Area Leaders Discuss Expanding Rail Service from Seagraves to Hobbs
Published September 28, 2012 8:25am by
The discussion of rail expansion from the West Texas and Lubbock Railway stopping point in Seagraves southward toward Seminole, and off to destinations either south or west of the community, have been on numerous occasions over the past several decades.
Thursday afternoon, at Seminole's City Hall, civic and business leaders from Seminole, Gaines County, Brownfield, Hobbs, N.M., Lea County, N.M., informally met again on the rail expansion topic.
A meeting which spurred local and area leaders to, once again, find a way to push the expansion of rail service in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico.
"This is something, I feel, will help our communities and their businesses flourish," said Tommy Cope with Intercontinental Potash Corp., a potash mining business located in far western Lea County, about rail expansion.
Intercontinental Potash Corp., according to Cope, produces 840,000 tons of potash -- a key ingredient in high grade fertilizer -- of which Cope stated roughly 10 percent is shipped by rail service.
"Being able to have expanded rail service is something we could all benefit from."
Currently, in the region, rail service is available through the West Texas and Lubbock Railrway, which operates a short line from Seagraves to southwestern Lubbock and from western Lubbock County to Whiteface, and the Texas-New Mexico Railroad, which operates a line from Lovington, N.M. to Monahans.
Rail expansion) has been discussed by a lot of people in the past, but for whatever reasons, seemed to fizzle out," said Tommy Phillips, Seminole City Administrator and acting Seminole Economic Development Corp. Executive Director. "But, I certainly feel there is enough of a high interest for rail service here that maybe we can get the discussions going again."
Thursday's discussions focused primarily on connecting the West Texas and Lubbock Railway from it's Seagraves stopping point to the Texas-New Mexico Railroad line at a location south of Hobbs, N.M., Lea County, N.M. most populous community.
"We feel, from our standpoint, this would be the best scenario," said Sam Cobb, Mayor of the City of Hobbs in discussing the plans of expanding the rail line from Seagraves to Hobbs, via Seminole.
"Expanding the line south to Seminole, then over to Hobbs would do nothing but benefit not only our communities, but all those along the rail lines from Hobbs to Lubbock."
Bruce Carswell, Vice President of Permian Basin Railways, which owns both the West Texas and Lubbock and Texas-New Mexico Railroad short lines, said in a Sept. 22 story produced by the Hobbs News-Sun "railroad officials are interested in being a part of the line, but that the company was small and couldn't do (rail expansion) on it's own."
"I think we have been fairly consistent in saying it is a big project, but we are a small organization," said Carswell. "If there is enough support for it, we will support the effort. The opportunity to increase rail valume for both railroads is pretty well in hand."
Officials from Permian Basin Railways were not in attendance of Thursday's meeting.
Estimated costs of railway expansion, according to sources in Thursday's meeting and Carswell in the Sept. 22 article, range from $1 million to $2 million per mile of track installed.
Carswell said: "the best approach right now would be to have a preliminary engineering study conducted to answer many questions about cost, location and viability of putting a track from Seagraves to Hobbs."
Estimated costs for the engineering study was quoted at being $100,000.
A 2008 study Cambridge Systematics, Inc.for the Texas Dept. of Transportation's Government and Public Affairs Division, showed it was financially and environmentally feasible to expand the West Texas and Lubbock Railway line from it's Seagraves stopping point 16 miles southward to Seminole.
The feasibility study, entitlted "Permian Basin Rail Connection" looked at the various financial and environmental impacts associated with the possible expansion of rail service from Seagraves to McCamey, located 80 miles south of Odessa.
"The Seminole area, just 16 miles south of the current (West Texas and Lubbock Railway) terminus at Seagraves, provides the greatest concentration of rail amenable shippers without local rail service," said the report. "The most likely rail shippers from the Seminole area include peanut processors, cotton gins and chemical/fertilizer producers. Each of these industries ship commodities that are rail amenable and rail would offer some savings versus current trucking rates."
The 2008 feasibility stated the expansion of rail service from Seagraves to Odessa had the potential to divert some 34,000 truck loads off us U.S. 385 annually, which represented some 6,600 annual rail carloads. The study also anticipated the cost of expanding the line -- in 2008 -- from Seagraves to Seminole would cost roughly $44.4 million, or an average of $2.7 million per mile for a single track, 286,000 lb. capacity line.
Recently, the West Texas and Lubbock Railway underwent a roughly $12 million improvement project, while the Texas-New Mexico Railroad shortline saw $18 million in line improvements. Both lines are considered to be Class III railway lines, as defined by the Surface Transportation Board, and feature an annual operating revenue of less than $20 million (1991 dollars).