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South County hub for train-truck shipping
Containers are loaded onto rail cars at Union Pacifics intermodal facility on Lathrop. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Get ready for longer trains and a surge in truck traffic.

Union Pacific is expected to move toward breaking ground this year on the expansion of their Lathrop intermodal facility for transferring containers from trucks to rail flat cars and vice versa.

And when it is done, the regional capacity for intermodal movements will soar to 1.03 million units a year between the UP complex and the Santa Fe intermodal facility north off Manteca between Austin Road and Jack Tone Road. That is the equivalent of 3,561 truck movements a day.

The UP facility on Roth Road that abuts the City of Manteca city limits and the railroad tracks currently can handle up to 270,000 lifts or containers a year. At build-out that number will reach 730,000 lifts.

The 2001 expansion of the Santa Fe facility increased that railroad’s intermodal capacity in San Joaquin County from 120,000 to 300,000 units annually.

The expansion of the UP intermodal facility in Lathrop is expected to double the current workforce of 67 railroad workers to 137. Center Point is developing a 4 million square foot business park tailor made for distribution firms that rely heavily on intermodal transport directly across from the UP facility and within Manteca’s city limits. Center Point’s future tenants are expected to provide 600 permanent jobs.

That, however, is expected to be just the tip of the iceberg. The UP move will increase the demand for truck transportation in the area plus make the immediate community - Manteca and Lathrop particularly - even more attractive to firms that are starting to do more and more cross-country shipping by rail due to the short trip for trips to the intermodal facility.

The average daily truck trips would go from 954 today to 2,186 at complete build-out. It would mean the average number of trucks per hour leaving or departing the intermodal facility would go from 39.75 every hour to 91. Weekend traffic is 5 to 10 percent of work day traffic

Monday would be the heaviest day for truck movement at build-out with 2,585 trips compared to 1,056 in early 2011.

UP spokesmen have pointed out that the facility expansion ultimately will reduce truck traffic on major freeways as one freight train moving trailer containers does the work of 280 long-distance trucks.