- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 2, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Union Pacific Corp. has begun operations at a massive new railroad facility in southern New Mexico near both the U.S.-Mexico border and El Paso, Texas.

The Omaha, Neb.,-based railroad will use its newly constructed hub facility in Santa Teresa to transfer cargo between trains and trucks, as well as for refueling engines and changing train crews.

Union Pacific had a “soft” opening” of the facility on Tuesday, but it plans a formal event in May, the Albuquerque Journal (https://bit.ly/1fMGTPn ) reported.

Operations will gradually ramp up during the intervening period, Union Pacific spokeswoman Zoe Richmond said. “It’s like spring training for us,” she said.

The 2,200-acre facility is on a tract of desert near the border. Only about half of the site is now being used, with the other half available for expansions.

Two mainline tracks heading east and west splay into seven tracks for fueling, oil changes and inspections. In an adjacent area of the sprawling hub, cranes are positioned to lift containers from semi-trailer trucks onto the rail cars.

With the railroad beginning operations, ancillary businesses have followed. Those include Twin Cities Services, which provides logistics services to businesses transporting containers from truck to rail to ship.

“Our decision to move is based on our clientele,” said Ed Hazelton, who is in the processing of transferring his Twin Cities operations, including 17 employees, to Santa Teresa from El Paso. “They want to be by the railroad.”

New Mexico officials consider the facility a major economic-development achievement.

The facility’s opening represents a major step toward making Santa Teresa “the inland port of choice in the Americas,” said Jon Barela, secretary of the state Economic Development Department.

While the Santa Teresa hub is about 800 miles from the seaport of Long Beach, Calif., it could lure logistics businesses from the West Coast, said Davin Lopez, chief executive of the Mesilla Valley Economic Development Alliance.

Union Pacific has always looked at this as an inland port,” Lopez said. “We have an opportunity to relieve congestion at the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports.”

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