Deal reached on New Mexico railhead operation

December 22, 2013 • State News

FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — The Navajo Nation and Burlington Nor[auth] thern Santa Fe have agreed to have the Thoreau Industrial Park Railhead operational by June 2015.

The Farmington Daily Times reports ( ) that the railhead could link a proposed freight railroad that would likely end in Farmington to the transcontinental rail that spans most of the country. The railhead could also drive the construction of that freight line, said Ray Hagerman, CEO of Four Corners Economic Development.

Peter Deswood, a senior economic specialist for the Navajo Nation, said the Thoreau railhead would split from the transcontinental rail in Thoreau and sit on about 300 acres of Navajo Nation-owned land less than a mile east of the intersection of New Mexico Highway 371 and Interstate 40.

The site would include rail spurs for trains parked off the transcontinental rail to load and unload and cars to be added or subtracted, according to project documents. The spurs would hold up to three 100-car trains, but more could be built if production on the Mancos Shale oil and natural gas formation boomed, he said.

Experts say the freight rail could export coal, oil and natural gas. They say that when the San Juan Generating Station shuts down two of its four coal-burning stacks and the Four Corners Power Plant closes three of its five, the area’s two coal mines — Navajo Mine and San Juan Mine — will need new markets. Gov. Susana Martinez said Monday in an interview with The Daily Times that those markets could be found globally.

Seven companies have confirmed they plan to lease space at the railhead, and each would build on the site an office, storage and loading facilities, and rails sections to hold cars, Deswood said.

Even without the construction of the freight rail line from Farmington to the transcontinental rail, Deswood said the Thoreau railhead will be useful.

The railhead will allow trains to pull off the mainline when idle, arranging its cars, or loading and unloading, he said. Parked trains blocking rail traffic cause many derailments, he said.

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