BNSF's 2023 capex budget supports several major projects

The Class I has budgeted $2.85 billion in 2023 for infrastructure improvements that maintain the core network. Last year, the railroad allocated $2.71 billion for similar work. BNSF Railway Co.

By Jeff Stagl, Managing Editor 

On Jan. 19, BNSF Railway Co. announced its capital expenditure (capex) budget will total $3.96 billion in 2023, up considerably from the $3.55 billion budgeted in 2022. 

While $2.85 billion is set aside this year for maintaining the core network and related assets, the Class I also anticipates spending more than $700 million on capacity expansion and efficiency projects. The expansion projects are designed to support the growth of intermodal, automotive, and agricultural and industrial products business. 

BNSF’s announcement included a number of examples of those projects, such as beginning construction on a second bridge over the Missouri River at Sibley, Missouri, and completing more double track along the Southern Transcon route between southern California and Chicago; starting a multi-year terminal and fueling project near Belen, New Mexico; finishing a second main track expansion in Fort Worth, Texas; and beginning a multi-year project to add double track near Spokane, Washington. 

second mainline between Ellinor and Mulvane, Kansas By year’s end, crews will add a second mainline between Ellinor and Mulvane, Kansas. More than 50 miles of new track will be laid. BNSF Railway Co.

During a Jan. 6 presentation at the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association’s annual meeting in Boca Raton, Florida, BNSF Assistant Vice President of Engineering Services and Structures Craig Rasmussen provided details on several other major capex projects planned in 2023. 

In Kansas, the railroad expects to add a second mainline between Ellinor and Mulvane by 2023’s end. Crews last year completed second mainlines between Gladstone and Flint, and Matfield Green and Aikman, Kansas. 

The entire project in BNSF’s Emporia Subdivision — which began in 2019 — involves 50.7 miles of new track, 10.3 miles of siding upgrades, the installation of 30 turnouts and removal of 24 turnouts, and work on 105 structures, including 19 bridges. 

The work will increase capacity for intermodal traffic, and provide a shorter and faster route in Kansas, Rasmussen said. BNSF then can avoid a slower and longer route via Newton, he added. 

Also by year’s end, the Class I expects to complete a 30-mile third mainline track between Needles and Goff, California. The project also calls for installing 29 turnouts and building 49 new bridges. 

The additional 30.2 miles of track will increase capacity in the Needles Subdivision and prioritize faster trains that climb the hill westbound from Needles to move out of the Colorado River Valley, Rasmussen said. 

third mainline between Needles and Goff Another major trackwork project pegged for completion in 2023: a 30-mile third mainline between Needles and Goff, California. BNSF Railway Co.

Several intermodal facility (IMF) expansion projects are on BNSF’s docket in 2023, too. For example, a multiyear expansion of the railroad’s IMF in Cicero, Illinois, near Chicago will continue. 

In addition, a number of multiyear projects will continue at the IMF in San Bernardino, California, near L.A., such as the addition of production track and parking areas. 

Continuing work — of the permitting and design kind — also is the goal in 2023 for the Barstow International Gateway (BIG), a 4,300-acre master-planned rail facility in southern California. The $1.5 billion facility in Barstow will feature a rail yard, intermodal terminal and warehouses for transloading freight from international containers to domestic containers. 

BIG will be twice as large as any other facility in BNSF’s system and will include about 200 miles of track, Rasmussen said. A first-of-its kind integrated facility proposed by a Class I, BIG will create 20,000 direct and indirect jobs, improve supply-chain efficiency, and reduce port and freeway congestion around the major nearby ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach, he added. 

No firm construction start or completion timeframes have been determined. However, the railroad is targeting completion in either 2027 or 2028, said BNSF spokesperson Lena Kent in an email.

The Class I needs to complete the federal and state permitting processes, Rasmussen said. For now, preliminary design will continue on the project.