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Planning could lead to new international rail crossing

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — A large-scale study in the works could lead to the eventual relocation of railroad tracks in southern Dona Ana County and the establishment of a new international rail crossing west of the Santa Teresa Port of Entry.

Options are being considered in conjunction with a bigger-picture proposal to relocate the rail shipping yards of major railways from downtown El Paso, Texas, to Santa Teresa, The Las Cruces Sun-News reported (http://bit.ly/2htF5p4).

Among the ideas being examined by New Mexico through a contractor are the re-routing of the southern portion of BNSF Railway tracks, which generally run north and south throughout the county.

BNSF Railway spokesman Joe Sloan said the company is in talks with New Mexico officials about improving rail crossings and possibly re-routing tracks. “But we haven’t made any decisions,” he said.

Documents related to the study show at least three routes have been proposed.

Border economic development officials say a feasibility study also is being done by the Mexican state of Chihuahua because coordination would be needed on both sides of the border.

If the new international rail crossing is established west of the Santa Teresa Port of Entry, BNSF’s trains would somehow have to reach it, prompting the construction of a new track.

The first phase of the study has wrapped up, and the state of New Mexico has funding for the second phase, likely to get underway in the coming year, said Jerry Pacheco, president and chief executive of The Border Industrial Association, a Santa Teresa industry group.

A new international rail crossing could be a boon to already-burgeoning border trade in the area. “We think the more freight and commercial traffic you push to Santa Teresa, the more warehousing, manufacturing and industrial activity there will be,” Pacheco said.

Dona Ana County commissioners in November approved a long-range planning option for the county-owned airport in Santa Teresa that calls for an extension of its existing runway and the construction of a second runway.

Airport Manager William Provance said the proposed realignment of the BNSF railroad track wouldn’t interfere with airport operations or plans if it comes to fruition. However, a new international rail crossing could benefit the airport by attracting new business and demand for flights.

“We hope it has a positive impact on the airport itself,” he said.

In 2014, Union Pacific marked the grand opening of a $400 million rail intermodal facility in the Santa Teresa industrial area. While this led to some of that company’s operations being shifted out of El Paso, other functions still are carried out in El Paso.

County Commissioner Ben Rawson said a new rail crossing in Santa Teresa would be huge for continued economic growth in the area. He’s hoping for a briefing on the rail study soon.

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Information from: Las Cruces Sun-News, http://www.lcsun-news.com

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