AUSTIN – The U.S. Department of Transportation announced that the Texas Department of Transportation has received a $7 million federal grant to help rebuild the Presidio-Ojinaga International Rail Bridge and 72 miles of track on the state-owned South Orient Rail Line that runs from the border to near Coleman, Texas. The railroad bed and rails are owned by the State of Texas and San Angelo-based Texas Pacifico operates the trains.
The rail line has experienced significant growth in traffic since the oil fields west of San Angelo began widespread fracking operations. Texas Pacifico’s train cars haul much of the sand needed for fracking.
The bridge at Presidio burned years ago and has remained blocked for cross-border traffic ever since. The old bridge sits within Congressman Will Hurd’s congressional district.
The location of the bridge to be rebuilt:
State Rep. Drew Darby’s district, where Texas Pacifico’s Texas operations are based, has constituents who will benefit from opportunities the Presidio crossing may bring for the railroad. Darby also is Chairman of the House Energy Resources Committee. “The Presidio bridge is a critical project to increase jobs and investment in the Permian Basin and Texas’ oil and gas industry,” said Darby.
"This funding announcement is welcome news for the many stakeholders who have worked tirelessly to re-establish this vital transportation infrastructure,” said Texas State Sen. Jose Rodriguez. “The Texas portion of the U.S.-Mexico border is a critical component of the flow of global trade. This grant will go a long way towards development of the Presidio-Ojinaga port-of-entry, which will promote economic activity and growth for the City of Presidio as well as the entire state."
"I applaud TxDOT for its efforts in this grant application process. These two projects will bring jobs to House District 74 and make necessary infrastructure improvements. I urge Congress to approve the grant for The South Orient Railroad Rehabilitation and Presidio International Rail Bridge Reconstruction," said Rep. Poncho Nevárez, whose district includes Presidio.
Texas Transportation Commission Chairman Tryon Lewis hailed the FASTLANE grant that was announced Thursday as a critical investment in the West Texas oil and gas industry.
“The South Orient Railroad has become an increasingly important freight line for the agriculture and oil and gas industries in West Texas. With the replacement of the rail bridge at Presidio, the improvements to the track, bridges and crossings will allow enhanced freight opportunities for communities in Texas and between Texas and Mexico, with greater efficiency and safety,” Chairman Lewis said.
Lewis thanked members of Congress, the Texas Legislature and the TxDOT staff involved in applying for and attaining the grant and especially the work of U.S. Congressman Will Hurd of San Antonio who was instrumental in obtaining the grant.
“Representative Hurd worked hard on our behalf to support our efforts to be awarded these monies from the USDOT. The improvements we make to the rail line and the reconstruction of the rail bridge will assure we can continue to support the industries in Texas that rely on deliveries provided by the South Orient Railroad,” Lewis said.
“Cross-border trade is the lifeblood of many communities in my district. These infrastructure improvements will create jobs, reduce arduous border wait times, and facilitate the flow of goods and services through the region,” said Rep. Hurd, whose district includes over 800 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border, more than any other member of Congress. “As one of five border crossings between Texas and Mexico, these repairs are vital to Texas’ economy.”
The South Orient Rail Line is a 391-mile line running from the Texas-Mexico border at Presidio through San Angelo to just south of Coleman. The grant will be part of a public and private partnership to replace the international bridge that was damaged by fire in 2008 and has remained closed since then, blocking one of only seven rail gateways between the United States and Mexico. In addition to the Presidio-Ojinaga bridge reconstruction, the awarded grant funding will help provide for track, bridge and drainage improvements on 72 miles of railroad from the border to Alpine, Texas. The line is owned by the state of Texas but maintained and operated by Texas Pacifico Transportation, Ltd. under a lease with TxDOT. The total reconstruction and rehabilitation project is estimated at $16.2 million.