Opponents urge federal board to reject revival of Tennessee Pass railroad along Arkansas, Eagle rivers | VailDaily.com

Opponents urge federal board to reject revival of Tennessee Pass railroad along Arkansas, Eagle rivers

Tennessee Pass Line and surrounding rail lines. (Surface Transportation Board filing)

Opposition to the plan to revive long-dormant rail traffic on Tennessee Pass is growing by the day.

Residents of Chaffee, Lake and Eagle counties buried the Surface Transportation Board this month with opposition to the plan proposed by a Texas-based, short-line operator to begin running freight and possibly passengers on tracks that last saw trains in 1997. Environmental groups, county commissioners and a competitor on Colorado’s Eastern Plains have joined the chorus of opposition, asking the federal transportation board to either reject or further scrutinize the deal.

Chaffee and Eagle county commissioners are weighing in on Rio Grande Pacific Corp.’s push to run crude oil trains on a proposed new railroad in Utah that might lead to tankers of Uinta Basin crude rolling through Avon, Minturn, Buena Vista, Browns Canyon and Salida.

“If we want to stop this train from coming down our valley, then let’s stop the railroad up there in Utah. If it’s not in Utah, there’s no way crude is coming through our valley,” said Chaffee County Commissioner Keith Baker, whose board joined Eagle County commissioners and Town of Avon leaders in enlisting a nationally renowned railroad attorney from Kaplan Kirsch Rockwell to voice their concerns in the environmental review of the proposed Uinta Basin Railway.

Rio Grande Pacific Corp. is set to operate the $1.5 billion, 85-mile Uinta Basin Railway in Utah. The new rail line will connect the mountain oil fields with the national rail network. The so-called “waxy” crude coming from the Uinta Basin is too thick for a pipeline and the new rail line would enable shipment of the crude beyond local refineries around Salt Lake City. Rio Grande Pacific Corp. said the new rail will allow delivery of about 400,000 barrels of crude oil a day to Gulf Coast refineries from the Uinta Basin southeast of Salt Lake City. While one potential route for the company to reach those southern refineries is across Tennessee Pass, a company spokeswoman says that is not part of the plan for Rio Grande Pacific’s newly formed Colorado Midland & Pacific Railway.

Read more via Jason Blevins, The Colorado Sun.

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