Los Angeles area officials are weighing a controversial proposal for a $500 million rail yard to accommodate shipping in the city’s busy port. Public comment ends next week and the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners is expected to decide on the project in early 2013, but the seven-year battle over the proposal could be far from over, according to the Long Beach Business Journal.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe’s (BNSF) proposed Southern California International Gateway (SCIG), near Long Beach, would allow trucks to load cargo containers onto trains for distribution. The proposed new railyard is closer to the port than BNSF’s current facility about 24 miles away.

BNSF says the closer site would eliminate 1.5 million truck trips annually on the Long Beach Freeway, often dubbed the “diesel corridor.” The company says that would improve air quality and reduce traffic congestion on the highway.

Neighborhood residents and environmentalists oppose the plan. They say the SCIG rail yard would concentrate air pollution in surrounding neighborhoods, which include several schools, a daycare center and low-income housing for seniors.

BNSF says the rail yard would boost the local economy, creating 1,500 jobs annually during a three-year build-out phase. Both the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and the local building trades union support the proposal.

Environmentalists say the rail yard should be built on port property and not within residential areas. They vow to continue fighting. “If the project that’s approved is the project that’s described [now],” a lawyer for one environmental group told the newspaper, “a lawsuit is extremely likely.”