Category Archives: Railroad Transportation

Related to transportation via rail.

Rail Corridor Make’s More Sense

Pete Symke of Alpine writes:

 

Why a rail corridor based on the South Orient right of way

makes more sense than the La Entrada Al Pacifico truck route.

 

            TXDOT’s statewide goals for transportation improvements include the following:

Reducing congestion; Enhancing safety; Expanding economic opportunity; Improving air quality; and Increasing the value of the transportation asset.

            A rail corridor based on the South Orient right of way would do all of these things, while the La Entrada Al Pacifico truck route meets none of these requirements.

 

            The La Entrada Al Pacifico trade corridor is an ethical sinkhole.

            Its authorizing legislation, HB 2115, literally suspended the Texas Constitution in order to keep the bill off of the floors of both the Texas House and Senate, effectively precluding any legislative debate.

            The corridor’s path was chosen by a handful of politically connected Midland, TX residents, the Midland Odessa Transportation Alliance (MOTRAN) without any formal public input.

            HB 2115 was sponsored by Midland representative Tom Craddick while his wife Nadine was serving on the board of MOTRAN.

            La Entrada Al Pacifico is the only one of 80 High Priority Federal Trade Corridors to include “any portion of a highway in a corridor on 2 miles of either side of the center line of the highway.”

 

            A rail corridor based on the current South Orient right of way from Presidio to Dallas would cross 5 established trade routes: the Union Pacific track in Alpine; I-10 in Ft. Stockton; the Ports-to-Plains corridor in San Angelo; the BNSF tracks at San Angelo Junction; and the I-35 corridor in Dallas. (Dallas and Ft. Worth are both developing multi-thousand acre rail-to-truck transfer sites for imported cargo.)

 

            Midland’s unemployment rate is the lowest in Texas. A corridor based on the South Orient will create railroad careers from Presidio to Dallas, as well as freight transfer jobs the length of the line, not to mention ancillary support businesses.

 

            A rail-based import corridor will be inherently more secure than a truck route. Rail shipments will be easier to track than thousands of separate trucks. Rail traffic is also much more highly regulated and inspected for both safety and security than truck traffic.

 

            As fuel costs rise, so do the prices of goods brought into the Big Bend by road. Bringing in goods by rail for local distribution will stabilize costs and create jobs regionally.

            Passenger rail service will also support the Big Bend’s tourism economy into the foreseeable future, no matter the cost of gas.

 

            A truck based trade corridor through the Big Bend will require extensive and ongoing road maintenance and will degrade visitors’ experiences in the area, eventually hurting the region’s economy and spoiling the region’s unique ecosystems.

 

            A rail transportation corridor is the most environmentally sound method of developing the Presidio/Ojinaga border crossing, creating jobs across West Texas, and respecting the unique ecosystems and small town culture of the Big Bend.

 

            A rail corridor would reduce particulate matter and light sources in the Big Bend, which would be  vital to the proper functioning of the McDonald Observatory, a world-class astronomical research institute in Ft. Davis, TX.

 

            State of the art rail corridors are recognized worldwide as the transportation means of the future.

 

Texas Department of Transportation La Entrada Al Pacifico Study Coordinator

Peggy Thurin, P.E. tpp_txdot-leap@dot.state.tx.us (Note underscore after “tpp”) or 1-800/517-4652

LEAP Feasibility Study Consulting Engineer

Brian Swindell, P.E. HDR Engineering, Inc. brian.swindell@hdrinc.com  

 

U.S. Senators

Kay Bailey Hutchison U. S. Senate; Washington, D.C. 20510 http://hutchison.senate.gov/contact.html

John Cornyn 512 Hart SOB; Washington, D.C. 20510 http://cornyn.senate.gov/public/

U.S. Representative Dist. 23

Ciro D. Rodriguez 2458 Rayburn House OB; Washington, D.C. 20515 http://www.rodriguez.house.gov/

Texas State Senate Dist. 19

Carlos Uresti 2530 SW Military Dr Ste103; San AntonioTX 78224 http://www.uresti.senate.state.tx.us/

Texas House of Reps. Dist. 74

Pete Gallego P.O. Box 777; Alpine, TX 79831 http://www.house.state.tx.us/members/dist74/gallego.htm

To find your own state and federal representatives’ contact info, enter your address at:

http://www.senate.state.tx.us/75r/senate/members.htm#FYI

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

 

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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