FLORENCE – The Union Pacific Railroad first announced plans to construct a classification yard in the Picacho area in 2006. The project received another nudge toward reality with the announcement of a pair of studies addressing infrastructure feasibility and the demand for industrial uses near the site.
Both studies were part of the Arizona State Land Department’s analysis in advance of possibly putting the needed land up for sale. Pinal County Supervisor Pete Rios and County Manager Fritz A. Behring met yesterday with key legislators, staff from the Governor’s office and officials from the Arizona State Land Department to discuss the reports.
“This project would be an economic engine for Arizona, not just Pinal County. Upon the successful auction and sale of the state-owned land, there would be immediate employment opportunities for living-wage jobs,” said Supervisor Pete Rios.
“This project makes immediate sense for Arizona, taking into account some of the recommendations in the reports. It also makes long term sense for Arizona because it would spawn additional development and industry,” Rios explained.
Rios referred to opportunities for industrial and commercial development that would become more enticing due to rail and freeway access. While Rios thinks the Gruen Gruen & Associates study offers some valid recommendations, he thinks the study underestimates the strategic location of this project.
“Moving products efficiently to buyers is key. This project, in tandem with access to interstates 8 and 10, would make Arizona and Pinal County more attractive to companies hoping to expand or relocate from higher cost states,” Board of Supervisors’ Chairman David Snider. “Union Pacific's yard, when evaluated with the proximity of the Pinal Air Park and in conjunction with the CANAMEX Corridor, promises to help jump-start the economies of both Pinal County and Arizona.”
In May, Arizona’s state Senate and House approved a resolution in support of the project. Senate Concurrent Resolution 1044, sponsored by Senator Al Melvin, (SCR1044) passed the House with a 46-4 vote and passed the Senate 19-9.
A bi-partisan group of Pinal County and state leaders have thrown their support behind this proposed 950-acre project, a classification yard at which Union Pacific will sort rail cars thereby making its operation more fuel efficient and cost effective. The proposed Red Rock project is strategically located in Pinal County, which is bisected by two major interstates and adjacent to the Pinal Air Park and Phoenix and is located within a foreign trade zone.
Union Pacific has made significant investments toward increased rail capacity such as laying a parallel set of tracks through Arizona. A fact sheet on Union Pacific’s website indicates that the company has invested more than $607.5 million in Arizona since 2007.
A classification yard is a way for the rail company to optimize efficiency and reduce the number of trips it makes hauling empty cars. Tucson and Flagstaff are Arizona’s biggest rail towns, with Phoenix in the middle. UP’s Tucson facility is land-locked and therefore cannot expand. The Red Rock project would enhance efficiency and create growth opportunities for Union Pacific while also creating jobs.
The project would be situated along Interstate 10, just north of Park Link Drive. The land at the site is nearly perfectly flat, making it ideal for construction of a consolidation yard.
Pinal County’s website: http://pinalcountyaz.gov/ed/Pages/UnionPacific.aspx
Arizona State Land Department: http://www.land.state.az.us/
Source for investment in Arizona facts: http://www.uprr.com/aboutup/usguide/attachments/state_factsheets/az.pdf
SCR1044 was introduced by Senator Al Melvin with cosponsors Senator Linda Gray, Senator Gail Griffin and Representative Frank Pratt. Here is a link to the text: http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/50leg/2r/bills/scr1044h.pdf