BNSF Building Rail Complex to Help Alleviate SoCal Port Congestion

A concept of the planned BNSF integrated rail complex. Image via BNSF.

BNSF Railway on Oct. 1 announced plans to invest more than $1.5 billion to construct a state-of-the-art master-planned rail facility in Southern California to help relieve congestion at the San Pedro Bay Port Complex. 

The project is, according to BNSF, the first of its kind to be developed by a Class 1 railroad and would create 20,000 direct and indirect jobs, as well as reduce port and freeway congestion around the Los Angeles and Long Beach seaports. 

“The significance of BNSF’s investment to improve the supply chain here in California cannot be overstated,” Trelynd Bradley, the Deputy Director of Sustainable Freight and Supply Chain Development with California’s Office of Business and Economic Development said. “Rail plays a critical role in moving goods safely and efficiently, while reducing emissions due to congestion in many of our high-traffic corridors.” 

The planned facility, which BNSF is calling the Barstow International Gateway, would be an about 4,500-acre new integrated rail facility on the west side of Barstow, California, consisting of a railyard, intermodal facility and warehouses for transloading freight from international containers to domestic containers. 

According to BNSF, the facility would allow the direct transfer of containers from ships at the LA and Long Beach ports to trains for transport through the Alameda Corridor onto the BNSF mainline up to the inland city of Barstow. 

Once the containers reached the rail facility, they’d be processed using clean-energy powered cargo-handling equipment and then staged and placed on trains moving east via BNSF’s rail network. Westbound freight would be similarly processed at the Barstow International Gateway, the railroad explained. 

“By allowing for more efficient transfer of cargo directly between ships and rail, the Barstow International Gateway will maximize rail and distribution efficiency regionally and across the U.S. supply chain and reduce truck traffic and freeway congestion in the Los Angeles Basin and the Inland Empire,” BNSF President and CEO Katie Farmer said. 

“This will play a critical role in improving fluidity throughout our rail network, moving containers off the ports quicker, and facilitating improved efficiency at our existing intermodal hubs, including those in the Midwest and Texas,” she continued. “The facility will also have an important positive economic impact, including the creation of new, local railroad jobs.” 

Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka commented that BNSF’s planned Barstow International Gateway would improve cargo velocity through our port and reduce truck traffic on area freeways. 

“This project will help ensure that goods moving through the San Pedro Bay will get to consumers, businesses and manufacturers with speed and reliability,” he said. 

Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero said that the POLB welcomes BNSF’s planned Barstow International Gateway. 

“This project will help improve supply chain fluidity, reduce environmental impacts and enhance the competitiveness of California and the nation’s largest port complex,” he remarked.