The proposed reopening of a old railroad line stretching from Imperial County through Mexico to San Diego won key support Thursday from South County Economic Development Council.

Pacific Imperial Railroad is planning to reopen the old Desert Line to serve the Mexican manufacturing facilities, known as maquiladoras, that are host to major American and international exporters, including Toyota, Hyundai, Mattel, Bose and Samsung. The line runs from Plaster City in Imperial County to Tecate in Mexico.

The historic Goat Canyon Trestle on the Desert Line. Photo courtesy Pacific Imperial Railroad
The historic Goat Canyon Trestle on the Desert Line. Photo courtesy Pacific Imperial Railroad

“South County EDC and its members have historically been champions of finding more effective ways to move people and goods across the border,” said Cindy Gompper-Graves, president and CEO of the EDC. “Reopening the Desert Line will help expedite the import-export process for cargo without compromising national security,”

The EDC’s board of directors voted to support the project, and also heard a detailed presentation from the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System, owner of the right of way, about the steps necessary to re-open the line. Work is needed on 57 bridges and 17 tunnels, as wells as replacement of track and ties along the 70-mile track.

In his April visit with the EDC, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske said that if the railway is reopened, the federal government would absorb the cost of staffing at the port of entry.

“The support of SCEDC is another step in facilitating the rail project, which connects the ‘Maquilatropolis’ region of Baja, California, to the Eastern United States,” said Donald Stoecklein, CEO of the railroad company

The line originally opened in 1919, but fell into disrepair in the 1980s. It includes the 186-foot-tall, 630-mile-long Goat Canyon Trestle, a historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.

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