STB Issues Draft EA for UP’s Proposed Arizona Line

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
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The Surface Transportation Board’s (STB) Office of Environmental Analysis (OEA) on May 31 released a Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for Union Pacific’s (UP) proposed new six-mile single-track rail line in Mesa, Ariz. It analyzes the potential environmental and historic impacts of the line, which would link UP’s Phoenix Subdivision main line to industrial properties southeast of the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.

Comments on all aspects of the assessment (download below) are due by June 30, 2023.

UP on June 30, 2022, filed a petition with the STB seeking authorization to construct and operate the line. The aim of the Pecos Industrial Rail Access Train Extension (PIRATE) project (see map below) is “to meet the transportation and logistics needs of existing and future manufacturing businesses within the [4,000-acre] Pecos Advanced Manufacturing Zone (PAMZ) and adjacent areas,” according to the OEA. Currently, large industrial companies in the PAMZ—such as Mitsubishi Gas Chemical, Bridgestone, Commercial Metals Company (CMC) and Fujifilm—manufacture chemicals, metals, plastics, rubber and electrical equipment, the OEA reported. “UP states that providing direct rail access within this area would remove approximately 30,000 truck trips off public roadways in its first year of operation,” the agency noted.

The proposed line also includes a new wye connection between the existing Phoenix Subdivision main line to the new single track. Additionally, UP would construct 2.5 miles of support tracks along the Phoenix Subdivision main line. The project would be funded solely by UP.

The OEA said it will prepare a Final EA “that responds to all comments received [on the Draft EA] and provides OEA’s final environmental analysis and recommended environmental mitigation.” The STB will then consider the entire record, including the Draft EA, Final EA, all public and agency comments, OEA’s recommendations, and the transportation merits when it makes its final decision on whether to authorize the construction and operation of PIRATE with appropriate conditions or deny it, the agency reported. 

Global real estate developer Trammell Crow Company, with a client of CBRE Investment Management, in April reported acquiring a 192-acre site in Mesa, which will be divided into industrial-use subsites to be served by UP’s PIRATE line.

UP at the time told Railway Age that it was “excited for the future growth prospects this new development site will mean for the Southeast Valley and the entire region’s economy. We are looking forward to helping move this project forward.”

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