Monthly Archives: March 2007

Financing the South Orient Upgrades

In August 2005 the federal government passed a spending bill SAFETEA-LU for funding surface transportation as in railroad improvements. As mentioned in an earlier post, TxDot October ’05 report titled “Texas Rail System Plan” recognizes the rail funding available in SAFETEA-LU. The following is pasted indirectly from that report. The required criteria for funding consideration, matches the South Orient as if it were the poster child for what these funds were intended for. Where are we with filling the request for funding application, for consideration? I will dig into this issue and report back.

Sec. 9003 – Rail Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF). This program provides loans and loan guarantees for projects such as rail relocations, acquisition, development, improvement, or rehabilitation of intermodal and rail equipment or facilities, or projects that will enhance service and capacity in the national transportation system. Changes were made to the program which had been criticized for having too many obstacles to participation. Projects are prioritized based on the following criteria:

Texas Rail System Plan 6 – 3

The TRSP

Chapter Six – Funding

  • Included in state transportation plan(s)

  • Enhance safety

  • Enhance the environment

  • Enhance or preserve service to small communities or rural areas

  • Enhance service and capacity in the national transportation system

  • Promote economic development

  • Promote U.S. competitiveness

 

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Meeting, General

 Meet your State Reprensative From an email forwarded to me today. Thanks to John Wotowicz for getting the word out.

Dear Friends,

This Saturday (March 31st), Jim White is graciously hosting a public reception (complete with barbeque!) in Marfa for our newly elected U.S. Representative, Ciro Rodriguez. State Representative Pete Gallego will also be in attendance. The reception will be held at 5pm at the ballfield near the golf course and bull pens.

This event provides those who have not met Congressman Rodriguez and Representative Gallego a chance to do so. It also may provide a chance to hear their thoughts and to calmly and respectfully share our thoughts on La Entrada Al Pacifico.

Please pass this invitation on to your friends and please do not hesitate to contact me via email at john.wotowicz@gmail.com if you have any questions or need any additional information.

All the best,

John Wotowicz

Meetings, TxDot

As most of you are aware, the TxDot folks are conducting a series of meetings. There have been 4 meetings in the month of March. A meeting with Txdot and HDR Consulting Engineers was conducted in Presidio, March 12, Alpine, March 13, Midland, March 19, Ft. Stockton, March 20.

Bob Schwab of Marfa has requested meeting minutes of these hearings through the Open Records Act. It is troubling that it takes a legal document to obtain public information, but that is the case.

From what I have read in local papers and from what I witnessed at the well attended Alpine meeting of March 13, most of the people of the region are opposed to the trade corridor. So what is going here? We have a proposed corridor that we, the tax payers will pay for, which we do not want, or need and will have the double jeopardy of suffering subsequent environmental and economic impacts.

Based on the road construction/widening already underway on Hwy 90 and 67, it’s no surprise that the local people are skeptical about the public hearing process and it’s true intent. By the way these projects are called “Safety Projects“.Peggy Thurin, TxDOT engineer, emphatically stated at the start of the Alpine meeting “I swear on my mothers 80th birthday that this is not a done deal.”

The public money that has already been spent for the ongoing widening of Hwy 90, between Marfa and Alpine and the curve realignment on 67 could have been spent for furthering the South Orient Railroad line necessary upgrades. In this case I believe action speaks louder than words.

At these public hearings, a study questionaire was made available by TxDot.  For those of you that are interested in submitting to TxDot here is the txdot-questionnaire.pdf

Mail questionaire to:     Attention: Peggy Thurin, P.E.

La Entrada al Pacifico Corridor Study

Texas Department of Transportation

17111 Preston Road, Suit 200

Dallas, TX 75248-1232

Health Matters

It has been stated in 60 days the communities of Presidio, Marfa and Alpine will see Mexican trucks passing through under a 12 month pilot program annouced by President Bush in February 2007. Public Citizen, a non-profit highway safety advocacy group has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Adminstation (FMCA) in October 2006, and has still yet to receive the requested documents. This is not a good start.

On Thursday, March 22, 2007, a Senate panel voted to delay the plan by requiring the Bush Administration to publish details about the pilot program and to allow public comment. Thanks to Sens. Byron Dorgan, Dianne Feinstein and Patty Murray for sponsoring the amendment.

Another concern amoung many regarding the increased truck traffic, is the quality of our air. Studies by the New England Journal of Medicine describes the health impacts of breathing fine particulte air polution.

South Orient Railroad

The following is a part of the TxDot October 2005 report titled “Texas Rail System Plan

The state’s initial involvement in the preservation of rail lines came about as the result of an application to abandon the old Kansas City, Mexico & Orient line (otherwise known as the “South Orient” line) by the Atchinson, Topeka, and Santa Fe (ATSF). In 1989, the Commission provided a $3 million secured grant to the South Orient Rural Rail Transportation District towards the purchase from the ATSF. In return for the grant, TxDOT received the existing right-of-way for the rail line and a security interest in the installed rails and ties. The rail district entered into a lease and operating agreement with private investors, bringing about the formation of the South Orient Railroad Company (SORC). However, by 1998 SORC filed an abandonment application with the STB. In 1999, the Texas legislature appropriated $6 million towards the $9.5 million purchase price of the rail line from SORC. After almost two years of negotiations between all parties, TxDOT entered into a $3.5 million lease and operating agreement with Texas Pacifico Transportation (TXPF), securing the balance of the purchase price. At the same time TxDOT acquired all rights, titles, and interests in the rail line, thereby ensuring that ownership of the rail infrastructure and right-of-way would be preserved by the State.

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