The old rumor is that the giant lumbering AT-ATs in Star Wars were inspired by the cargo loaders at the Port of Oakland. We may never know if that's true, but now those cargo loaders are providing environmental inspiration.
A massive green retrofit is planned for the port, with new roads and better equipment. It's a sorely-needed renovation, since the port generates massive amounts of emissions from trucks and trains. In addition, construction debris and empty warehouses litter the entire area.
The upgrade will cost around $800 million, and it could change the face of West Coast shipping. That is, if it ever happens.
The port's history goes back decades. It was commissioned in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attacks, and quickly became a major shipping hub for the military. The Army pulled out in 1995, leaving the 400-acre site in disarray. Now that redevelopment plan could create 3,000 short-term jobs and as many as 12,000 long-term. Those jobs have been a point of contention, with locals demanding that they go to Bay Area residents. Developers are keen to send work out to the lowest bidder, no matter whether they're local or not.
The state pledged $250 million for the project, but in order to be eligible, work has to start by 2013. With time running out, everyone's scrambling to get the project under way.