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Texas Secretary of State visits Presidio, Ojinaga

May 19th, 2016 under Top Stories
(staff photo by CAMERON DODD) (From left) State Senator Jose Rodriguez, Karina Rivera, TxDoT Engineer Robert Bielek, Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara, Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos, Texas Transportation Commission Chair Tryon Lewis, Mayor John Ferguson and TxDoT Executive Director James Bass.

(staff photo by CAMERON DODD)
(From left) State Senator Jose Rodriguez, Karina Rivera, TxDoT Engineer Robert Bielek, Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara, Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos, Texas Transportation Commission Chair Tryon Lewis, Mayor John Ferguson and TxDoT Executive Director James Bass.

By CAMERON DODD

PRESIDIO — Cross-border infrastructure and trade were the main themes of a visit to Presidio and Ojinaga, Chihuahua, Mexico by Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos on Thursday.

Cascos, accompanied by Texas Transportation Commission Chair Tryon Lewis and Texas Department of Transportation Executive Director James Bass, flew into Presidio Thursday morning and were greeted by a welcoming committee of local officials from the city and county. Presidio Mayor John Ferguson, Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara and Presidio Municipal Development Director Brad Newton led the three state officials on a tour highlighting Presidio’s commercial potential.

The tour began with a visit to the remains of the Presidio-Ojinaga railroad bridge. Cascos, Bass and Lewis were shown the arson scene and future site of the reconstructed bridge that Texas Pacifico plans to have functional by the end of 2017.

Overlooking the river and presently defunct rail crossing, Mayor Ferguson and Justice of the Peace David Beebe discussed the economic impact a functioning freight line could have on the region with Secretary Cascos.

“Get me some numbers and projections,” Cascos said. “Anything I can take to the state to show the potential for development here.”

Customs and Border Protection Presidio Port Director John Deputy, who was also along for the tour, briefed the secretary on what CBP will need before shipping on the international rail line can begin. High on the list are a gate on the bridge and an inspection facility near the Rio Grande crossing.

“We’ll really need to see how much traffic to expect on the line,” Deputy said. “I don’t want to tell you we need a multi-million dollar x-ray machine if we’re only getting a couple trains a year.”

Deputy suggested a future inspection station be located near the river, rather than at the old rail yard in town.

“In the event that something dangerous is brought in, it will be stopped out here rather than in the middle of town, right by the school,” he said. Deputy also led a tour of the port facility and the existing international bridge.

The group then traveled across the river to Ojinaga, where the state and local officials met with Presidente Municipal Miguel Antonio Carreon. Carreon thanked his American counterparts for their interest in bolstering ties between Mexico and Texas. He also raised the issue of increasing medical cooperation between Presidio and Ojinaga, including the use of Ojinaga’s emergency room, which is much closer than the Big Bend Regional Medical Center in Alpine or airlifts to El Paso.

Carreon also brought out a railroad spike recovered from the original Ojinaga-Presidio rail bridge that he keeps on a shelf in his office.

“That can be the first spike we nail in when construction on the new bridge begins,” Lewis said.

After lunch at Los Comales, the party returned to Presidio for a presentation from Texas Pacifico at the Presidio Activity Center. Executive Vice President Federico Diaz briefed the secretary on the progress of the rail bridge reconstruction and the line rehabilitation. Texas Pacifico plans to have the bridge built and functional by the end of 2017, Diaz said.

Texas Pacifico VP of Marketing Elizabeth Grindstaff had just returned from a trade group meeting in Chihuahua City and spoke of the freight opportunities for the revitalized rail line. The line can potentially link the Mexican manufacturing hub of Chihuahua City with distribution centers in Dallas.

Goods and materials that could potentially be moved by the freight line include auto parts, Mexican beer and agricultural products, Grindstaff said. Frack sand currently makes up 80 percent of what Texas Pacifico hauls, and the company is looking to diversify to be less vulnerably to fluctuations in oil prices, Grindstaff said.

“There is certainly a lot of potential for development and commerce,” Secretary of State Cascos said the Presidio-Ojinaga crossing. “There are challenges, money is tight, but I’m impressed by the commitment and cooperation of local, state and federal officials.”

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