Rail’s role in trade, border security on display during tour with Rep. Hurd

Written by Mischa Wanek-Libman, editor
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U.S. Customs and Border Protection - South Texas

Union Pacific’s Clarks Park Yard provided a fitting setting to highlight the importance of border security and international trade to the rail industry during a July 5 tour for Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX-23).

The tour, organized by the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC), in conjunction with Ragnar Benson, J-Track and Union Pacific, offered Rep. Hurd the chance to see the expanded yard, which includes a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Facility.

“Trade is the lifeblood of many communities in my district including Eagle Pass. It was a pleasure to join Ragnar Benson, J-Track and Union Pacific to tour the construction of a new CBP facility,” said Rep. Hurd, whose district includes more of the U.S.-Mexico border than any other Member of Congress. “This project not only created jobs in Eagle Pass, but will also reduce border wait times and facilitate the efficient flow of goods and services throughout the region.”

Officials explained that the Clarks Park Yard expansion project will create new capacity, enhance security and help relieve rail traffic. The project includes construction of a CBP secondary inspection facility, slot tracks and a rail inspection portal. This project includes 52,000 feet of new track, 22 turnouts, an upstream siphon addition and three new buildings. NRC member Ragnar Benson is the head contractor on the project, with NRC member J-Track performing subcontracted rail work.

The Eagle Pass port of entry is the fastest growing rail border facility in the past decade. Union Pacific hauls more than 1,500 rail cars per day through the Eagle Pass port and each rail car is scanned by CBP staff.

“Rep. Hurd is an important voice in Washington to ensure we invest in infrastructure, to continue to prosper with international trade and keep our borders safe and secure. We appreciate his leadership and his support of the railroad and railroad construction industry,” stated Dave Bergstrom, NRC Board member and Ragnar Benson vice president of Rail. “Our project is a great example of private construction companies working with a private railroad to create local jobs and perform a project safely, on-time and on-budget. I want to thank Union Pacific for trusting us to get the job done and J-Track for your partnership in this project.”

The NRC and Union Pacific noted their joint belief that robust international trade is critical to America’s economy. The NRC says that any updated trade agreements should preserve the many benefits of the U.S. trading relationship with Canada and Mexico.

The products Union Pacific ships to and from Mexico are part of larger supply chains, which support a range of U.S. jobs and workers across multiple sectors including agriculture, manufacturing, energy, and food and beverage. Union Pacific moves 70 percent of all freight rail traffic to and from Mexico and nearly 40 percent of Union Pacific’s shipments have an international component.

Beer, a growing business line for Union Pacific, offers one example of the cyclical nature of the supply chain in international trade. In 2015, Union Pacific opened a $40 million rail facility in Kinney County, Texas, that prepares rail cars to meet food-grade guidelines. The rail cars depart Texas for Mexico, where they are loaded with imported beer. The beer is shipped back to the U.S., where Union Pacific takes it at the border and delivers it for use in U.S. consumer markets. Once the beer is consumed and the bottles are recycled, Union Pacific then ships crushed glass back to the bottle manufacturing plant in Texas, which uses the material to produce the finished bottles that wind up in Kinney County.

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