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Rail News: Short Lines & Regionals

Rep. Hunter backs U.S. attorney investigation into Desert Line lease agreement

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) recently sent a letter to the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California supporting an investigation into the development of freight-rail service on the Desert Line and the current lease agreement between the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) and Pacific Imperial Railroad (PIR).

In late 2012, PIR obtained a 99-year lease from MTS to improve and operate the 130-mile Desert Line, which serves the Tijuana-Tecate region of Baja California, Mexico and eastern San Diego County. The line extends north and east from the international border to Plaster City, Calif., where it intersects a Union Pacific Railroad line from El Centro, Calif. The lease provides PIR sole rights to operate freight-rail service between the border crossing at San Ysidro and border crossing at Tecate and Division.

A collection of evidence at the U.S. attorney's office for review raises serious questions and concerns about the lease agreement and PIR’s activities, said Hunter, a House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure member, in a press release. For example, PIR has "falsified and misrepresented its assets" to attract investors while keeping the lease agreement profitable, he said. PIR officials did not respond to a request for comments.

"The evidence that has accumulated against PIR and the Desert Line lease is troubling," said Hunter. "The railroad is a public asset and anytime there are allegations or there is evidence of unlawful activity in a situation like this, it is necessary that the proper legal authority determines the facts through its ability to obtain relevant documentation and testimonial evidence."

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More News from 11/13/2014