The wheels of the Uinta Basin Railway project, which will be built primarily to haul crude oil, have been greased.
Construction could begin as early as next year after the U.S. Forest Service dismissed an objection to a right-of-way the agency granted through Utah’s Ashley National Forest. It was the final regulatory obstacle the project faced. In a letter, Deputy Regional Forester Deborah Oakeson said the decision on the right-of-way was sound.
The project will cover 85 miles and will require the construction of several tunnels and bridges. The price tag currently sits at $1.5 billion. The Seven County Infrastructure Coalition is joining forces with many for this public-private partnership. Drexel Hamilton Infrastructure Partners will raise private capital for the build and Rio Grande Pacific Corp. will operate and maintain the line once completed. AECOM has been chosen to lead the design, and WW Clyde, Skanska, and Obiyashi Corp. will help with construction. It will be the first major freight rail project built in the U.S. in the past 30 years.
Transportation bottlenecks in the northeast Utah basin are keeping crude oil distribution at just 90,000 barrels a day. The 85-mile line will provide a direct link to the Gulf Coast.
The Surface Transportation Board (STB) on Dec. 15 approved the construction and operation of the Uinta Basin Railway; STB Chairman Martin Oberman was the sole dissenter. However, several environmental groups and Eagle County, Colo., have filed lawsuits against the decision.