State, County Officials Break Ground On West Texas Rail Construction

An old West Texas rail line is one step closer to re-opening.

This week, county and state officials broke ground in Presidio on a $35-million project to reconstruct the South Orient Rail Line.

The 391-mile rail stretches from Mexico up to the Permian Basin. For years, sections of the line have been abandoned. And in 2008 a fire burned the rail bridge that connected Presidio to its sister city, Ojinaga.

The far West Texas rail is leased to Texas Pacifico Transporation, which is funding the reconstruction of the Presidio-Ojinaga rail bridge.

Bruce Bugg, Jr. is the chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission. He says, once the rail is re-built, it will help serve the booming oil and gas industry in the Permian Basin.

“What we’re now doing is we’re trying to support the Permian drilling operations by bringing fracking sand from Mexico across the border here in Presidio and going up and into the Permian,” says Bugg.

The project is being funded, in part, through a U.S. Department of Transportation fund. The $7 million FastLane grant was awarded in 2017 through efforts by Congressman Will Hurd, whose district includes stretches of far West Texas.

The grant will go towards reconstructing 72 miles of track and bridges in Presidio County.

“Cross-border trade is the lifeblood of many communities in my district, including Presidio,” said Rep. Hurd in a press release. “Restoring this crucial freight connection will create jobs, reduce arduous border wait times, and facilitate the flow of goods and services through the region.”

The South Orient Rail Line is one of five rails that run from the U.S. into Mexico.

Monday’s groundbreaking in Presidio marks the beginning of renovations to the rail line. Officials expect to finish construction by September 2019.

About Carlos Morales

Carlos Morales is Marfa Public Radio's News Director, Border and Immigration Reporter, and Morning Edition Host.
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