Union Pacific Railroad (UP) has announced plans to resume its double-track initiative on the Sunset Route in the southwestern United States this year. The railroad expects to complete 9 miles in Imperial County, Calif., and another 9 miles in Maricopa County, Ariz., by the end of the year. More work is planned for 2011.
Known as the "Stormy" for its wild summer thunderstorms, historians dubbed it the Sunset Route. It has become a vital link in the 32,000-mile Union Pacific system.
To respond to returning traffic volumes, Union Pacific is in the midst of an ongoing effort to add capacity to the 760-mile corridor between Los Angeles and El Paso. According to UP, 24% of all the freight cars it handles originate or terminate in Southern California, so the former Southern Pacific Sunset Route is a key component of the system. Traffic moving on the route features "double-stack" container trains, but construction materials such as lumber, plywood, steel, and cement, are also common cargoes. Automobiles and automobile parts move through the Mexican gateways at Nogales, Ariz., and Calexico, Calif., and gasoline additive ethanol also can be found in the traffic mix. Package express shipments, finished automobiles, and grain also travel the corridor.
Since acquiring the route in 1996 as part of the merger with the Southern Pacific, Union Pacific has built 292 miles of new main line double-track along the corridor.