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Monday, Jul 22, 2024
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Railroad Companies to Repair, Resurrect East-West Desert Line

Pacific Imperial Railroad Inc. and Baja California Railroad Inc. have agreed to a multimillion-dollar deal to reconstruct the east-west rail link between San Diego and the Imperial Valley, a line that travels part of that distance through Mexico.

The Desert Line is currently out of service.

Business leaders see the line as a way for maquiladoras to ship their products and a way to cut down on pollution from vehicles idling at the international border.

Metropolitan Transit System, which has owned the Desert Line since 1979 and which leased it to Pacific Imperial Railroad in 2012, estimates the cost to repair the line will be $60 million to $70 million.

MTS directors, meeting June 9, OK’d the sublease and operating agreement between Pacific Imperial and Baja Rail. The transportation board also amended its lease and operating agreement between the agency, San Diego & Arizona Eastern Railway and Pacific Imperial, modifying payment terms and performance milestones.

Pacific Imperial and Baja Rail expect to begin construction in the summer, MTS said June 9.

The companies must repair 57 bridges, 17 tunnels and other portions of the track. Baja Rail, which is incorporated in the United States and Mexico, will oversee the repairs.

Baja Rail operates the line in Mexico.

The rail line culminates in Plaster City, where it connects with the Union Pacific Railroad and the North American railroad network.

MTS said that the repairs will accommodate 30-car trains between Mexico and the desert hamlet of Coyote Wells. From there, the rail operator plans to run 100-car trains to Plaster City. MTS said Pacific Imperial Railroad plans to build an intermodal facility in Coyote Wells.

With the east-west line out of service, rail freight must travel a route parallel to Interstate 5 to Orange or Los Angeles counties, where it connects with the national rail network.

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