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June 1 Increase in Long Trains Through South Richmond

Thanks to Juan M. Acosta of BNSF, I have been alerted to an action of the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) that, if left unchecked, will result in a substantial increase in long train traffic through south Richmond.

Acosta provided the following information:

Several years ago BNSF was able to negotiate trackage rights over the Union Pacific's Martinez Sub which essentially removed several long intermodal trains otherwise moving through the middle of Richmond. A new decision from the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) threatens to undermine that agreement and may result in putting long trains back through Richmond or even more trucks on the region's freeways

Attached is the petition (click here) we filed last week with the STB seeking clarification of their recent ruling concerning our trackage rights over the Martinez Sub. In essence, the STB simply ruled that:

1. the original SP-UP merger conditions did not include provision for BNSF intermodal trains to move over the Martinez Sub if the trains were then to move south on our mainline -- this is precisely the traffic we used to run through Richmond.

2. the STB had not previously approved the revisions to the trackage rights agreement between UP and BNSF which specifically gave BNSF the trackage rights described above in point one;

3. thus, BNSF has no explicit authority from the STB to run such trains at this time.
The STB ruling is effective June 1, 2008.  Beginning June 1, BNSF will be forced to run 1-to-2 trains each day on the BNSF tracks until we are able to resolve this matter.

Our request to the STB boils down to simply asking the Board to allow this matter to proceed to arbitration and the opportunity to return to the STB for formal approval of BNSF trackage rights. 

If you are interested in communicating with the STB, I have provided the appropriate address, along with other information concerning the matter before the Board. 

In the meanwhile, please know we are reviewing various options for infrastructure which would allow BNSF to get on-off the UP's Martinez Sub in a manner that minimizes impact to UP operations, the City of Richmond and the Capital Corridors passenger service.

Please call me at 916-996-3569 with any questions of comments.

Juan Acosta
Government Affairs Director
BNSF Railway
1127 11th Street, Suite 242
Sacramento CA 95814
916-448-4086 (tel)
916-448-8937 (fax)

Immediate Action Request

Stakeholder Concerns with BNSF Intermodal service to/from the Port of Oakland

STB Finance Docket No. 32760


On May 21, 2008, BNSF submitted a Request for Expedited Action to the Surface Transportation Board (STB Finance Docket No. 32760) for clarification of the STB’s May 1, 2008 decision (Decision No. 103) which eliminates BNSF’s ability to run transcontinental OIG intermodal trains via trackage rights on the Union Pacific Railroad via Stockton, CA - Elvas, CA (Sacramento) - Stege, CA starting June 1, 2008. BNSF requested that the STB clarify that it did not intend to foreclose BNSF from seeking authorization from the STB for expanded trackage rights under the Restated and Amended BNSF Settlement Agreement in the event BNSF's position that it contractually has such rights is confirmed in arbitration.

The STB’s May 1 decision will force BNSF to route lengthy double stack trains through the City of Richmond, and onto UP’s Martinez Sub through a connector at Stege, CA. This route through Richmond features multiple grade crossings, significant development near the railroad right of way, slow track speeds, and a lengthy process to enter / exit the Martinez Sub at Stege. While overall traffic volumes have temporarily declined with the downturn in the US economy, in the future the situation could lead to significant community disruptions as well as numerous delays to freight and passenger trains operating to and from Oakland as BNSF’s slower intermodal trains are forced to enter and exit at the Stege connector.


More vehicular delays at grade crossings within the City of Richmond along the affected railroad routes
Reduced dual railroad access to and from the Port of Oakland and Bay Area Region due to BNSF capacity constraints within the City of Richmond

Limits to the future trade growth through the Port of Oakland due to constrained BNSF access and reduced inland transportation options

More cargo movements via truck on an already congested highway network, leading to more traffic delays and higher emissions in the region and state

More rail delays on the Martinez Sub near Oakland affecting both freight and passenger service

Immediate Action Request
BNSF encourages stakeholders affected by this ruling to immediately address their concerns in writing preferably no later than May 30, 2008 to the following point of contact:

Surface Transportation Board
395 E Street, SW
Washington, DC 20423-0001
RE: Finance Docket No. 32760

On April 13, 2004, Resolution 62-04 of the City Council directed the city manager and city attorney to initiate an application for a Quiet Zone throughout the City of Richmond and to file a Petition for Declaratory Order with the Surface Transportation Board requesting that the Board compel UP and BNSF to share tracks in a way that will eliminate the passage of long, through trains through south Richmond. The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors passed Resolution 2003-196 that is similar.

Although the Quiet Zone initiative has gone forward and been successful in creating several Quiet Zones, the city manager and city attorney did not follow through on the Surface Transportation Board item. It appears that BNSF did some of the work themselves and were initially successful but have now been thwarted.

Under the public policy direction provided by Resolution 62-04, I have requested that the city manager and city attorney contact Mr. Acosta and find out what the City of Richmond can do to help avoid more long trains running through south Richmond and work with BNSF to reverse the decision of the STB.