Intermodal shipping: Union Pacific formally rolls out Joliet, Illinois Intermodal Terminal

Class I railroad carrier Union Pacific this week officially opened its 785-acre, nearly $370 million Joliet, Illinois Intermodal Terminal. Construction on the $370 million terminal began in August 2008, with phase one completed this past August. It is located five miles south of I-80 and seven miles east of I-55.

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Class I railroad carrier Union Pacific this week officially opened its 785-acre, nearly $370 million Joliet, Illinois Intermodal Terminal.

In early August trains began rolling in and out of the new terminal, with the first train into the terminal a train moving flat cars from its Rochelle, Illinois-based intermodal terminal, which arrived on Thursday, July 29 ahead of the facility’s opening on Sunday, August 1. And they said that the first revenue train to depart Joliet Intermodal Terminal left on Tuesday, August 3, en route to Long Beach, California, with the first revenue train arriving on the same day from Long Beach.

“Our $370 million private investment for this intermodal terminal will greatly enhance our ability to serve customers and the community,” said Jim Young, Union Pacific chairman and CEO, in a statement. “The advanced computers and technology used here coordinate all movements in the terminal, improving productivity and performance while reducing emissions.”

Construction on the $370 million terminal began in August 2008, with phase one completed this past August. It is located five miles south of I-80 and seven miles east of I-55.

The Joliet terminal, according to UP, is designed to handle an annual capacity of 500,000 over-the-road trailers or ocean-going containers, and they added that this capacity allows UP to continue to pursue opportunities in the growing rail-truck market. What’s more, UP pointed out that the new facility “has additional space for future expansion based on customer demand and capacity needs.”

UP officials said that this terminal is the carrier’s second largest intermodal terminal based on capacity behind the Intermodal Container and Trailer Facility in Long Beach, which has an annual capacity of 700,000 trailers or containers.

Union Pacific spokesperson Mark Davis said in a previous interview that the need for the Joliet Intermodal Terminal was not only to provide capacity for intermodal shipments in the Chicago area today but also well into the future.

“Chicago has been the largest rail hub in the country over the years, and we continue to see an increase in traffic flow through that gateway, especially connecting east-west railroads, as well as the growth of intermodal traffic in Chicago and the tri-state area [Wisconsin, Indiana, and Illinois],” said Davis. “The Joliet facility helps add the needed capacity and intermodal space for the Chicago area along with the tri-state area and it more importantly helps in the efficient distribution and use of our facilities regarding specific trains and their destinations going to all of our facilities in the Chicago area.”

This added focus helps with the logistics management for not only Union Pacific customers but also the use of those facilities and creates a better productive area in general for intermodal shipments for Union Pacific, said Davis.

Union Pacific has five other intermodal terminals in the Chicago area: Rochelle, Illinois, Global I, Global II, and Global III and Yard Center. When the Joliet facility is fully up and running, the company plans to a terminal on Canal Street, which is a small, antiquated facility near downtown Chicago.

Davis said the Joliet facility will primarily handle international traffic to and from southern and northern California, the Pacific Northwest, El Paso, Texas, and Tucson, Arizona.

The Global I facility handles domestic traffic coming from southern California. Global II handles domestic and some international traffic and its receiving destinations include northern California and the Pacific Northwest, as well Denver, Las Vegas, Reno, and Salt Lake City. Global III handles domestic and international traffic in southern and northern California and the Pacific Northwest, and Yard Center handles domestic and international traffic in Dallas, Houston, Laredo, Mexico, and San Antonio. These complexes cumulatively serve Union Pacific in the Chicago shipping area.

“This facility’s design is designed to be able to handle the increased traffic growth from international shipments going to Chicago and back to the west coast, as well as connecting to eastern [Class I and short line] railroads in some cases and make up trains going further east, depending on customer and final destination,” said Davis.

When he was asked how many customers and how many intermodal facilities the Joliet facility will have, Davis declined to provide a specific number, because the facility is going through a “soft” ramp-up. He did disclose that over the course of the last several days of operation, there has been a doubling of steady growth, going from 20 inbound containers on its first day to a current level of roughly 200 inbound containers. This growth represents how shippers are seeing an advantage for moving intermodal freight into and out of the Chicago are and are starting to use the facility.

Shipper feedback for this facility is welcome, as many expressed an interest and need for increased capacity in the Chicago area when Union Pacific broke ground last August, said Davis.

“This facility delivers what they are looking for,” he said. “It covers capacity, has room for growth, and uses the most modern gate entrance capacity to speed that process up, but it also is able to support goods movement through the area today, as well as into the future.”

Features of the Joliet Intermodal Terminal include:
-four 8,000-foot tracks with capacity to handle the loading or unloading of 107 intermodal “double-stack” rail cars;
-six 8,000-foot tracks to give train crews the ability to sort rail cars by destination.
-an additional six tracks to stage rail cars prior to unloading or loading;
-four cranes that straddle the rail cars and two rubber-tired mobile “packers” that lift trailers and containers on and off rail cars. The cranes are equipped with Global Positioning System (GPS) technology, increasing loading and unloading efficiencies;
-more than 3,400 “staging” or parking places for trailers and containers;
-an advanced Yard System that coordinates all movement of rail cars, trucks, trailers and containers at the facility;
-AGS Gate technology that decreases truck processing time from five minutes to between 30 to 90 seconds; and
-a state-of-the-art security system.

This terminal was built in conjunction with CenterPoint Intermodal Center-Joliet, a 3,900-acre state of the art integrated logistics center, which is owned by CenterPoint Properties, a developer, owner, and manager of industrial real estate and related rail, road, and port infrastructure. The Joliet Intermodal Center resides on Centerpoint property.

About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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