Friday, May 9, 2008

Historic Agreement Reached Over Rail Crossings

At the podium is Pinal County Board of Supervisors Chairman David Snider. From left to right are Supervisor Sandie Smith; Scott Moore, Vice President of Public Affairs for Union Pacific; Casa Grande Mayor Bob Jackson, Eloy Mayor Byron Jackson, Maricopa Mayor Kelly Anderson and Supervisor Lionel Ruiz.

, Arizona – Today the Pinal County Board of Supervisors, along with mayors from Casa Grande, Maricopa and Eloy announced a landmark agreement between the cities, county and the Union Pacific railroad. The agreement is of historic importance because it represents a commitment of all parties to make our communities safer with technology and permanent structures – not just today, but in decades to come.

"Specifically, this agreement sets forth a 25-year commitment to constructive cooperation and financial support for safety improvements," David Snider, Chairman of the Pinal County Board of Supervisors said. "The railroad will be committing a total of $35 million dollars to design and construct at least three, possibly four, grade-separated crossings over a 25-year period."

Grade separation means you take automobile traffic completely out of the path of trains – either by constructing overpasses or underpasses.

Saying that local decisions are best made at the local level, the Pinal Board of Supervisors thanked the mayors of Casa Grande, Maricopa and Eloy for their participation in the discussions leading up to the agreement.

When Union Pacific announced plans to build the first new border-to-border rail expansion in more than 50 years, local officials knew that they would be affected by the crossings. Delays at rail crossings frustrate commuters, but rail is still the most efficient way to move consumer products to distributors and stores. Connections to rail infrastructure also enhances economic development by providing an important link between products, industry and consumers.

The Pinal Rail Corridor Group was formed to look at railroad expansion plans, assess the local impact and the safety impact. The Pinal Rail Corridor Group is made up of Pinal County, the communities of Maricopa, Casa Grande and Eloy and Union Pacific.

The identity and location of the grade-separated crossings will be determined by the individual governments within the rail corridor group in the future.

The agreement calls for construction on the first grade-separated crossing to begin within the next 10 years.

"That may seem like a long time away but the agreement outlines a realistic timeline for planning, engineering and land acquisition," Supervisor Lionel Ruiz said. Ruiz oversees the Eloy region, which will be affected by the double track project. Ruiz noted that grade-separated crossings require more land to start the approach, bridge or underpass and the return to ground level.

"There are more at-grade public crossings in Pinal County than any other county affected by the Union Pacific's expansion," Supervisor Sandie Smith said. "Twenty-six crossings will require modifications as a result of the double track project. I applaud the participants for choosing to work constructively in the name of safety and convenience."

County Supervisors and the mayors are optimistic that the landmark agreement will set the stage for a long-lasting, constructive working relationship between the regional players and the railroad.