STB Gives High Green to Uinta Basin Railway

A rendering of the proposed Uinta Basin Railway along U.S. Highway 191 in eastern Utah. Courtesy of the U.S. Surface Transportation Board. 

STB Gives High Green to Uinta Basin Railway

By Railfan & Railroad Staff

UINTA BASIN, Utah — The U.S. Surface Transportation Board gave the green light to the largest railroad construction project in more than a generation on Wednesday when it issued final approval for the construction of the Uinta Basin Railway in Utah. 

The Uinta Basin Railway will connect Utah’s oil-rich Uinta Basin with the national rail network at Kyune, Utah, on Union Pacific’s Provo Subdivision (the former Denver & Rio Grande Western over Soldier Summit). The STB approved what has been dubbed the Whitmore Park Alternative, which will stretch 85 miles into the desert of eastern Utah. The effort is being spearheaded by Utah’s Seven County Infrastructure Coalition, Drexel Hamilton Infrastructure Partners and Rio Grande Pacific

“We are grateful to the Board for its decision, and to the STB and the federal, state, local, and tribal cooperating agencies for their careful, thorough, and expeditious preparation of the railway’s Environmental Impact Statement,” said UBRY President Mark W. Hemphill. “We appreciate the tremendous support for the future of Utah’s Uinta Basin by the Business Committee of the Ute Indian Tribe, Utah’s entire federal delegation, Governor Spencer Cox, Senate President Stuart Adams, Speaker of the House Brad Wilson, and the county commissioners and mayors of the Uinta Basin. Our public partners, the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition, and their Executive Director Mike McKee, have put enormous effort into this railway for nearly a decade. We’re honored to participate in their vision for the economic success of their counties and communities.”

The last major railroad construction project in the United States occurred in the early 1980s, when the Chicago & North Western built into Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. 

Utah’s Seven County Infrastructure Coalition provided funding for the environmental impact statement, which will be repaid by the private partner, Uinta Basin Railway. Uinta Basin Railway is owned by DHIP Group, Rio Grande Pacific Corp., and the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation. DHIP’s role is to finance the project. Rio Grande Pacific will construct, operate, and maintain the railway. The Ute Indian Tribe is an equity partner in the railway as well as the owner of approximately one-third of the commercial oil resource in the Uinta Basin.

Construction could commence as early as 2023, depending upon financing, right-of-way acquisition, and the availability of contractors. It is expected to take two years to construct. 

A map showing the various routes considered for the Uinta Basin Railway.

This article was posted on: December 16, 2021