Plan includes seven crossing closures, increases safety in Harlingen
Harlingen, Texas, June 07, 2010 – Officials from Union Pacific Railroad, the City of Harlingen and Cameron County today announced plans to reduce blocked crossings by streamlining railroad operations at the Union Pacific rail yard in downtown Harlingen.
Through a public-private partnership agreement, Union Pacific will transfer property to the City of Harlingen, including three rail lines used to sort railcars at the downtown yard. Trains sorted on these lines can occupy grade crossings and cause traffic congestion as crews separate, or switch, the railcars on the tracks.
Eight sorting tracks will be added to a rail yard located two miles from Olmito, allowing Union Pacific to transfer rail switching operations there. The $17 million project to replace the lost capacity in Harlingen will be funded by the City of Harlingen, Cameron County and the Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority. Union Pacific also will relinquish the downtown yard's repair facility and an additional three tracks at the former Southern Pacific rail yard. The City of Harlingen will also receive a 1.6 mile track segment that parallels the east side of Commerce Street, eliminating seven at-grade crossings. Closing the following crossings will make the area safer by eliminating driver exposure to railroad operations: Adams Street, North C Street, Washington Avenue, West Lela Street, West Ona Street, Orange Heights Drive and Markowsky Avenue.
"This solution eases traffic congestion and gives Union Pacific the opportunity to continue serving local businesses that depend on trains to send and receive their shipments," said Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell. "Having freight trains move through Harlingen efficiently will also help decrease the number of 18-wheelers on the road, which is a plus for local drivers."
The project will be divided into three phases and will begin with the construction of the replacement tracks at the Olmito rail yard, which is scheduled to begin June 14. A rail repair facility will be built at the Olmito yard to replace the current repair facility at the Harlingen yard during phase two. Phase one and two are expected to take nine months each. The final phase includes the construction of a new rail connection over Commerce Street, between Jefferson and Adams Avenue. Union Pacific will complete the project by removing the track structure and transferring the property once it can combine rail switching operations at the Olmito rail yard.
"The City of Harlingen is a critical link that connects Cameron County with the rest of the Rio Grande Valley and we are pleased to have an agreement that improves the transportation infrastructure in Cameron County," said Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos. "We look forward to completing this project, which will help keep the Valley moving."
Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority Chairman David Allex was also pleased with the level of cooperation and development amongst all the entities involved in the project. "This shows that working together, we can provide a more efficient transportation network utilizing our existing rail infrastructure and improving it for the benefit of our community for many years to come," he stated.
Union Pacific will limit its operations at the Harlingen yard. Crews will use three tracks to deliver trains to the Rio Valley Switching Company (RVSC), which operates trains from Harlingen to Hidalgo County. The RVSC will sort cars on eight tracks at the Harlingen yard and has committed to limit their trains from occupying Fairpark Street, which will be the only crossing that may be affected by its operations.
"Union Pacific is committed to working with our communities to address mobility concerns," said Joe Adams, Vice President of Public Affairs for Union Pacific's Southern Region. "It has been a privilege to work with our partners, the City of Harlingen and Cameron County, who were instrumental in finding a solution that preserves rail service and benefits the entire community."
Railroads helped build the City of Harlingen, which has experienced significant growth since the first tracks were laid in 1904. The agreement between the railroads and local officials improves traffic flow and maintains the environmental benefits of rail in Cameron County. A single Union Pacific double-stack train can take as many as 300 trucks off the highways and each ton-mile of freight moved by rail reduces greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 75%, compared to transportation by truck.
About Union Pacific
Union Pacific Corporation owns one of America's leading transportation companies. Its principal operating company, Union Pacific Railroad, links 23 states in the western two-thirds of the country. Union Pacific serves many of the fastest-growing U.S. population centers and provides Americans with a fuel-efficient, environmentally responsible and safe mode of freight transportation. Union Pacific's diversified business mix includes Agricultural Products, Automotive, Chemicals, Energy, Industrial Products and Intermodal. The railroad emphasizes excellent customer service and offers competitive routes from all major West Coast and Gulf Coast ports to eastern gateways. Union Pacific connects with Canada's rail systems and is the only railroad serving all six major gateways to Mexico, making it North America's premier rail franchise.