Following three years of negotiations, an agreement has finally been reached to begin reconstruction of a rail line so that products made in Baja California’s Maquiladoras (twin-plant factories) can be shipped through this rail line into the United States.
Pacific Imperial Railroad (PIR) and Baja California Railroad (Baja Rail) will be in charge of the rehabilitation and operation of the old Desert Line, which runs 70 miles from Tijuana to Imperial County.
The line has been owned by the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) since 1979, and approved a lease agreement with PIR in 2002. In 2015, PIR and Baja California Railroad signed an MOU aimed at reaching a binational agreement regarding financial and operation issues.
Now that the plan has been approved by MTS’s Board of Directors, Baja California Railroad will begin the rehabilitation project this summer, with operations slated to begin 18 months from now.
“It is the culmination of many years of hard work,” stated MTS Vice Chair Ron Roberts. “We will now be able to see how this railroad will make a difference in the quality of life of so many residents on both sides of the border.”
Roberts, who is also a County Supervisor, shared that the project will also benefit our border environment by reducing emissions from the approximately 6,200 trucks per day currently idling while waiting to cross at land ports of entry.
The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) added that the Region loses an estimated $6 billion annually due to long delays in getting trucks across into the United States at land ports of entry.
The line will start out in Tijuana towards Tecate, Mexico and cross into the United States in Campo, continuing on to an intermodal station to be built in Plaster City.
The overall investment for the reconstruction and operation of the rail line is estimated at between $60 and $70 million, said MTS representatives.
The service will be available to the more than 1,500 maquiladoras operating in Baja California, including those in the automotive industry.
Fernando Beltran, President of Baja Rail, stressed that this kind of infrastructure is needed in order to become more attractive to foreign investment, and thus create more jobs and boost the region’s economy.
“This service will allow us to retain many investments, and will make us much more competitive,” indicated Beltran.
The project will greatly benefit the automobile manufacturing industry, shared Arturo Alemany, Executive Board Member for Pacific Imperial Railroad.
“This is a joint effort that will create a new cost-effective option for international businesses to ship products, such as automobiles, from Mexico to the eastern United States.”