US BNSF to build $1.5bn rail facility in southern California

Adam Yanelli


HOUSTON (ICIS)–BNSF Railway is investing $1.5bn to build a 4,500-acre rail complex in southern California that will allow the direct transfer of containers from ships at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to trains, the company announced this week.

The Barstow International Gateway will be a fully integrated rail facility on the west side of Barstow, California consisting of a rail yard, intermodal facility, and warehouses for transloading freight from international containers to domestic containers.

Barstow is about 130 miles northeast of Los Angeles, and BNSF has operated an existing railyard at the location for more than 140 years, the company said.

A company spokesperson said BNSF plans to begin construction by 2025, with a potential to open in 2027.

Once containers reach the Barstow International Gateway, they will be processed at the facility using clean-energy powered cargo-handling equipment, and then staged and built into trains moving east via BNSF’s network across the nation.

Westbound freight will similarly be processed at the facility to bring trains more efficiently to the ports and other California terminals.

BNSF said the new facility will help improve supply chains by allowing more efficient transfer of cargo between ships and rail while maximizing distribution efficiency regionally and across the railroad’s network.

Currently, most international cargo at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach arrives in 40-foot containers that are then trucked from the ports to warehouses in Los Angeles or further inland.

Once the containers arrive at the warehouses, they are unloaded, sorted, and re-loaded onto 53-foot domestic containers that are either transported by truck to a railyard in Los Angeles, where they are transferred onto trains, or are simply trucked across the country.

“This process creates inefficiencies and unnecessary truck trips within the Los Angeles Basin and Inland Empire (metropolitan area inland of and adjacent to coastal southern California) that can impact supply chain distribution, the environment, and communities surrounding ports and warehouses,” the company said.

“BNSF’s planned Barstow International Gateway will improve cargo velocity through our port and reduce truck traffic on our freeways,” Gene Seroka, Port of Los Angeles executive director, said.

The project does not require any physical modifications to facilities at the ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, BNSF said.

The railroad industry is vital for the chemicals industry, and inefficiencies have contributed to reduced production from the sector.

In 2021, freight railroads moved 2.2m carloads of plastics, fertilizers and other chemicals.

The highest-volume chemical carried by US railroads is ethanol.

More than half of all rail chemical carloads consist of various industrial chemicals, including soda ash, caustic soda, urea, sulphuric acid and anhydrous ammonia.

Plastic materials and synthetic resins account for close to a quarter of rail chemical carloads.

Most of the rest is agricultural chemicals.


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