Over six years ago, the Union Pacific Railroad (UP) expressed interest in buying some state trust land north of Tucson where it could build a switching yard. The state’s Land Department, however, has vacillated. While Arizona regularly hands out incentives to attract large companies – especially solar companies – it drags its feet on a deal that would cost the state nothing and bring in revenues, not to mention hundreds of jobs.
The Land Department has required studies from Union Pacific and surrounding landowners regarding potential transportation and commercial impacts. The Land Department also commissioned a study that expressed concerns about drainage if the switchyard were installed, as if the railroad would never think to protect its own investment with adequate drainage. Surrounding land owners support the sale, as do U.S. Congressmen, local governments, and state legislators.
Since 1912, Arizona has sold 14 percent of its initial trust land grant, a rate of sale that might see the last acre sold in 600 years. Only Montana has sold at a slower rate. And while Arizona stalls on the Union Pacific deal, the railroad builds a switch yard in New Mexico, which would no doubt like to have another one. As Congressman Franks said, “We risk the UPRR choosing an alternative out of State location and Arizona losing the jobs and business activity the facility would create.”
If we are serious about building a sound and lasting economy, the Land Department should approve the Union Pacific land sale so we can put more Arizonans to work.
Arizona Republic: Plans for freight-rail yard stir debates
Goldwater Institute: Arizona Economy Will Grow with Highways and Freight Trains
Arizona Daily Independent: Arizona could learn something about job growth