40-year-old Four Corners rail line project is picking up steam

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FARMINGTON, N.M. — Railroads are the cornerstone of America’s westward expansion, but they aren’t a thing of the past. Railroads play a vital role in today’s economy, and San Juan County hasn’t had one since the ’60s.

 “We are one of the most underserved metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S. for freight rail,” Mike Stark, the county manager for San Juan County, said.

Without this historic way of transportation, the region misses out on future opportunities.

“Do you have freight rail? That’s a check box on their list, we don’t have that today… if that’s their requirement for their particular business or industry we would be off the list,” Stark said.

So for the last 40 years, the county has been working on changing that.

“To see if it would make sense, be economically feasible and beneficial to the area, to bring a rail spur up from the I-40 corridor, where the Transcendental Rail line runs today from Los Angeles to Chicago and locations to the southeast,” Stark added.

Timing is key, too.

“We probably couldn’t have found a better time for seeking funding for such a project with the availability of funding at both the federal and state level,” Stark added.

And just as railroads marked a new era in American history, Stark hopes it will start a new chapter for the Four Corners.

“The transcendental line runs today all the way to the Los Angeles port so now you are opening up import and export opportunities to this region internationally.”

Currently, the project has a $2 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant to do a feasibility study, after that Stark says they will explore other funding opportunities. 

The project is estimated at costing between $350 million to $450 million and if all goes according to plan, construction could start in the next three to five years.