July 3, 2022 - TRA Newswire -

The West Texas City of San Angelo is now in the rail park business and has high hopes for a bright future.

San Angelo joins a list of other cities outside of the largest urban cores of DFW, Austin, San Antonio and Houston intent on making their region an economic engine by developing rail-served facilities and attracting new business. 

In 2020 the city inked a deal to create the San Angelo Rail Port, which sits alongside the Texas Pacifico South Orient rail line at East 50th Street and FM 2105. The industrial rail center is operated by South Plains Lamesa Railroad, which has another rail park in the Texas high plains city of Slaton, Texas since 1993.

Once an out-of-service rail link over the Rio Grande River is operational, San Angelo and the Southwest Texas region could see a freight rail economic boom.

The Texas Department of Transportation is working with Texas Pacifico to reopen the international rail bridge across the Rio Grande at Presidio, Texas that was destroyed by fire in 2008. The bridge has been completely rebuilt and the next box to check off is a Customs and Border Patrol inspection facility to monitor freight rail cars crossing over the border. 

With the Mexico-Texas connection about to be restored in the near term, rail traffic should increase throughout Southwest Texas. The 391-mile long South Orient line from the border town of Presidio to San Angelo Junction near Brownwood is owned by the state of Texas and leased to Texas Pacifico. 

Guy Andrews, Director of the City of San Angelo Economic Development Corporation was quoted in 2020  "it could be a huge deal with the North American Free Trade Agreement. San Angelo is the largest city on that rail line, and so we're well positioned to accept that type of freight to ship goods and services to Mexico."

Recently, an 87 car Texas Pacifico train hauling 11,000 tons of aggregate material arrived at the San Angelo Rail Port for transloading. The shipment originated at the CSA Stubbs Quarry near Alpine. The aggregate will be used for road construction and using the train meant that hundreds of trucks did not have to beat down Texas roads hauling the material. 

The reopening of the international rail bridge for freight rail commerce between Mexico and Texas was helped with a $15.5 million dollar appropriation secured from the Texas House and Senate last year. Plans can now move forward to build a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) train inspection station at Presidio so international rail commerce can restart between Texas and Ojinaga Mexico.

The state appropriation, along with federal funding, will comprise the $33 million required for the inspection facility. The funding comes from $7.2 billion in the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund.

Texas Representative Eddie Morales spoke on the House Floor about the importance of the inspection station not just to Presidio, but for the rest of the state. Needs include an X-Ray Machine, as well as lighting, fencing, and other miscellaneous improvements to ensure that rail imports and exports can move through safely and efficiently.

The railroad bridge is one of only eight cross-border rail lines between the U.S. and Mexico. In Texas, it is one of only five crossings. All of the other crossings are fully operational and extremely busy. Texas Rail Advocates had been working with stakeholders since 2008 to push for reopening of the international rail bridge.

Photo credit: Peter LeCody