LAS CRUCES – Border boosters said Friday they are hopeful that Union Pacific Railroad’s construction of a $400 million railyard and fueling station in Santa Teresa could persuade Mexico’s federal government to approve a project connecting train tracks from Mexico’s interior to New Mexico.
“The development by Union Pacific is key to this whole zone,” said Manuel Lopez, a consultant working with Ciudad Juárez’s office of urban development during a presentation to a binational group meeting at the New Mexico Border Authority offices Friday.
For years, boosters of development in Santa Teresa and an adjacent area just south of the border known as San Jeronimo have pushed a proposal to reroute railroad lines, which now cut through Ciudad Juárez to El Paso, so they would go around the Mexican industrial city to connect with Santa Teresa. The plan would eliminate the threat of train accidents within Ciudad Juárez, and allow trains from Mexico’s interior to move more freely across the border, while also providing a boost to development in southern New Mexico.
The plan is attractive to Mexican businessman Eloy Vallina, who owns 47,000 acres of land in San Jeronimo, and Verde Realty, which owns nearly 20,000 acres of land and several industrial parks in Santa Teresa.
However, consultant Javier Ortiz said the Mexican administration views the railroad bypass as a long-term project perhaps eight to 10 years away.
On the Mexican side in San Jeronimo, the lone occupant is an assembly plant owned by Taiwanese electronics manufacturing giant Foxconn. Still, in a presentation to the binational group Friday, Vallina’s Corporacion Inmobiliaria touted San Jeronimo as the “most interesting city in the Americas” because of its strategic location and because a rail bypass around Ciudad Juárez would go through the area on the way to Santa Teresa.
Bill Mattiace, executive director of the New Mexico Border Authority, said his agency plans to shortly begin the process of hiring a consultant to conduct a feasibility study needed to obtain federal permission for a new border crossing for the rail line project. The Border Authority has nearly $1.8 million for the study, with $566,000 provided by the city of Sunland Park.
Meanwhile, the state Department of Transportation is building a new $9.9 million road to connect Union Pacific’s railyard to the Pete Domenici Highway that runs from the Santa Teresa port of entry to Interstate 10.
Sunland Park is also proceeding with plans to seek federal approval for a new port of entry between that border town and the west side of Ciudad Juárez. Robert Diaz de Leon, who is leading the project for Sunland Park, said the new crossing is a high priority of the Juarez municipal government.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal