Rail expansion at Castle expected to reduce supply chain issues, Merced County leaders say
At a time of shipping bottlenecks and supply chain shortages, Merced County leaders say expanded rail service at Castle Commerce Center will put Merced County in an advantageous economic position. The Merced County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a deal with Patriot Rail, a short line and regional freight railroad operator, which will lease 6,500 feet of track and related property and pay $1.2 million to increase rail capacity fluidity of shippers in the Castle rail district, according to a county news release. “This agreement is the culmination of years of market analysis and strategic planning,” said Lloyd Pereira, Board of Supervisors chairman, in the release. “Coupled with the autonomous vehicle testing happening at Castle, this is an exciting time for Merced County. We’re on the front end of job creation and economic development.”
The lease is part of the creation of a new rail district, according to county officials, and the lease to Patriot Rail is expected to make Merced County an even more prominent hub for freight rail movement. The deal enhances the ability of agricultural producers, manufacturers, and other businesses in the San Joaquin Valley to ship and receive products via the Burlington-Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad mainline. The BNSF mainline runs adjacent to the rail district, which is located on the southeast corner of the Castle Commerce Center.
A rail spur connects Castle to the BNSF lines and Patriot Rail will build more infrastructure to expand rail service there, the release said. The 20-year lease between Patriot Rail and Merced County has the potential for continued renewals at the discretion of company and county officials, the press release went on to say, and Patriot Rail will maintain the track. “Patriot Rail is pleased to advance and help drive Merced County’s vision of economic growth,” said John E. Fenton, CEO of Patriot Rail. “We are committed to providing service and safety excellence as a premier rail solutions provider, and to partnering with Merced County customers to ensure exciting new competitive options for shipments by rail to build business and grow jobs.” The expansion of rail service at Castle has not gone unnoticed in other economic hubs across the state. Officials at some of the busiest ports in the country herald this development as an opportunity not just for Merced County, but industry partners across the shipping industry. “This agreement will help make Central California a focal point to accelerate goods movement across our state and nation,” said Gene Seroka, executive director at the Port of Los Angeles.