Building Freight Train Service in the Four Corners

7/5/2022

San Juan County, the City of Farmington, and the Navajo Nation hope to bring a freight rail system to the Four Corners, and a $2 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation will pay for a feasibility study, now in its early stages. Donna K. Hewett. This story is sponsored by CMIT Solutions and Three Rivers Brewery

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After 40 years of anticipation, the reality of building a freight rail track to the Four Corners has recently become sharper in focus. Thanks to a $2 million grant from the US Department of Transportation, San Juan County was able to hire an international engineering firm to put a feasibility study in motion. You're watching the Local News Network brought to you by CMIT Solutions and Three Rivers Brewery. I'm Haley Upsell. San Juan County has partnered with the City of Farmington and the Navajo Nation to build a freight train line from the I 40 corridor to San Juan County.

Ultimately that study area was developed, and it, like I said, it's Farmington to Shiprock on the north side. Shiprock to Gallup on the, on the west side and then Gallup over to Thoreau, and then connect through, connecting the final dot from Thoreau up to Farmington. So that kind of creates that rectangular study area that we've tasked HDR Engineering with investigating.

According to Stark, Farmington is the largest metropolitan area in the country without a functioning freight rail line. The alternative, truck freighting, is not only extremely expensive, but contributes to pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. A major transportation infrastructure that carries goods in and out of the Four Corners would create new jobs and ultimately have a massive impact on the economy.

If you're able to load say agricultural products to load products that are developed at Raytheon, products that are developed in a company like Pesco, who's making mobile hydrogen generators, you open up essentially the world to these products because the transcontinental line runs over to LA and you would be able to hit the Los Angeles port and make available all of those international markets.

San Juan generating station, which provides coal-fired power is scheduled to be closed in September. Arizona Public service will shut down at the end of 2031.

We're looking to find ways to diversify our economy, both San Juan County, the Navajo Nation, and to maintain those good economic based jobs that have brought dollars in from outside of San Juan County and provided these great middle class jobs with benefits that ultimately end up in the hundred thousand dollars a year range. So that's our primary motivation is to maintain good paying jobs in San Juan county and help to diversify the economic opportunities here.

The feasibility study is in its early stages and will be fully developed in the next year or so. Funding estimates for the freight line itself runs in the millions, not billions of dollars and most likely will come from the federal government and or private investors. It's a long and winding railroad, but Stark says they've already achieved the most challenging measure.

We're extremely excited about the opportunities that this project presents. The partnership that we have with the Navajo Nation, it was a historic memorandum of understanding that was signed by President Nez and and then our chair, Jack Fortner, in February of 2020 that even allowed for this opportunity to move forward. Freight rail has been studied in this area for over 40 years, but this project has never, not advanced. This is the furthest it's advanced since that time because of the collaborative efforts of San Juan County, the Navajo Nation, as well as the city of Farmington.

Thanks for watching this edition of the Local News Network. I'm Haley Upsell.

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