Wednesday, February 24, 2010

With No TIGER, SL&RG Weighs Its Options

It was a pleasure to read a letter to the Alamosa Valley Courier today regarding the San Luis & Rio Grande. A doting grandmother who lives in the San Luis Valley recounted her trip with her grandchildren on the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad from last fall. I too have taken that trip, and like her, I am worried that the SL&RG's denial of TIGER funds will prevent the valley from prospering.

At issue is SL&RG's ability to move freight produced in the valley efficiently out to the connection with the Union Pacific at Walsenburg. They believe that by rehabilitating the track and roadbed, they can increase track speed. Less time per load means equipment is freed up quicker for other uses, the less fuel is spent per load, and so on. Being an originator of traffic for the UP, this short line railroad stands a great chance of making it work. The problem the Valley's Grande line faces now is finding who else could go in with them on it? Private investors are wary in this economy, which is why Warren Buffet's purchase of BNSF is so newsworthy. But perhaps it is also a bit inspiring. Buffet knows that, mile for mile, rail is the cheapest way to move freight, and, if you believe America is on the rebound (perception creates realities) like he does, this is the time to invest in the best. The question is, can the SL&RG sell itself as being among the best, or is it just small potatoes? Only Ed Ellis can tell us.

Until then, capital improvements will have to wait. And if the railroad waits, so does the rest of the San Luis Valley.

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