Victorville logistics center still lacks rail connection
What do you call an inland port without a rail connection?
In the case of the City of Victorville and its Southern California Logistics Center, you call it business as usual.
The SCLC, a reuse project that envisioned the transformation of the 8,500-acre former George Air Force Base into one of the largest combined rail, ground and air transportation centers on the West Coast, has been under development by the city and Stirling Capital Investments for several years.
The public/private development includes planned construction of 65 million square feet of buildings, development of the 2,500-acre Southern California Logistics Airport facility, and creation of a 3,500-acre rail facility.
While development of warehouse facilities at SCLC have progressed — five buildings totaling more than 2 million square feet of industrial and distribution space are either completed or under construction — and the airport facility is moving forward, the ambitious plans for the rail facility have stalled.
The major limiting factor in rail development is that the SCLC is not actually connected to any mainline rail trackage, though about five miles east of the SCLC is a Burlington Northern-Union Pacific main line.
Using eminent domain, the city managed to gain title to the property needed to construct a spur from SCLC to the main line and had planned to start construction of a spur to the main line in July 2005, despite even the city's Stirling partners calling the start date 'optimistic.' Confronted with regulatory requirements, the city pushed the start of construction back to late 2005 then into 2006. The city eventually built a short connector bridge to the main line track, but little else was accomplished on what was estimated to be at the time a $200 million project.
In February 2007, city officials signed a memorandum of understanding with the BNSF Railway Co. to explore development of a rail facility at the SCLC, including completion of the rail spur. Plans called for an additional 20 million square feet of manufacturing and distribution structures within the proposed rail facility. However, the deal has languished and BNSF now says that any agreement is predicated on improvements in the economy.
“The timing of the project would really be determined on domestic intermodal freight volumes and when they rebound,” BNSF spokesperson Lean Kent told the Victorville Press.
Victorville Mayor Terry Caldwell also told the paper that current economic realities, including a slowdown in imports and a slackening of consumer spending, have pushed construction timelines further down the road. The project, once started, could take 12 and 18 months to complete.
In addition, the delays are slowly ratcheting up the cost of building the spur, with concrete and steel prices well above the levels when the development first began. Caldwell said the $200 million price tag could eventually be much higher. ' Keith Higginbotham