The Surface Transportation Board’s Office of Environmental Analysis has released a Draft Environmental Assessment for Savage Tooele Railroad Company’s (STR) proposal to construct and operate a new 11-mile rail line in Tooele County, Utah.
The 626-page Draft Environmental Assessment (download below) analyzes the potential environmental and historic impacts of the line, which would re-establish a former branch line’s connection to Union Pacific’s (UP) Shafter Subdivision at Burmester, Utah, and the Lakeview Business Park in Grantsville, Utah.
The Office of Environmental Analysis reported that Lakeview Business Park tenants currently are only able to receive and ship commodities by truck, and the new line would allow for operation of one roundtrip train per day, according to STR, a subsidiary of the Savage Companies, which were founded in Utah in 1946 and provide transportation and logistics services worldwide. “STR indicates that Tooele County is one of the fastest growing areas in the country and does not have sufficient rail transportation infrastructure to meet future transportation and logistics needs,” according to the Office. “The proposed rail line would help meet the shipping needs of a growing region.” Additionally, “STR states that many of the companies seeking to locate in the LBP [Lakeview Business Park] desire rail service for their facilities.” Currently, there are two tenants in place that are receiving commercial truck service.
STR has proposed reinstituting common carrier freight rail service over an approximately six-mile segment of the former 15.8-mile “Warner Branch” (abandoned in 1983 by UP predecessor Western Pacific Railroad Company), and to construct approximately five miles of new railroad line within the Lakeview Business Park, which has been under development since 2020 (see map below). On the six-mile segment, tracks remain on approximately 5.75 miles of the right-of-way. STR would also construct four 2,500-foot segments of ancillary switching (or interchange) track to offload and onload railcars to and from the UP main line. The construction and operation of such ancillary track does not require prior approval from the STB, reported the Office of Environmental Analysis, which noted that “[h]ere, however, enough information about this ancillary track is available to permit its consideration in this Draft EA.”
Construction activities are slated to take about six months to complete, according to STR. The proposed rail service is projected to transport 1,200 carloads in the first year of operation, which could expand to up to 8,000 carloads in the future, depending on the tenants and their demand for rail transportation, according to the Office of Environmental Analysis report. STR has estimated that each train would comprise between 12 and 20 railcars on average and two locomotives. The locomotives would be Tier 0 GP-38s or similar units with approximately 2,000 hp.
According to the Office, “based upon the information provided by STR and the evaluation of the
alternatives … the Proposed Action is the only reasonable and feasible Build Alternative.” The reasons for this include the following:
- The Proposed Action would connect the Lakeview Business Park to a freight rail main line that carries “large volumes of commodities and goods transported for distribution throughout the U.S.”
- The Proposed Action would be located within a former rail corridor, “which is compatible
with planned transportation activities and avoids greenfield construction.”
- Impacts to public recreation facilities, utilities, businesses, future projects and local
plans “would be minimized or avoided” under the Proposed Action.
Stakeholders and interested parties may review and submit comments by Oct. 30, 2023, on all aspects of the Draft Environmental Assessment. Following the close of the comment period, the Office of Environmental Analysis will prepare a Final Environmental Assessment addressing the comments received on the Draft Environmental Assessment; present its final conclusions regarding the potential environmental impacts of the proposed rail line; and set forth its final recommendations to the STB, including recommended environmental mitigation measures. After the Final Environmental Assessment is released, the STB will issue its final decision on whether to authorize the proposed rail line. In making its final decision, the STB will consider the entire record, including the information presented on the transportation merits, the Draft Environmental Assessment, Final Environmental Assessment, and all public and agency comments received. If the STB decides to authorize the proposed line, it may impose conditions, including environmental mitigation conditions.