South County Economic Development Council (SCEDC) board members voted to support the reactivation of the San Diego Arizona Eastern Railway at its May Board of Directors meeting. SCEDC support of the Desert Line followed a presentation by Karen Landers, General Counsel for San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS), owner of the right of way, and Donald Stoecklein, CEO of Pacific Imperial Railroad, Inc. (PIR), the operator of the Desert Line.
The presentation was made to 80+ members and covered the history of MTS involvement in the line, events leading up to the 99-year lease with PIR and the economic impact of re-opening the line. PIR and MTS also discussed the current status of ongoing inspections, certifications and reconstruction of 57 bridges, 17 tunnels, and replacement of track and ties along the 70-mile track, which runs between the US-Mexico border at Division and connects with Union Pacific Railroad in El Centro, California.
South County EDC and its members have historically been champions of finding more effective ways to move people and goods across the border. We recognize the economic drain that lengthy border wait times have on our region, said Cindy Gompper-Graves, President and CEO of South County EDC. Re-opening the Desert Line will help expedite the import-export process for cargo without compromising national security. In his April visit with South County EDC stakeholder, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske addressed staffing tied to the San Diego-Arizona Eastern Railway, noting that if the railway is reactivated, the federal government usually absorbs the cost of staffing at the port of entry for rail crossing international borders and that rail companies would be responsible for infrastructure needs.
The geographic location of the Desert Line impacts the Northwest part of Mexico (primarily Mexicali and Tijuana) and Southern California, including South County, which sits in the heart of the California-Baja California bi-national region. This border region and the border crossings associated is considered the busiest border crossing in the world by some experts. Donald Stoecklein, PIR CEO, indicated, The support of SCEDC is another step in facilitating the rail project, which connects the Maquilatropolis region of Baja, California, to Eastern United States. The re-opening of the Desert Line should assist in the elimination of some of the inefficiencies at the border crossing, which, according to the recently published Global San Diego Export Plan, result in an annual loss of more than $1.3 billion.
Headquartered in San Diego County, California, SCEDCs mission is to improve and enhance the South County of San Diego and border regions economy, image and quality of life, and to heighten public awareness of Southern Californias most desirable location to live (www.sandiegosouth.com). A recent project for SCEDC includes ways to create economic growth through a regional airport-focused aerotropolis, which resulted in a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.
ABOUT PACIFIC IMPERIAL RAILROAD
PIR, upon re-opening the Desert Line, will be the only company providing railroad freight services on the Desert Line, servicing the Tijuana-Tecate region of Baja California, Mexico, and eastern San Diego County, as a result of signing a 99-year lease with San Diego and Arizona Railroad (SD&AE) and San Diego
Metropolitan Transit System (MTS). The Desert Line is the only rail line connecting with the rail system in Baja, which runs directly adjacent to approximately 650+/- manufacturing facilities (known as maquiladoras), or the Maquilatropolis, which is approximately 14 miles south of the US-Mexico Border, and consists of companies such as Toyota, Hyundai, Mattel, Bose, Samsung, etc.