BNSF plans $1.5B inland intermodal hub to ease port congestion

Dive Brief:

  • BNSF will invest more than $1.5 billion to build an intermodal complex in California’s High Desert, the railroad announced Saturday, saying the project will help ease congestion near the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
  • The Barstow International Gateway complex in Barstow, California, will sit on 4,500 acres and include a rail yard, an intermodal facility and warehouses for transloading freight.
  • The complex, about 130 miles from Long Beach, will ultimately help the railroad move containers faster out of ports, President and CEO Katie Farmer said in a release. It will also improve efficiency at existing intermodal hubs in the Midwest and Texas.

Dive Insight:

Inland port facilities have become an increasingly popular idea to reduce congestion on the West Coast. Instead of letting cargo crowd the docks, the goal is to move goods further inland where they can be processed and shipped to their final locations.

A private investment firm received the green light from local officials in August to move forward with a port facility located in the middle of the Mojave Desert, which it said would act as a “relief valve” for congestion in Los Angeles and Long Beach. The Port of Long Beach and the Utah Inland Port Authority also teamed up with Union Pacific to move freight via rail to Salt Lake City in a bid to reduce truck traffic.

BNSF said it would use the Alameda Corridor to transport freight from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to the Barstow facility, which the railroad is calling the Barstow International Gateway. Cargo would then be processed at the facility before heading to its final destination.

The hub will handle both westbound and eastbound freight. Processing westbound freight at the facility will allow BNSF to “more efficiently bring trains to the ports and other California terminals,” according to the release.

The executive directors of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach each expressed their support for the project.

“BNSF’s planned Barstow International Gateway will improve cargo velocity through our port and reduce truck traffic on our freeways,” Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said in a statement. “This project will help ensure that goods moving through the San Pedro Bay will get to consumers, businesses and manufacturers with speed and reliability.”

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