A joint railroad effort to create a coast-to-coast express delivery system for fresh fruit is getting underway this week. As air cargo and trucking networks shift resources to compensate for changes to the nation’s freight transportation network, shortline and regional railroad operator RailAmerica is leading an effort to create an express delivery system via the country’s railroads, primarily for fresh fruits and vegetables.

RailAmerica calls the service the “Washington Fruit Express” as it operates from the state of Wsashington. The joint effort involves railroads RailAmerica, Amtrak, Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway, plus the Washington State DOT, refrigerated rail car maker ExpressTrak and growers to transport fresh fruit in rail cars from Washington to East Coast markets.

RailAmerica, Washington state’s DOT, and Amtrak have worked on this project for five years, but have speeded up initiation of the service due to the events of last week. The “Washington Fruit Express” rushes Washington State apples, pears and cherries to east coast markets in refrigerated ExpressTrak rail cars attached to Amtrak passenger trains.

For the past 20 years, these products were trucked to market, RailAmerica said, and the service should relieve a shortage of long-haul trucks, save fuel, reduce pollution, and lowers highway maintenance costs.

RailAmerica said this new transcontinental service, which is comparable in speed and price to truck transport, is expected to take approximately five days.