Drexel Hamilton purchases right to develop Utah rail project

Investment fund, rail firm Rio Grande Pacific will work to advance Uinta Basin oil-hauling line
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Drexel Hamilton Infrastructure Partners has obtained the exclusive right to develop Utah’s proposed Uinta Basin Railway after the Florida-based investment firm purchased the intellectual property involved in creating the project from the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition.

The planned common-carrier short line, which could move up to 400,000 barrels of crude oil per day, hopes to begin construction in 2021 and operation in 2023. Its request for an exemption to allow construction without prior approval from the Surface Transportation board is pending before the STB [see “Digest: Waterloo Central completes heritage paint project …,” Aug. 26, 2020] and faces opposition from several environmental groups [see “Environmental group files opposition to Utah rail project,” News Wire Digest, June 18, 2020]. Drexel Hamilton will work to develop the railroad along with Fort Worth, Texas, railroad holding company Rio Grande Pacific, owner of four short lines.

“This railroad will be a vital transportation outlet for commodities important to the growth of the American economy and will be an important driver of economic development for the state of Utah as a whole, and especially for eastern Utah,” Mark Michel, Drexel Hamilton managing partner, said in a press release. “We also appreciate the important partnership we have with the Ute Indian Tribe. We look forward to their ongoing involvement in the project.”

The coalition, funded by Utah’s Community Impact Board, consists of seven member counties in eastern and central Utah: Carbon, Daggett, Duchesne, Emery, San Juan, Sevier, and Uintah. Its executive director, Mike McKee, noted the project has had early and ongoing local support, and that “DHIP and Rio Grande Pacific are now providing the momentum needed in order to advance to the next stage and ultimately final construction and completion.”

Rio Grande Pacific looks forward to working with the Coalition and the Ute Tribe to fully satisfy the federal, state, and tribal authorizations required” for the Project, said Mark Hemphill, senior vice president. “The project is critical to our nation’s desire to achieve domestic energy and resource independence.”

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