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BNSF plans $1.5B Southern California facility for intermodal, transloading

Western railroad says Barstow International Gateway will be the first of its kind developed by a Class I railroad

A BNSF train. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

BNSF plans to spend more than $1.5 billion on a new multiuse rail facility in Southern California to facilitate inland container moves from the West Coast ports.

The Barstow International Gateway facility, which BNSF (NYSE: BRK.B) says will be the first of its kind developed by a Class I railroad, will sit on approximately 4,500 acres and consist of a rail yard, an intermodal facility and warehousing enabling transloading from international containers to domestic containers.

BNSF will pick up cargo from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and then use the Alameda Corridor and the BNSF main line to head to Barstow. Once there, BNSF clean energy powered cargo-handling equipment will help BNSF build inbound trains. The facility will process westbound freight similarly, BNSF said.

The gateway will maximize rail and distribution efficiency regionally while reducing truck traffic and freeway congestion in the Los Angeles Basin and the Inland Empire, BNSF President and CEO Katie Farmer said in a news release. 

The Barstow International Gateway “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,” Farmer said. 

The port directors at LA and Long Beach said the new BNSF facility would improve cargo velocity and improve supply chain fluidity. 


“The Port of Long Beach welcomes BNSF’s planned Barstow International Gateway in the high desert. This project will help improve supply chain fluidity, reduce environmental impacts and enhance the competitiveness of California and the nation’s largest port complex,” said Mario Cordero, the Port of Long Beach’s executive director.

The development of BNSF’s facility comes as both BNSF and competitor Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP) have struggled at times during the COVID-19 pandemic to move cargo more efficiently in and out of the Southern California ports. 

While the lack of drayage and adequate warehousing capacity also played significant roles in inhibiting rail cargo fluidity during the pandemic, facilitating more efficient moves in and out of LA and Long Beach has been an issue that both railroads have been attempting to address for years. Opportunities to build out rail-served port infrastructure has also been limited because of the region’s physical constraints. 

Other recent efforts by the railroads and the ports to tackle congestion in the region include the Port of Long Beach’s plans to build an on-dock rail facility that will facilitate the assembly of longer trains. 

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Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.