Union Pacific Increases Intermodal Frequency between Chicago and West Coast

Union Pacific Railroad
Photo Courtesy Union Pacific via Wikimedia Commons

If it seems like there have been more freight trains causing traffic tie ups in the Chicago area, that’s because there are.

Union Pacific recently increased the frequency of its two main intermodal services — Portland, Oregon, to Chicago and Northern California to Chicago — by offering four-day delivery each morning. The move comes in response for an increased demand for a more affordable options for shipping goods from the West Coast to Chicago, according to a company news release.

Effects Felt System Wide

A company spokesperson said the increase of service on its premium lines means more capacity on its standard intermodal services as well.

“The levels of prior and current service enhancements vary, but combined the impact of the enhanced services is 11 additional weekly train starts and added premium service to further support customer needs,” the spokesperson told Logistics Management. “Because Union Pacific is offering more premium service (highest level) in these lanes, more capacity is then available on its standard intermodal train service.”

The railroad’s Portland-to-Chicago service, known as Portland Premium, currently operates six days per week westbound and five days per week eastbound. The Northern California-to-Chicago service, known as NorCal, connect Chicago with the UP’s intermodal ramps in Oaklamkd and Lathrop. It operates between five and seven days per week, depending on direction and specific origin/destination points.

Intermodal customers who use these premium service lands can access to EMP and UMAX equipment, the largest rail-owned container fleet in North America, with wholesale door-to-door transportation options that are available through the Union Pacific’s Streamline subsidiary.

Enormous Chicago Area Intermodal Facility

The railroad owns hundreds of train yards throughout its rail network. One of its largest and busiest is the Global III Intermodal Facility, located in Rochelle, Illinois, just outside Chicago. The yard is a critical interchange hub and loading/unloading terminal for intermodal shipments moving through the Chicago metropolitan area.

Intermodal allows the same cargo container to be used from point of manufacture to end user without it having to be broken down or repackaged. The cargo container can be stacked onto a shipping barge, fitted onto train wheels so it can be linked to a freight train, or onto a frame that is hauled by a tractor trailer truck. Generally, moving freight by rail is less expensive than trucking but not as cheap as using maritime highways.

Other Recent Improvements

The expanded service comes in the wake of the railroad’s opening a new $400 million intermodal rail yard in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, last April.

At the time, company officials said the 2,200 acre train yard will connect businesses to strategic markets in the Southwestern US and beyond. It also provides logistics gains along the Union Pacific’s Sunset Line, which runs 760 miles from El Paso to Los Angeles and services the busy freight hubs in Calexico, Mexico, as well as Yuma, Phoenix and Tucson, in Arizona.

The railroad is seeking to increase its throughput along its Southwestern route and improve its projection capability to points North, East and West.