Efforts to assist and promote the transportation of goods across the West Texas plains continue with the announcement of a new rail port to be located in San Angelo.
The port is an effort to help industry in the Concho Valley by providing more efficient options for “delivering bulk freight imports and exports to the United States and Mexico,” a press statement from the city of San Angelo stated.
Local manufacturers and agricultural producers are looking forward to having a railroad option for shipping their commodities explained Guy Andrews, San Angelo’s economic development director, to The Texan.
Currently, agricultural producers and manufacturers in the Concho Valley have to rely on trucking to move their commodities to market. A railroad car can carry as much as four-and-a-half truckloads, thus reducing the cost of shipping by nearly 30 percent.
According to the Association of American Railroads, “If 25% of the truck traffic moving at least 750 miles went by rail instead, annual greenhouse gas emissions would fall by approximately 13.1 million tons.”
The rail line will complement the proposed Ports-to-Plains interstate highway by adding capacity as a major U.S.-Mexico freight rail arterial, Michael Looney, vice president of the San Angelo Chamber of Commerce, told The Texan.
The San Angelo rail port will be located along the 391-mile South Orient Rail Line, an historic rail line that has existed since the late 1800s and was designed to be the shortest route from Kansas City to Topolobampo, a town on the coast of Mexico.
Texas Department of Transportation acquired the South Orient Rail Line in 2001 and leases it to Texas Pacifico Transportation (TXPF), a short-line freight railroad operator.
The rail line currently ends at Presidio, in the Big Bend area of Texas, because the Presido-Ojinaga International Rail Bridge burned in 2009 and is being repaired by TXPF. The bridge is expected to open in the second quarter of 2021, Andrews said.
The opening of the bridge in Presidio will be significant in alleviating trade traffic expected to increase as a result of the USMCA. Currently, Laredo is the busiest inland port along the U.S.-Mexico border and only has one rail bridge. Presidio would offer a second option for trade traffic by rail.
The City of San Angelo spent $600,000 to acquire the 180 acre tract of land for the rail port. South Plains Lamesa Railroad (SPLRR) will be the builders and operators. They will earn the right to own the facility after six years if certain performance goals are met, the first of which is to open the facility to some business by the end of 2021.
SPLRR currently operates a similar rail port facility in Slaton, a town about 17 miles southeast of Lubbock.
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Kim Roberts is a reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.