Monday, May 11, 2009

Major Story: Teague Speaks in Las Cruces About Rail Transportation in the Region

On Saturday morning Congressman Harry Teague spoke to a crowd at the Las Cruces train station about extending the Railrunner commuter train service to the leg between Las Cruces and El Paso. Here's what he talked about:

Teague (D-NM) and Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) have sponsored national legislation, called the "Southwestern Transit Corridor Planning and Fuel Use Reduction Act." This provides for a feasibility study to look into additional public transportation options between Las Cruces and El Paso along with a study to extend the Rail Runner south from Belen to El Paso with stops in between. The bill has been referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which Teague serves on. If it passes DOT will actually begin the feasibility study. Incidentally, Teague has already helped secure funding to widen I-10 between El Paso and Las Cruces, a significant improvement.

Commentary: A rapid transit commuter train between Las Cruces and El Paso is a major idea, with important regional implications. It would stimulate traffic between El Paso and Las Cruces and between Juarez and Las Cruces; it would create a corridor of economic development in the path of the rail system; and in general it would tend to integrate Las Cruces much more firmly as a component element in the Paso del Norte region. Thus, this is a first-rate region-building project and a major investment in the region's future.

Given the growing power of Congressman Silvestre Reyes, the enthusiasm and hard work we've seen so far in Harry Teague, and what appears to be a positive chemistry between the two, the feasibility studies will probably be funded soon. It may take a while in the current economic environment to get this project, as they say in the jargon of the moment, "shovel ready," but it is likely to be well within affordable limits. One would hope the feasibility study contemplates this as a first class project, designed to make it people-friendly and region-enhancing as well as commerce-stimulating. It is in the interests of the small communities in the valle del sur to stay on top of developments in this project, and, where possible, to participate in its design and execution. It would also be important, since Juarez is the largest city in the region, for Mexico to be consulted, and possibly to be an active partner, so we hope the Office of New Mexico Office of Mexican Affairs will be an active participant in this long-term project.

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