California Department of Transportation

Freight Rail


California is a key link in the national freight rail system. In 2011, California railroads operated over 6,863 miles of track and carried 6,539,700 carloads of freight with a weight totaling over 156.1 million tons.  Rail intermodal, the long-haul movement of shipping containers or truck trailers by rail, is the fastest-growing major segment of the United States freight railroad industry.  Intermodal allows railroads, ocean carriers, trucking companies, and intermodal customers to take advantage of the best attributes of different transportation modes to yield a highly efficient and cost-effective overall freight movement.  (Association of American Railroads, 2013)

Class I railroads – the designation for the major freight rail carriers – are represented in California by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) and the Union Pacific Railroad (UP).  These two railroads have extensive rail networks connecting California with the rest of the nation, particularly corridors to the Southwest, Midwest, and Northwest.  Including rights obtained by one railroad to operate its trains over another railroad's tracks (trackage rights), these two railroads operate over a total of 5,412 miles in the State.  In addition to these major carriers, local markets in California may be served by smaller rail freight networks known as “short line railroads,” which serve a particular market or which provide feeder service to the national freight rail network represented by the UP and the BNSF. For more information on freight rail basics, including a brief history of rail service, types of rail cars, rail issues, and links to additional resources, click here for the Office of System, Freight, and Rail Planning's Freight Rail Primer.


Freight Rail Resources

Federal Partner

California’s Class I Railroads

California Short Line Railroads

Rail Associations



Todd LaCasse
Freight Planning Branch
Office of Freight Planning
Division of Transportation Planning
(916) 654-7809


California State Rail Plan - Update

The 2013 California State Rail Plan (CSRP) is completed, and the final version is now available online:


California State Rail Plan, Fact Sheet,
and Studies

The Department is required, under Section 14036 of California Government Code, to prepare a ten-year State Rail Plan (Plan) which is updated biennially. More information is available at California State Rail Plan. The links below provide the existing State Rail Plan, a Freight Element fact sheet and two pertinent studies.


Other Freight Rail Resources


Other State Rail Plans and Studies

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