By Railfan & Railroad Staff
WASHINGTON – As if the U.S. Surface Transportation Board didn’t have enough on its plate already — between dueling Canadian Class Is vying for Kansas City Southern’s heart and a surprisingly contentious proposed acquisition in New England — the federal regulator is also considering whether or not it will allow the construction of a new railroad into Utah’s Uinta Basin.
If approved, the Uinta Basin Railway would be the largest railroad building project in the United States in more than a generation, going back to when the Chicago & North Western expanded into the Powder River Basin.
Last week, the STB issued its final environmental impact statement. That document identified the 85-mile Whitmore Park Alternative as the preferred route for the new railroad that will connect with Union Pacific’s Provo Subdivision near Kyune, Utah. The route avoids sensitive sage grouse habitat and some residential areas. However, that alignment would still impact surface and groundwater reserves, animal habitats and recreational access.
With the EIS in hand, the STB can now decide if it will issue a common carrier license to the backers of the project. The effort is being spearheaded by Utah’s Seven County Infrastructure Coalition with assistance from Drexel Hamilton Infrastructure Partners and Rio Grande Pacific. There is no timeline for when a decision could be made.
The railroad would help oil producers tap into reserves deep in the Uinta Basin.