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Juarez Mayor: Light Rail Can Exist By 2013
September 30, 2009

A light-rail commuter train that will take people from the southernmost neighborhoods of Juárez to the international bridges in Downtown could be in service as early as 2013, officials from there said Tuesday.

Written by Gustavo Reveles Acosta, El Paso Times


A light-rail commuter train that will take people from the southernmost neighborhoods of Juárez to the international bridges in Downtown could be in service as early as 2013, officials from there said Tuesday. 

Getting that train to cross the border into El Paso, though, will require the help of elected officials here, Juárez Mayor José Reyes Ferriz said on Tuesday during an El Paso City Council meeting. 

"This is a certainty. We are going forward with these plans," Reyes Ferriz said. "And we are working with the leadership on this side of the border to make sure that a border-crossing line becomes a reality." 

The El Paso City Council on Tuesday voted 7-0 to adopt a resolution vowing to work with the Mexican delegation in developing high-speed commuter corridors in the region. And state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, said he -- along with other local officials -- was lobbying the state and federal governments to help pay for the creation of commuter rail lines that would link Denver to Chihuahua City through the El Paso-Juárez metroplex. Shapleigh said Juárez's move to establish the light-rail line is a sign that the region is committed to the idea as a catalyst for traffic control and economic development. "The time for rail is right now, and we need to be on the forefront of it," Shapleigh said." 

Mayor Reyes Ferriz and his staff have done a wonderful job of staying ahead of it. What's happening in Juárez is key." Reyes Ferriz said on Tuesday that his administration was just weeks away from signing agreements with Ferromex, the Mexican railroad company, for the use of its tracks.The tracks run parallel to Juan Gabriel Boulevard and would take passengers from south Juárez to the Paso del Norte Bridge.But if U.S. customs and other federal agencies agree to let the train use existing track lines on the black bridge that crosses from Mexico into the United States near the Chihuahuita neighborhood, the commuter train could have Downtown El Paso as its final destination.  

"We know that there are customs officials that are working on innovative ways to speed border crossing, and those new techniques could be used for the passengers that would use our train," Reyes Ferriz said. "A border-crossing commuter train is the answer to our traffic problems ... both at the bridges and on the streets." 

Juárez officials said it would cost about $120 million to establish the line, and they added that Mexican President Felípe Calderón has already earmarked federal money to help pay for most of the project. Reyes Ferriz said that the commuter and freight trains would probably share tracks, but that freight cars would operate only at night, when passenger cars would not be used. He also said that the light-rail project would not affect plans to create a freight train border-crossing train track near Santa Teresa, because that line would serve cargo that would be coming from Mexico's Pacific Coast. "That's something completely different," Reyes Ferriz said of the Santa Teresa crossing. "What we're dealing with here is passengers and the potential to develop a binational system that is very much needed. "Elected and civic leaders from Chihuahua, Texas, New Mexico and Colorado are lobbying for the creation of a commuter train system that would link major cities in those states.  

Currently, New Mexico has the RailRunner Express train that connects Belen, Albuquerque and Santa Fe.The city councils of El Paso and Las Cruces earlier this year began a study into the possibility of extending the RailRunner line down to this region -- a venture that could cost El Paso at least $1 million per mile of track. Reyes Ferriz said the light-rail line his city would build could serve as a connector to the RailRunner if it was expanded to Chihuahua, as local officials hope. "This is the challenge that we have right now, to come up with innovative alternatives to highway travel," El Paso Mayor John Cook said at Tuesday's meeting. "A high-speed rail connection between all of our communities would be the answer to our mobility problems."


Closer look

•The New Mexico RailRunner line, pictured above, now goes as far north as Santa Fe and south to Belen.


•The rail line proposed by Juárez Mayor José Reyes Ferriz on Tuesday, pictured at left, would connect his city to El Paso.

 •State Sen. Eliot Shapleigh and others are lobbying to create an eventual link from Denver to Chihuahua City through El Paso. By the numbersPeak south to north crossings at El Paso area international ports of entry. These figures are from the highest traffic month (August) in 2008.


Click here to view larger image.

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