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Western Railroad Discussion > Tehachapi upgrade proposal


Date: 10/12/07 21:32
Tehachapi upgrade proposal
Author: MojaveBill

I'm editor of the Mojave Desert News and wrote this story a couple weeks ago. I've been a railfan for about 65 years and worked in FRA headquarters in Washington in the early 1980s and have lived in Mojave off-and-on since 1948.

BNSF plans $90 million Tehachapi Pass rail upgrade
BY BILL DEAVER
TEHACHAPI — Last week the DesertNews reported on efforts to upgrade Highway 58 through Tehachapi Pass reflecting its status as a major freight corridor — this week we report on a project to increase capacity on the busy rail line over the pass, which has become known as the “Tehachapi Trade Corridor.”
BNSF Railway plans to spend some $90 million to increase capacity on the line between Mojave and Bakersfield, an effort company officials say will help it meet expected increases in traffic volume while taking more trucks off Highway 58 and, at the same time, improving the environment.
“The Tehachapi Trade Corridor is a major trade corridor that moves rail freight along the I-5 corridor connecting California to national markets,” said BNSF spokesperson Lena Kent said last week.
Because it was built essentially by Chinese workers using crude tools and their bare hands in 1876, the historic line is also a bottleneck that frequently backs-up trains going east and west. The line rises from an elevation of 415 feet near Bakersfield (and 2,730 feet at Mojave) to 4,000 feet at Summit between Tehachapi and Monolith.
“The project we propose will increase goods movement throughput by 70 percent — an improvement that would provide substantial benefits to California,” Kent said.
BNSF accounts for 70 percent of the estimated 40 trains each day on the line, which is owned by the Union Pacific Railroad, Kent said. Much of that traffic is containers reflecting BNSF’s position os the largest carrier of containers in the nation because of its strategic route from California to the Eastern U.S. The railroad has trackage rights over Tehachapi and in 2006 moved 18 million tons of cargo over the pass. (UP has trackage rights on BNSF’s line from Mojave to Barstow).
Upgrade
When built, the line was double-track from Mojave to Tehachapi, and from Ilmon to Bakersfield. A storm washed-out two bridges between Ilmon and Bena in soon after the line was built and the double track was moved back to Bena at the foot of the mountains east of Bakersfield. That section of double track will be reopened by replacing the two bridges and using the existing grade for the second track.
Kent said the project, which will be funded half by BNSF and half by Caltrans using Proposition 82 funds, involves adding about seven miles of double track between Tehachapi and Bena, building a 900-foot siding at Cliff, and upgrading signals systems between Cameron and Tehachapi, and Sandcut to Kern Junction in East Bakersfield, where BNSF rails leave the UP line.
The signal systems would be upgraded from Automatic Block Signals to Centralized Traffic Control (CTC). CTC allows dispatchers to route trains against the flow of traffic and remotely throw track switches, improving traffic flows.
Tehachapi overpasses
In response to questions from Tehachapi officials during a recent briefing on the project, BNSF will consider constructing one or more grade separations (overpasses) in Tehachapi. That would significantly reduce train whistle noise and eliminate delays for motorists who must now wait for trains to cross at grade.
Tehachapi City Manager Jason Candle asked about the overpasses because of predictions of increased traffic on the line.
Project benefits
While completion of the project would not significantly increase train speed on the line, which averages 16.30 mph because of the many curves and ruling 2.2 percent grade, it will significantly increase capacity, Kent said.
“The line currently can handle a maximum of 50 6,000 foot long trains per day,” Kent said. “Completing this project would raise that to 65 8,000 foot-long trains per day.”
It would increase train speed 14 percent (to an average 18.55 mph), and reduce train delays by 52 percent, Kent said.
“We have done a tremendous amount of analysis on this project,” Kent said.
While freight trains on the line currently divert some 69 million miles of truck traffic, they are expected to divert 128 million miles in 2030.
That would double fuel savings, up to 60 million gallons in 2030 while slashing CO2 emissions by 685,000 tons annually.
(A single intermodal train can remove 280 trucks from the highway, and trains are times as energy efficient as trucks, railroad officials say.)
Completion of the project is estimated to save some $14.6 million each year from reduced highway congestion
Next steps
Kent said preliminary studies have been completed for the project. Next steps include full environmental reviews which will include public hearings and preliminary and final engineering studies, with construction beginning in 2012 or 2013.
She noted that BNSF has a track record (no pun intended) of working with Caltrans on several projects including a project under construction to expand capacity over Cajon Pass.
Kern Council of Governments Execuitive Director Ron Brummett, who has been briefed by BNSF on the project, said that “taking trucks off the road and improving air quality are generally positive benefits.”
#####



Date: 10/12/07 21:55
Re: Tehachapi upgrade proposal
Author: ProAmtrak

Grade Seperation in Tehachapi? Where the hell could they put that up and they only got 2 crossings going through that town in the 1ST place, and the CTC should've been put in to improve things way back when SP ran the place! Talk about cheap!



Date: 10/13/07 03:32
Re: Tehachapi upgrade proposal
Author: railstiesballast

Where is the UP on this?
Have they abdicated ownership to the BNSF now that they have seen their 60% traffic share slip to 30%?

It is a good article, and hopefully will generate some understanding in citizens of how important RR infrastructure is to the economy of the nation.



Date: 10/13/07 07:06
Re: Tehachapi upgrade proposal
Author: atsf121

Interesting news indeed. There was mention of the UP having rights from Mojave to Barstow over the BNSF. Was that done as part of the mergers, or has that always been that way? I'd never heard of it before.

Nathan



Date: 10/13/07 08:20
Re: Tehachapi upgrade proposal
Author: missedcall

UP has the coast route, BNSF does not. I hope this does not go through, as this would mean the complete closure of the UP coast route, and that would be a sad day.



Date: 10/13/07 09:21
Re: Tehachapi upgrade proposal
Author: TopCat

missedcall Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> UP has the coast route, BNSF does not. I hope
> this does not go through, as this would mean the
> complete closure of the UP coast route, and that
> would be a sad day.

I don't think the UP will ever close the Coast Line. It has high value if Tehachapi ever closes
due to an major earthquake, floods or major track work. It also is a high passenger railroad link
between L.A. and San Luis. Also there is still talk of a train from San Francisco to L.A.

I've heard some rumors of the UP upgrading some of the Coast line between San Luis and Salinas, which really needs some work.

Plus, I don't think UP will shoot themselves in the ***** like they did when they ripped out
the Modoc line. There have been several incidents when they could have used that line.

Should be interesting to see if it totally happens.

TopCat



Date: 10/13/07 09:45
Re: Tehachapi upgrade proposal
Author: jst3751

I was reading else that a the recent CalPac meeting which was attended by both UP and BNSF, when asked about passenger trains over Tehachapi, there was no "now way" answer given. Hum...



Date: 10/13/07 11:07
Re: Tehachapi upgrade proposal
Author: JohnSweetser

MojaveBill wrote:

> When built, the line was double-track from Mojave to Tehachapi, and from Ilmon to Bakersfield. A storm washed-out two bridges between Ilmon and Bena in soon after the line was built and the double track was moved back to Bena at the foot of the mountains east of Bakersfield. That section of double track will be reopened by replacing the two bridges and using the existing grade for the second track.


These segements of double track weren't put in when the line was built. The double track from Bakersfield to Sandcut (then called Sivert) was placed into operation in August 1922. The segement from Sandcut to Bena was completed in 1928. The segment from Tehachapi to Cameron was completed in September 1922 while the segment from Cameron to Mojave was completed in August 1923.

The scenario that double track was originally completed to Ilmon and then cut back to Bena due to bridge washouts is incorrect.

By the way, author John Signor was in error in his Tehachapi book when stated that double track was completed to Sandcut in December of 1923 and that double track from Cameron to Mojave was completed on June 30, 1924 (his date of Oct. 31, 1928 for the opening of the Sandcut to Bena double track may be wrong also; I need to check this).



Date: 10/13/07 12:29
Re: Tehachapi upgrade proposal
Author: ProAmtrak

jst3751 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I was reading else that a the recent CalPac
> meeting which was attended by both UP and BNSF,
> when asked about passenger trains over Tehachapi,
> there was no "now way" answer given. Hum...


That doesn't surprise me, jsut because they upgrade the line doesn't mean they'll say, "Come on Amtrak!" and think everything's gonna run smoothly. You still got the problems when a freight breaks down, derailment, etc. that ties up the line for hours on end!



Date: 10/13/07 12:38
Re: Tehachapi upgrade proposal
Author: TopcoatSmith

ProAmtrak Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Grade Seperation in Tehachapi? Where the hell
> could they put that up and they only got 2
> crossings going through that town in the 1ST
> place,

There are 3 crossings with the only alternative to get on the 58 and go up to Summit or down to the other end to get into town if those crossings are blocked - or you sit and wait.

I don't see a viable alternative to the crossing next to the station except closing it. It's too close to make it an underpass or overpass without destroying Old Town T. The next one east with a little work is doable as an underpass. The third is down at the east end of the airport and an overpass would be a ton of fun for the planes coming in (jump up from the bridge and grab their wheels as the try to land), also close to the main road along the tracks.


TCS - wait and see



Date: 10/13/07 13:56
Re: Tehachapi upgrade proposal
Author: JohnSweetser

atsf121 wrote:

>Interesting news indeed. There was mention of the UP having rights from Mojave to Barstow over the BNSF. Was that done as part of the mergers, or has that always been that way? I'd never heard of it before.


Yes, it was done as part of the mergers (I believe it was at the time of the UP-SP merger when the BNSF had to give trackage rights between Mojave and Barstow to the UP).

These trackage rights now allow the UP to route coal trains for Trona via Daggett, then the BSNF between Barstow and Mojave. Previously, the SP had to haul these Utah coal trains over Donner and then Tehachapi with multiple helpers (I think other UP trains also use the trackage rights but I'm not too knowledgeable about those).



Date: 10/13/07 15:44
Re: Tehachapi upgrade proposal
Author: mundo

John T, you better read again on the statement of UP and passenger service. UP said, it would no longer be a no, hell no, but for the State to go to Amtrak, Amtrak to UP to offer a proposal

This leaves the door open, but sure UP will want a lot more improvements for the state to pay for.



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