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Thursday, June 30, 2011

NEWS - Trade group is pushing increased rail commerce

Staff Writer Chelcey Adami
12:39 a.m. PDT, June 22, 2011

CALEXICO — A tri-national trade facilitation advocacy group brought the issue of rail service in northern Baja California to the table Tuesday during a meeting with area stakeholders here.

Border Trade Alliance President Nelson Balido spoke with a group of roughly 15 people including representatives from Union Pacific Corp., Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, Mexicali's port director, Toyota Mexico's president and Imperial County Intergovernmental Relations Director Bob Ham.

Balido described area rail service at this point as very weak and wanted to see how expansion could be possible as well as what obstacles exist to that.

Expansion of rail service could be more environmentally friendly, relieve congestion at the border and boost economic growth in both the United States and Mexico, he said.

Whether it would be preferable to build new rail or expand on what's already there remains unclear.

Balido said he fears that the area could lose key business if it doesn't look into increased use of rail. One company told him it spends between $600 and $800 more on each vehicle used to move cargo than what it would cost to send by rail.

"I think you have a tremendous opportunity in northern Baja California's and Southern California's border to expand on these types of infrastructure developments," he said. "We want to make sure that everyone benefits, not just Mexico, but our border and members and the overall quality of life for the Southwest border."

The Border Trade Alliance hopes to facilitate rail expansion conversation among local, state and federal governments while getting input from the private sector, he said.

The fact-finding stage of the long-term endeavor will likely end in the next three to four months, he said, before moving on to the lobbying or communication on exact issues.

Staff Writer Chelcey Adami can be reached at 760-337-3452 or cadami@ivpressonline.com
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