Rio Grande Pacific Says It Does Not Plan to Move Oil Over Tennessee Pass

An eastbound train is seen at Belden, Colo., on Tennessee Pass in August 1996. Photo by Jeff Simley.

Rio Grande Pacific Says It Does Not Plan to Move Oil Over Tennessee Pass

By Railfan & Railroad Staff

EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. — The company hoping to lease the long-dormant Tennessee Pass line from Union Pacific said it presently has “no intention” to move oil over the railroad, the Vail Daily reports. On Monday, a community liaison for the Colorado, Midland & Pacific Railway, a subsidiary of Texas-based Rio Grande Pacific, met with the Eagle County Commission to discuss the plan that was first announced in December

Colorado Midland & Pacific Railway plans to lease the line from Milepost 171.90, at Parkdale, Colo., to Milepost 335.00, near Sage. It has filed for common-carrier authority with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to operate it. A short section of the east end of the Tennessee Pass line through the scenic Royal Gorge, is operated by a short line, Rock & Rail, and a tourist carrier, Royal Gorge Route Railroad. However, the vast majority of the line has been dormant since 1997. 

Rio Grande Pacific has been hired to operate the yet-to-be-built Uinta Basin Railway in Utah, which has been proposed to tap into oil reserves in eastern Utah. Because of that connection, many have assumed that the company wanted to use the Tennessee Pass route to move crude, but company officials said Monday that was not the case. 

“There’s been a lot of false speculation about (hauling) commodities,” said community liaison Sarah Thompson Cassidy. “The company I represent has no intention, no plans, and no means to operate oil trains on the corridor.”

Thompson Cassidy said the company was primarily looking at opening the line for passenger service, a message that seemed to be well received by local officials. 

Since the announcement back in December that Rio Grande Pacific wanted to lease the line, the STB has been flooded with comments, many in objection to the plan. Some of the comments are from a competitor, Colorado Pacific, who wants to buy the line, and others are from conservation and community groups concerned about the potential for rail service to return.

This article was posted on: February 9, 2021