Short line plans to reopen desert line linking United States, Mexico (5/13/2002)


San Diego's Metropolitan Transit Development Board May 9 granted Carrizo Gorge Railway trackage and operating rights to 70 miles of long-unused rail between Campo and Plaster City, Calif.

The east-west line links San Diego and northern Baja port cities with the rest of the United States and Mexico.

The line — which hasn't been used for 20 years — winds through desert gorges east to Plaster City, where it connects with Union Pacific Railroad.

Carrizo Gorge plans to repair collapsed tunnels, damaged track and deteriorated bridges — costing between $10 million and $15 million — to enable trains to move directly east from San Diego and northern Baja, rather than heading north to Los Angeles, and then east.

Railway officials believe manufacturers between Tijuana and Tecate, Mexico, will immediately benefit from the line by more-directly shipping materials between northern Baja California, and the United States and Mexico — bypassing 500 track miles in the process.

But before the railway can provide those benefits, Carrizo Gorge officials need to consider a San Diego County trolley that uses a small section of the line daily except between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. San Diego port officials believe local communities will oppose freight trains running through their neighborhoods in the middle of the night.

Railway and government officials are contemplating an alternate plan, which would involve connecting an unused spur running along San Diego's bay from National City to Imperial Beach, with a mainline at San Ysidro.

However, the project — which would include several bridges — might cost about $150 million.

Source: Progressive Railroading Daily News