Grant should help boost rail use at airpark

By AMANDA MORENO Staff WriterThe train is coming. Big Spring Rail System, operated by Transport Handling Specialists, is one of 12 rail line projects across the United States receiving funding from the Federal Railroad Administration Rail Line Relocation and Improvement grant program. “The overwhelming number of applicants we received for this program shows that state and local officials recognize the economic boost that comes with improving transportation infrastructure,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a press release. “These investments will help advance President Obama's vision of an 'America built to last' by putting people back to work on transportation projects while creating livable communities and stimulating economic growth.”Transport Handling Specialists, with the help of the city of Big Spring, applied for the grant in order to help with improvements to the existing rail line. Last week, THS and the city received notification of the awarding of the grant for the amount of $299,423. According to the press release, the funds are to be used to rehabilitate approximately two miles of spur track that serves the industrial park in Big Spring. The improvements will allow freight rail services to be provided to additional local manufacturers and suppliers. “These funds will allow THS to further improvements as far as adding track which can be used for trans load operations and/or storage,” Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Terry Wegman said.“We have had access to rail service, but we weren't able to access it or utilize it like we will be able to with the Big Spring Rail System,” Wegman said. Once the rail line is operational, the businesses on the airpark will be able to take advantage, he said. It will also serve as a way to attract new businesses which utilize trans load operations, such as those dealing with fracking sand, cement and drill pipe. “This is the first baby step in making Big Spring a transportation and distribution hub,” Wegman said. “Big Spring has been referred to as the crossroads of West Texas. We have great highways, a great airpark with runway and with the inclusion of the rail service, we are only building on that.”At this point, there are still details to be worked out regarding the service agreement between THS and Union Pacific before the rail line can become fully operational. Some of those details, according to Wegman, include days of delivery and the number of rail cars. “It is looking positive at this point and the agreement could expand to include more cars and delivery dates if the need is shown for more,” Wegman said. The locomotive has been ordered and details are being worked out on how and when to get the engine to Big Spring, which would allow the rail system to be operational once the service agreement has been completed.