Texas Department of Transportation has been working to upgrade the South Orient line since acquiring the route in 2001. (Photo TxDOT)

USA: Texas Department of Transportation has a received a US$7m grant from the US Department of Transportation towards a US$16∙2m ‘public and private partnership’ to replace the bridge connecting Presidio with Ojinaga in Mexico, and upgrade 115 km of the connecting South Orient Rail Line.

The bridge has been closed since 2008 following fire damage, blocking one of the seven rail border crossings between the USA and Mexico, five of which lie in Texas. Running for 625 km between Presidio and San Angelo Junction, the South Orient Rail Line is owned by the state of Texas and leased to Texas Pacifico Transportation Ltd which is responsible for maintenance and freight operations.

According to Texas Transportation Commission Chairman Tryon Lewis, the South Orient ‘has become an increasingly important freight line for the agriculture and oil and gas industries in west Texas’. Combined with the replacement of the international bridge at Presidio, improvements to track, bridges and level crossings would allow ‘enhanced freight opportunities for communities in Texas and between Texas and Mexico, with greater efficiency and safety’, he added.