kilowatt chargers powered by on-site solar. Charging a truck will initially take between two and three hours, he said, until the facility becomes certified on a megawatt-charger, when trucks can be fully charged in 30 minutes.

Next year’s infrastructure expansion is expected to bring more charging sites to Kern County and elsewhere around the valley. Youssefzadeh said additional stations will be added later to serve trucks traveling along Interstate 10 as far as Arizona and Mexico


State of Calif. Announces $1.5B in Port Infrastructure Upgrades (UPDATED July 11)

The State of California on July 6 announced an investment of more than $1.5 billion—including approximately $450 million for zero-emission infrastructure, locomotives, vessels and vehicles—as part of the state’s work to build a more “efficient, sustainable and resilient supply chain.”

According to the State of California, the $1.2 billion will fund 15 projects creating an estimated 20,000 jobs and “increase the capacity to move goods throughout the state’s global trade gateways while lessening environmental impacts on neighboring communities.” Administered by the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA), $350 million was also awarded to 13 projects that eliminate street-level rail crossings to make “critical lifesaving safety improvements, reduce emissions and keep goods and people moving.”

Projects receiving funding will help boost capacity to move goods through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach—the busiest ports in the Western Hemisphere—as well as enhance all major trade centers throughout the state—from San Diego to the Central Valley to the Bay Area. The high-priority grade separation projects, the majority of which are funded through the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program, will improve safety and reduce conflicts and delays at railroad crossings, helping enhance the state’s freight and passenger rail systems, the State of California said.

The funding—particularly the investments in zero-emission projects, which account for nearly 40 % of the Port and Freight Infrastructure Program awards—builds on a partnership between the governments of California and Japan announced this March to collaborate on strategies to “cut planet-warming pollution at seaports and establish green shipping corridors as part of the state’s broader strategy to aggressively combat and adapt to climate change.”

The investments, the State of California says, also follow the California Transportation Commission’s (CTC) recent approval of $1.1 billion for infrastructure improvements on high-volume freight corridors as part of the Trade Corridor Enhancement Program (TCEP)—for a total state investment in supply chain infrastructure of more than $2.6 billion in just the past week.

Part of the funding includes a $383.35 million grant awarded to the Port of Long Beach to complete a series of construction and clean-air technology projects aimed at accelerating the transformation to zero-emissions operations and enhancing the reliability of cargo movement.

As part of the state’s Port and Freight Infrastructure Program, nearly $225 million will fund a variety of zero-emissions cargo-moving equipment and supportive infrastructure projects across the Port of Long Beach and include “top handlers” and other manually operated cargo-handling equipment, as well as tugboats and locomotives. The sum is the single largest grant the Port has ever received to support the zero-emissions goals of the 2017 Clean Air Action Plan Update.

Additionally, $158.4 million of the state grant will go toward the planned Pier B On-Dock Rail Support Facility, which will shift more cargo from trucks to on-dock rail, where containers are taken to and from marine terminals by trains. The $1.57 billion facility will be built in phases, with construction scheduled to begin in 2024 and be completed in 2032.

As part of its Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP), the Port of Long Beach has set a goal of zero-emissions terminal operations by 2030, and zero-emissions trucking by 2035. The Port has a long track record of air quality improvement projects that have “dramatically lowered” emissions since 2005.

Additionally, the Port of Los Angeles has been awarded $233 million in grants from the State of California to complete essential infrastructure projects aimed at creating a more efficient and sustainable supply chain.

Port of Los Angeles infrastructure projects supported by the new state grants include:

  • Maritime Support Facility (MSF) Improvement and Expansion Project—The MSF provides chassis and empty container storage for all 12 container terminals at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, critical to facilitating goods movement throughout the complex. With this new funding, the area will be improved and expanded from 30 to 71 acres. Improvements will include utilities, drainage, sewage, power, water supply, as well as a paved perimeter roadway. The $198.2 million total project amount includes $149.3 million from CalSTA and $48.4 million in matching funds from the Port of Los Angeles.
  • Rail Mainline/Wilmington Community & Waterfront Pedestrian Grade Separation Bridge—In addition to demolition work and soil remediation, the project involves construction of a 400-foot dedicated pedestrian bridge over freight tracks, creating a safer connection between the Wilmington community, several local area schools and the Port of Los Angeles’ Wilmington Waterfront area. The project will also include construction of retaining walls, storm drainage, electrical and utilities, sidewalks and landscaping. The total project cost of $57.9 million includes $42 million from CalSTA, $5.62 million from the Port of Los Angeles and $10.2 million from LA Metro.
  • State Route 47/Seaside Avenue and Navy Way Interchange Improvements—This project will modify the intersection of Navy Way and Seaside Avenue to improve traffic operations, reduce collisions and improve safety. Improvements will add a new westbound auxiliary lane, a new eastbound two-lane collector-distributor road, a new off-ramp terminus and eliminate a traffic signal, among other upgrades. Total project cost of $62.98 million includes $41.79 million from CalSTA and $21.19 million in Port of Los Angeles funds.

Last week the Port of Los Angeles received a $15 million grant from the CTC for a four-lane grade separation on Terminal Island that will reduce truck delays and improve public safety.

Of the $1.5 billion awarded by CalSTA, approximately $250 million is allocated for zero-emission infrastructure, locomotives, vehicles and vessels.

Southern California regional projects totaling $191 million were among the grants announced. These include a $100 million BNSF rail expansion project in the High Desert and another $76.3 million zero-emission rail and drayage fleet support project by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, among others. These projects support the Port of Los Angeles by improving cargo movement throughout the region.

Additionally, Merced County has been awarded a $49.6 million grant—one of the largest in the history of Merced County and San Joaquin Valley—from CalSTA to build-out an inland port at Castle Commerce Center, “leveraging its unique capacity to move freight worldwide.”

The $49.6 million CalSTA grant will enhance Castle Commerce Center’s existing rail capacity by:

  • Facilitating the development of 70 acres at Castle to support pre-shipment processing and intermodal cross-docking for Central Valley agricultural producers.
  • Providing cost-effective, direct rail service for shippers.
  • Expanding the railway to a new staging and container laydown area to support cross-docking and processing.
  • Evaluating, engineering, and planning for further expansion on existing land within Castle Commerce Center.

These projects, Merced County says, will support additional goods movement to and from the Port of Los Angeles, the Port of Long Beach, and the Port of Oakland while making the County a focal point for inland goods movement.

Situated at the southeastern corner of Castle, its rail district became operational in May 2022 under Patriot Rail, which operates the rail line and has already tripled the shipping volume to and from Castle in recent months. The CalSTA grant, Merced County says, will “further enhance the viability of agricultural producers, manufacturers, and other enterprises throughout the San Joaquin Valley to cost-effectively and efficiently ship and receive goods along the BNSF railroad mainline, which runs adjacent to the site.” Castle’s inland port and rail activities is focused on increasing regional economic opportunities while reducing semi-truck traffic along its roadways.

“Patriot Rail is privileged to partner with Merced County to advance the rail foundation of an inland port at the Castle Commerce Center,” said Patriot Rail CEO John E. Fenton.

The rail district expansion project is expected to be complete by mid-2028.

Meanwhile, the Port of Stockton was awarded $45.9 million for the Rail Infrastructure Improvements for Sustainable Exports (RISE) Project through CalSTA’s Port and Freight Infrastructure Program (PFIP).

The RIISE project supports building new infrastructure to enhance rail capacity, accommodate increased freight tonnage and train frequencies, mitigate potential service disruptions, and reduce long-term repair and maintenance costs. PFIP will fund the replacement of the San Joaquin River rail bridge; expansion of the port’s long lead track to two tracks; and procurement of a zero-emission electric railcar mover.

The project will help reduce trucks traversing neighborhood streets, consistent with the priorities of near-port communities and the Stockton AB 617 Community Steering Committee, reducing public health harms and negative environmental and economic impacts.

“No other state has a supply chain as critical to the national and global economy as California,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom. “These investments—unprecedented in scope and scale—will modernize our ports, reduce pollution, eliminate bottlenecks and create a more dynamic distribution network.”

“CalSTA’s ‘Core Four’ priorities are safety, climate action, equity and economic prosperity, and the strategic investments announced today shine in all those areas,” said Transportation Secretary Toks Omishakin during an event on July 6 announcing the awards at the Port of Long Beach. “These awards—a direct result of Governor Newsom’s visionary leadership—will help maintain our state’s competitive edge in our nation-leading supply chain infrastructure and will create a cleaner, safer and more efficient goods movement system that will have a lasting positive impact for the people of California. The historic level of state funding also puts these projects in a stronger position to compete for significant federal infrastructure dollars from the Biden-Harris Administration.”



New logistics development could be first in Bakersfield

Kern’s logistics boom is reaching into the city of Bakersfield with an industrial park proposed at the southwest corner of Mount Vernon Avenue and East Belle Terrace. With two of three buildings measuring more than 1 million square feet, the project is being marketed as having convenient access to a large workforce — and in that respect, at least, it may beat larger competitors in Shafter and the Mettler area.

“I would say that’s what makes this project advantageous,” said Director Scott Reynolds at Cushman & Wakefield, which is marketing the property on behalf of an owner-developer partnership in Southern California. “It’s surrounded by working population.”

Named 58 Logistics Center because of its close access to Highway 58, the project may be the first of its kind located within Bakersfield’s borders. A similar project is underway near Meadows Field Airport, but it lies within unincorporated Kern County territory in Oildale. The 128-acre property is modest in size, compared with other, much larger logistics centers along 7th Standard Road in Shafter and Interstate 5 in the Mettler area. Another distinction is that the project is strictly build-to-suit, whereas others recently have moved forward with speculative construction — successfully — even before signing tenants.

Since kicking off marketing of the property a few months ago, Reynolds said brokers on the project have received “a lot of interest” from potential tenants, even as no leases have been signed. He noted distribution centers that otherwise would have been located in the Inland Empire have begun coming instead to Kern County, where prices are roughly half what’s being charged for industrial property in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

The broker who assisted in the property’s November 2021 sale to its current owners, Jack Lees, said he received a lot of calls from potential buyers who wanted to “set up truck depots and that sort of stuff.” He called it a good location for such operations.

“That should be a good project for somebody,” he said.

Bakersfield City Councilman Eric Arias, whose Ward 1 encompasses the project, did not respond to a request for comment Monday. A marketing brochure put out Monday says the largest of three buildings proposed at the site would measure 1.1 million square feet and have 196 dock doors, 590 trailer stalls, parking for 510 automobiles and 40-foot clearance height.

Another building planned for the property would measure a little more than 1 million square feet, with 182 dock doors, 430 trailer stalls, 394 spaces for automobiles and 40-foot clearance, according to the brochure.

The third building, at 128,000 square feet at the property’s northeast corner, is planned to have 16 dock doors, 22 trailer stalls, 130 auto parking spaces and 36-foot clearance height. The entire property is zoned for general manufacturing and general industrial uses.

Cushman & Wakefield’s brochure points out the same kind of assets industrial properties have touted for years: convenient access to major transportation corridors and railroads, four hours from the Bay Area and the Mexican border, a “business friendly” permitting environment and relatively low taxes and labor costs. “58 Logistics Center,” the brochure states, “gives fulfillment (distribution and logistics) businesses efficient access to more consumers and end users than any other site in Southern California.”