Port of LA, Long Beach budgets target waterfront development, infrastructure upgrades

The Port of Los Angeles will have a $1.7 billion budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year that will include significant investments in San Pedro and Wilmington waterfront projects.

The spending plan, which the harbor commission approved Thursday, June 3, follows a year of dramatic changes as the global coronavirus pandemic crushed cargo volume in the early months of 2020 only to be reversed in the summer, when record numbers of containers flooded the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

“Last year at this time the world looked very different,” said Marla Bleavins, deputy executive director of Finance and Administration and chief financial officer for the Port of Los Angeles. “Things looked like they were going to fall off the edge of a cliff.”

The budget forecasts cargo volumes next fiscal year, which begins in July, to be about 9.7 million TEUs — the universal cargo measurement — which would be a 6.7% decrease over 2020-21; by the end of this fiscal year, the port is expected to hit 10.4 million TEUs.

Revenues are projected to be $533.3 million, down by $11.7 million from 2020-21.

Still, the port is in good shape, said Executive Director Gene Seroka.

“This budget puts us in a solid position to keep operating expenses in check and manage through any market uncertainties,” he said, “particularly if consumer demand shifts from goods to more services and activities as the economy opens up.”

Major investments in infrastructure target $188.7 million in capital improvements, up by 42.5% over the previous years.

Expenditures include:

$46.6 million for Wilmington Waterfront projects;
$32.3 million for repairs and upgrades to liquid bulk terminals;
$15.1 million for improvements and repairs to Harbor Department facilities and computer software system upgrades;
$13.6 million for the Alameda Corridor Southern Terminus Gap Closure project on port land, along Harry Bridges Boulevard and adjacent to the TraPac Terminal;
$13 million for Everport Container Terminal improvements;
$9.2 million for San Pedro Waterfront projects; and
$7.4 million for various environmental programs.

The port’s Public Access Investment Plan, which takes 10% of operating revenue minus expenses to be used for projects to create visitor attractions along the waterfront, is now bringing in about $22 million a year. That money is put into an account but isn’t always spent in the same year, since projects can take several years to complete.

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“In earlier years, we were not spending that much,” Bleavins said, “but now with projects under construction we’ll see more spending in the next couple of years.”

The Port of Long Beach, meanwhile, approved its 2021-22 budget last week. The $622.4 million budget directs more than half of its expenditures for capital improvement projects, including modernization of terminals, roads and other infrastructure. Operating revenue in that port is projected to be 8.7% higher because of the container surge.

The Pier B on-dock rail yard and demolition of the old Gerald Desmond Bridge will top capital expenditures in the Port of Long Beach.

The Port of Long Beach’s fiscal year begins in October.

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