A Port In The Desert

By Bill Hume / For the Journal on Mon, Jun 27, 2011

SUNLAND PARK – Santa Teresa “will become a key inland port in the United States” when Union Pacific Railroad’s massive $500 million refueling and intermodal yard is completed there in five years, according to Zoe Richmond, UP’s director of public affairs for Arizona and New Mexico.

“Think of it as a chicken coop for trains,” Richmond said.

It will be a major refueling, crew change, switch yard and intermodal ramp for UP’s busy Sunset Corridor, from Los Angeles-Long Beach through to Chicago and across the nation.

Speaking to more than 700 people attending the 17th annual NAFTA Institute, Supplier Meet the Buyer trade conference earlier this month, Richm

ond and other UP officials outlined details of the five-year project.An intermodal ramp is characterized by the heavy gantry crane machinery necessary to move massive freight shipping containers from railroad cars to highway trailers and vice versa.

 

Construction alone will have a major impact on the economy of southern New Mexico. It will generate more than 3,000 jobs during the construction phase, and result in the payment of more than $23.5 million in state and local taxes, UP officials said.

When in full operation, projected for 2015, it will have a permanent workforce of about 600. The project also is expected to trigger significant retail, service and entertainment enterprises in the Santa Teresa area in the near term, to serve this influx of workers.

UP currently is moving about 40 trains a day on the Sunset Corridor, not yet back to the levels prior to the economic crash, “but getting close,” Richmond said. The goal is to support a capacity of 70 to 90 trains a day.

The railroad intends to use the Santa Teresa facility as a virtual extension of its Long Beach port facilities, with ocean freighters being unloaded in bulk onto trains bound for Santa Teresa.

The cargoes will be broken down in Santa Teresa for shipping to diverse destinations around the country. The objective is to try to reduce the bottleneck and congestion at the California ports, Richmond said.

The southern New Mexico operation will facilitate the movement of goods into the nation’s heartland – and, of course, to all points in New Mexico.

In addition, it will give New Mexico manufacturers and agricultural producers an efficient and direct connection for shipment all over the country and the world.

The El Paso/Ciudad Juarez, Mexico/Las Cruces area already is the seventh biggest manufacturing center in the world – and the UP facility will materially improve its global connections to raw materials, components and consumers.

“Make no mistake, we intend that Doña Ana County and the border area will lead jobs development in New Mexico,” said Economic Development Secretary-designate Jon Barela, at the NAFTA conference, predicting at least 800 new jobs in Doña Ana County within the next 12 months. “Infrastructure development along the border is a priority of mine, it’s a priority of the governor’s.”

Statistics on activity at the Santa Teresa border crossing demonstrate the growth potential. In 1997, fewer than 100,000 private vehicles crossed at Santa Teresa; in 2010, more than 500,000. Trucks totaled about 3,000 in 1993; in 2010, more than 80,000.

“It is the fastest, most modern port crossing in the district,” said Jerry Pacheco, primary organizer of the NAFTA conference and a Journal trade columnist. “It still has to be fully developed and its potential fully realized.”

Francisco “Pancho” Uranga, Foxconn corporate vice president of Latin American operations, reported that a free-trade zone for the Santa Teresa-San Jeronimo area would be in place by the third quarter of this year, making it the first land port on the U.S.-Mexico border to operate under this trade-enhancing model.

Foxconn, the Taiwan-based global electronics manufacturer, sends 45,000 computers across the border at Santa Teresa in several hundred trucks daily.

The NAFTA Institute conference is sponsored by Western New Mexico University, New Mexico State University and the University of New Mexico, in addition to a number of corporate sponsors, including UP, Verde Realty and others.

Pacheco said this year’s event attracted more than 700 registrants representing more than 300 different business enterprises.

“This is the largest international trade conference on the whole U.S. border,” Pacheco said.

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