Updated August 13, 2017 - TRA Newswire -

AUSTIN – The U.S. Department of Transportation announced that the Texas Department of Transportation has received a $7 million federal grant to help rebuild the Presidio-Ojinaga International Rail Bridge and 72 miles of track on the state-owned South Orient Rail Line that runs from the border to near Coleman, Texas.  Texas Rail Advocates has been urging officials to rebuild the international rail crossing and restore freight rail service in this important trans-border crossing since being destroyed in a fire almost a decade ago.

Texas Transportation Commission Chairman Tryon Lewis hailed the FASTLANE grant that was announced Thursday as a critical investment in the West Texas oil and gas industry.

“The South Orient Railroad has become an increasingly important freight line for the agriculture and oil and gas industries in West Texas. With the replacement of the rail bridge at Presidio, the improvements to the track, bridges and crossings will allow enhanced freight opportunities for communities in Texas and between Texas and Mexico, with greater efficiency and safety,” Chairman Lewis said.

Lewis thanked members of Congress, the Texas Legislature and the TxDOT staff involved in applying for and attaining the grant and especially the work of U.S. Congressman Will Hurd of San Antonio who was instrumental in obtaining the grant.

“Representative Hurd worked hard on our behalf to support our efforts to be awarded these monies from the USDOT. The improvements we make to the rail line and the reconstruction of the rail bridge will assure we can continue to support the industries in Texas that rely on deliveries provided by the South Orient Railroad,” Lewis said.

“Cross-border trade is the lifeblood of many communities in my district. These infrastructure improvements will create jobs, reduce arduous border wait times, and facilitate the flow of goods and services through the region,” said Rep. Hurd, whose district includes over 800 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border, more than any other member of Congress. “As one of five border crossings between Texas and Mexico, these repairs are vital to Texas’ economy.”

Jack W. Hanks, President and CEO of MMEX Resources Corp., commented, "TxDOT's planned recompletion of the bridge at Presidio-Ojinaga and improvements of the rail line from Alpine, Texas to Presidio are a major step for exporters and importers of all commercial goods from Western Mexico out of and into the West Texas Permian Basin area. We located our proposed refinery site on the railroad in Pecos County, Texas precisely for this reason."

The South Orient Rail Line is a state owned 391-mile line running from the Texas-Mexico border at Presidio through San Angelo to just south of Coleman, Texas. The grant will be part of a public and private partnership to replace the international bridge that was damaged by fire in 2008 and has remained closed since then, blocking one of only seven rail gateways between the United States and Mexico. In addition to the Presidio-Ojinaga bridge reconstruction, the awarded grant funding will help provide for track, bridge and drainage improvements on 72 miles of railroad from the border to Alpine, Texas. The line is owned by the state of Texas but maintained and operated by Texas Pacifico Transportation, Ltd., the U.S. rail subsidiary of Mexico’s mining and railroad giant Grupo México, under a lease with TxDOT. Texas-Pacífico Railroad has a contract with TxDOT to operate the line since 2001. The total reconstruction and rehabilitation project is estimated at $16.2 million.

“The Presidio bridge is a critical project to increase jobs and investment in the Permian Basin and Texas’ oil and gas industry,” said Rep. Drew Darby, Chairman of the House Energy Resources Committee.

"This funding announcement is welcome news for the many stakeholders who have worked tirelessly to re-establish this vital transportation infrastructure,” said Sen. Jose Rodriguez. “The Texas portion of the U.S.-Mexico border is a critical component of the flow of global trade. This grant will go a long way towards development of the Presidio-Ojinaga port-of-entry, which will promote economic activity and growth for the City of Presidio as well as the entire state."

"I applaud TxDOT for its efforts in this grant application process. These two projects will bring jobs to House District 74 and make necessary infrastructure improvements. I urge Congress to approve the grant for The South Orient Railroad Rehabilitation and Presidio International Rail Bridge Reconstruction," said Rep. Poncho Nevárez.

TRA understands that another $5 million in a federal grant is to be available later this fall for additional work on the South Orient. Once the line is completely restored with freight speeds of 25mph between Presidio, Texas on the Rio Grande through Alpine and Fort Stockton it would serve as another important rail feeder line into San Angelo, Brownwood and up to the Dallas-Fort Worth market.

MMEX Resources Corp.(OTCPK:MMEX), a development-stage company focusing on the acquisition, development and financing of oil, gas, refining and infrastructure projects in Texas and South America, also applauded the Texas Department of Transportation's (TxDOT) plans to use a $7 million federal grant from The U.S. Department of Transportation to strengthen existing rail infrastructure in Permian Basin.

The Texas Pacifico-South Orient railroad gives MMEX rail access to Western Mexico including its Pacific deep water ports, the Dallas-Fort Worth - Mid-Continent Region and the Texas Gulf Coast Ports thru the various interconnections of the Texas Pacifico-South Orient railroad to the Union Pacific, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Fort Worth and Western, Kansas City Southern and Ferromex rail lines and allows for the U.S. marketing of refined products and exports internationally. "Last week was a trifecta for us in terms of milestones," added Hanks. "We closed on the initial land purchase for our proposed refinery site and filed our permit application with the TCEQ on the same day then greeted this TxDOT announcement at the end of the week with great excitement."

On July 31, 2017 MMEX announced its completed purchase of its 126-acre land site on the Texas Pacifico-South Orient Railroad in Pecos County, Texas approximately 20 miles northeast of Fort Stockton, Texas. The land will house MMEX's Phase I, 10,000 BPD crude distillation unit announced last month which will have a total footprint of 15 acres and be a companion to the planned Phase II $450M, 50,000 BPD refinery announced in March. Additionally, on July 31, 2017 MMEX filed necessary permits for the initial unit with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. It expects to be able to obtain full permitting on the initial unit within 45 days of filing, and, assuming that adequate financing is obtained, anticipates the approximately 15 month period construction period to begin as soon as all permits are issued.