Work under way on railroad, vehicle bridges connecting Presidio and Ojinaga

PRESDIO- The air of expectancy is rising as construction crews carry on in their task of rebuilding and reconstructing both railway and vehicle bridges along the Presidio–Ojinaga border.

In addition to the 90 miles of track rebuilt on the South Orient Rail Line, work is underway to restructure, what will be one of eight border rail crossings between the United States and Mexico and one of five between Texas and Mexico, which has remained closed after a portion of the International Rail Bridge south of the levee at Presidio burned to the ground in 2008. A second section of the International Rail Bridge north of the levee at Presidio suffered the same fate in 2009, and though the passage of time has not been kind to railway, the importance of the structure has never been dismissed.

The Presidio–Ojinaga International Rail Bridge (also known as the Presidio Rail Bridge or the Puente Ferro Carril Ojinaga) is an international bridge that crosses the Rio Grande (Rio Bravo) between the cities of Presidio, Texas and Ojinaga, Chihuahua, on the Unites States – Mexico Border and is owned by the Mexican government and the State of Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Railroad Division.

It had privately operated under a lease by Ferromex subsidiary Texas Pacifico Transporation. The operators of the state-owned rail line are providing the $9.2 million cost of construction for the new bridge. TXPF (Texas Pacifico Transporation, LTD) is successfully coordinating with the connecting railroad in Mexico, Ferromex along with government agencies in Mexico, to ensure that construction and repairs are being done in such a way on both sides in order to have complete connectivity between the two countries’ rail systems. TxDOT is not involved in the work being done on the Mexico side and does not have information on the scope of that work. However, it has been confirmed that work on the Mexico side has also begun and is successfully moving forward. Both countries have broken ground and are steadily and speedily moving forward with construction, the details and definitive completion dates, however, are unclear at this time.

The South Orient Railroad (SORR) is a TxDOT-owned rail line, roughly 391 miles in length. SORR extends from San Angelo Junction through San Angelo to Presidio. In 2001, TxDOT completed the purchase of SORR and leased operations to TXPF. Under the terms of the agreement TxDOT became the railroad’s permanent owner, and TXPF obtained a 40-year operating lease with renewal options. TXPF is responsible for the bridge’s reconstruction, and the short line is funding the cost of the project, which could be complete by September 2019.

“As one of the eight rail gateways between the United States and Mexico, this crossing is extremely important to the economy of Texas and the rest of the United States”, said Texas Transportation Commission Chairman J. Bruce Bugg Jr. in a press release.

TxDOT will also rehabilitate 72 miles of track and additional bridges in Presidio County. The additional work will improve safety and train operations in support of the international bridge reconstruction work. TxDOT officials confirmed the department received a $7 million federal FASTLANE grant to complete that work.

U.S Congressman Will Hurd, R-San Antonio, who represents more than 800 miles of border, more than any other member of Congress, expressed, “Cross-border trade is the lifeblood of many areas in my district. I’m proud to have worked with TxDOT to secure funding for the South Orient Rail Line, so that this vital corridor can remain a pillar of Texas trade, benefiting the border region, West Texas and our state’s economy.”

The Presidio Rail Bridge reconstruction is Presidio’s second major transportation project to move forward in recent months.

The $10 million Presidio-Ojinaga International Bridge construction project for the highway bridge started in early 2018 and is estimated to be complete in the summer of this year, 2019.

The Presidential Permit for construction allows for the building of a new two-lane second bridge structure to complement the existing two-lane bridge. The original bridge will also have its bridge deck replaced.

“This is a great development for the people of Texas and a great tool to help TxDOT advance projects at the border”, said TxDOT chairman Tryon Lewis to Mexico Now last year upon breaking ground, “Dollars dedicated to border projects mean increased trade.”