At the Crossroads

Utah an Important Transportation Hub

Gaylen Webb

March 1, 2011

Union Pacific Railroad’s 240-acre, $90 million state-of-the-art intermodal facility on the west side of Salt Lake City is one of the largest on the Union Pacific system and an important rail nerve center. The facility processes 10 or more trains a day as they arrive from or depart to locations such as Long Beach, Denver and Chicago, as well as other Union Pacific trains that stop to pick up additional freight enroute to other destinations. Containerized goods are transferred from railcars to trucks or trucks to railcars around the clock.

Because the facility is the closest inland port to the major West Coast sea ports, shipping containers loaded with goods are constantly being transferred between ship and rail line, and then transferred to trucks at the intermodal facility for final delivery to their various U.S. destinations, thus making the intermodal facility an important nerve center for distribution in the Western United States.

John Hall, Union Pacific's manager of intermodal operations in Salt Lake City, says long-haul and day-haul trucks enter and exit the facility through a computerized automatic gate system (AGS) that utilizes biometric security to identify drivers. Physical inspections of containers have been replaced by automated cameras, which take pictures of all sides of each container for identification and damage control purposes.

"By using the AGS we have reduced the check-in and checkout time per truck from six or seven minutes to 45 seconds," he says. "It's really an efficient system."

Union Pacific intermodal trains pulling 100 cars or more leave the Salt Lake City facility for Denver five days a week; for Chicago and Long Beach six days a week; and in an expedited run to Chicago five days a week. Non-intermodal carload freight is also a major part of rail service through Utah, as lumber, chemicals, machinery and food products are transported through Utah for destinations across the nation.

The intermodal hub marries rail with the interstate highways in a way that makes both more efficient. Furthermore, the hub is a magnet for attracting companies that want to be close to a rail distribution center. “Because it is also located near Salt Lake City's Foreign Trade Zone, we expect the facility will continue to grow in its importance as a distribution nerve center,” Edwards says.

Rail access is often a critical component in the location or expansion of businesses in Utah. Approximately 17 business or industrial parks in the state offer rail access, from Tremonton in the north to Cedar City in the south.

Air Freight
The Salt Lake City International Airport is an important regional air cargo hub. Salt Lake International carries the distinction of being the most on-time airport in the nation. While aviation handles only a small fraction of all Utah freight, the airport puts shippers within hours of any point in the nation, Canada and Mexico and has direct flights to Europe and Asia.

Airport officials say 22 cargo carriers, including Airborne Express, Ameriflight, DHL, Emery, FedEx, and United Parcel Service, handle approximately 550 million pounds of air cargo and mail annually. Air cargo volumes at the airport have grown at an annual average rate of 9 percent over the past 10 years and the growth in cargo activity has necessitated the development of a new cargo area.

Additionally, more than 20 million people depart from or connect to more than 900 daily flights, making Utah a vital business connection to the world. What’s more, Salt Lake City International Airport is one the closest airports to its city center anywhere in the United States. Situated just 10 minutes west of the central business district, the airport provides quick, convenient access for shippers.

To be sure, Utah’s transportation infrastructure has helped it extend far beyond the “Crossroads of the West.” The state is truly an international gateway to global markets and will continue to be so as manufacturing and distribution operations grow along its numerous transportation corridors.

Broadband, High-Speed Infrastructure
Utah is home to a top-notch fiber communications infrastructure with more than 50 broadband providers offering state-of-the-art Internet and network connection services, both wired and wireless, at competitive prices.  

Utah was ranked No. 1 in for home broadband adoption out of all U.S. states by a study released in 2010 from the U.S. Department of Commerce. Not only are we known for our widely deployed urban and rural networks, but networks are also known for being extraordinarily fast. According to the National Broadband Map, released in 2011 by the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Utah ranks No. 2 in the United States (only behind New York) for the percentage of population served by broadband service with download speeds at or above 1 gigabit per second. Just to put that in perspective, with a 1Gbps broadband connection, users can download a 30-minute video in about 2.5 seconds, while it would take about 28 minutes to download using a lower-tier 768 kilobit per second connection. Now that’s ahead of the curve.


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