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.



Todd LaCasse
Freight Rail Liasion

Rail related

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.

Freight Rail Resources

Rail Line Information

California’s Class I Railroads

California Short Line Railroads

Rail Associations

Other State Rail Plans and Studies

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Rail Plans