Union Pacific Railroad's double track effort through Arizona from Los Angeles to El Paso has made an appearance in Northwest Tucson, with two major road crossings closed for several days each while UP crews rebuilt them to accommodate the second set of railroad tracks.
Aaron Hunt, director of corporate relations and media for Union Pacific, said UP has been "working on the double track that runs from Marana to the Tucson area just south of West Prince Road in the northwest part of Tucson."
Hunt noted that the railroad crossing intersection at West Ina Road in Marana was shut down for three-and-a-half days two weeks ago so that UP crews could lay the second track across the intersection and rebuild the crossing of the existing track. The following weekend the same type of work was performed at the intersection of the UP railroad tracks and West Cortaro Farms Road in Marana.
By the end of the year, Hunt said that UP would perform similar double tracking at two other intersections in northwest Tucson. The first will be at Massingale Road, south of West Pima Farms Road and north of West Ina Road.
The second crossing to be reconstructed will be at Joiner Road, south of West Orange Grove Road and west of West River Road. Both the Massingale and Joiner crossings are located in the town of Marana.
Hunt pointed out, "We will continue to work on double tracking our railroad through the Tucson area over the next few years. He continued, "The schedule will depend on a number of factors, including the broader national economy."
Hunt said the rail corridor being rebuilt is known as the "Stormy" for its wild summer thunderstorms, but that historians have dubbed it the Sunset Route.
"It has become a vital link in the 32,000-mile Union Pacific system," he said. "Union Pacific is in the midst of an ongoing effort to add capacity to this critical 760-mile corridor between Los Angeles and El Paso."
Hunt added that 24 percent of all freight cars handled by Union Pacific originated or terminated in Southern California, making the Sunset Route a key corridor for North American railroads.
Marine containers stacked two high on "double-stack" trains dominate the route, Hunt noted, but construction materials such as lumber, plywood, steel and cement also are common cargo on the rail line.
"Gasoline additive ethanol is another important commodity, as well as automobiles and automobile parts moving through the Mexican gateways at Nogales, Ariz., and Calexico, Calif," Hunt added. "We are double tracking 41 miles of our Sunset Route in 2012, which will give us double track on 72 percent of the route."
The Sunset Route also is an important transcontinental route for the package express business, finished automobiles and grain, Hunt maintained. He said that less than one-quarter of the Sunset Route had a second double-track when Union Pacific acquired it in 1996 as part of the merger with Southern Pacific.
"By the close of 2012, Union Pacific will have built 547 miles of new main line double track through this corridor to handle the nation's growing freight traffic," Hunt said. "Union Pacific plans to invest $3.6 billion in its rail network during 2012."
Hunt noted that Union Pacific can move one ton of freight almost 500 miles on one gallon of diesel fuel. He added that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates freight trains are nearly four times more fuel efficient than trucks, and said that a single UP freight train can take the place of up to 300 trucks on the highways.