A 16-mile backup greets Southern California motorists returning from Las Vegas before the Interstate 5 off ramp that links to Interstate 10 is closed for reconstruction. The closure was ordered by the state Transportation Department on Thursday. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
The Federal Railroad Administration is poised to lift a longstanding ban on short-line railroad operators reopening a line that was closed earlier this year. The agency expects to complete a “due diligence” report in 90 days that could clear the tracks.
The line between Redlands and Santa Ana, near the California-Nevada state border, will be re-opened by a new entity, which is expected to be owned by Union Pacific and the American Society of Civil Engineers.
But if the agency is satisfied with the line’s safety and environmental characteristics, the agency would lift the ban on the railway using the tracks. Union Pacific is the sole investor in the Los Angeles-based company that would operate the line.
The re-opening of the 16-mile line at the end of May, when the off-ramp is currently open, prompted complaints that union engineers and Union Pacific had neglected safety precautions during inspections before the line’s closure.
The Federal Railroad Administration opened its analysis, called an environmental assessment, to the public last week. The document will be posted on the government’s Web site on Monday.
It was not immediately clear whether the agency planned to lift the ban on the re-opening of the line. A spokeswoman for the agency, Kim Goodin, told the Los Angeles Times that the agency was consulting with the agency and the environmental group that filed the permit application that would restart the line. The group has been meeting since October with railroad officials to negotiate the details and is scheduled to report on April 1 about the environmental review process. Goodin did not say whether the process could take longer than 90 days.
The tracks were shut down to reduce safety risks after the derailment of two Union Pacific freight trains near the Santa Fe tracks in July. No serious injuries were reported, although some equipment was damaged. Officials credited their preventative measures for preventing other derailments.
The Union Pacific Railway has invested $8 million in the re-opening of the line, said Jim Ritchey, president of the Southern California Rail Authority, which oversees the re-opening of freight railroads.
“The Federal Railroad Administration is looking at the Union Pacific Railway’