Land developers and representatives from the railroad and trucking industries believe Belen may be situated in the perfect spot for an intermodal transportation facility.
“This is an ideal location,” Ruben Fragoso, business development specialist with the state’s economic development department, said Thursday at a feasibility study meeting at Belen’s City Hall. “With a main east-west rail and both north-south and east-west interstate highway so close, this is a perfect place for that type of business.”
An intermodal facility is one at which semi-trailers and cargo containers are removed from railcars and transported by road to their destinations. The combination of rail and road freight transportation is increasing, according to Fragoso.
With the proximity of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) rails to Interstate-25, the north Belen exit is an ideal location for this type of facility, people at the gathering said. The added plus is the access to an east-west interstate highway just 30 minutes away.
“Rail moves 31.8 percent of our domestic goods, it moves more cargo than in-land waterways, truck or air freight. EPA has stated that rail is three times cleaner than trucks,” Fragoso said. “The BNSF Chicago-to-Los-Angeles route through Belen is a leading line in America. Nearly 100 trains pass through Belen everyday.”
“This could be a great spot for this type of facility,” said Tony Sarrett, general director of transportation for BNSF. “It’s just a question of if the developers can get shippers to use the facility.”
The closest such facilities are in Phoenix and Dallas. A facility in Valencia County could service markets in New Mexico, Mexico, Colorado, West Texas and beyond.
Vic Shepperd of the New Mexico Trucking Association told the group that 89 percent of the municipalities in New Mexico rely solely on trucks to bring in their supplies and goods.
“Businesses and manufacturers are operating on ‘just-in-time’ deliveries, where the goods they need are not stored in their warehouses, but delivered just as they need them,” Shepperd said. “The Saturn automotive plant in Tennessee has a layover time of seven minutes for the auto parts being bought into its plant.”
A representative from a custom broker firm, Jesse Martinez of Brown, Alcantor & Brown, told the group how products enter the Port of Albuquerque’s customs facility at the Albu-querque International Sunport and are inspected before moving on to their destinations.
“Sometimes, even though there is a lift in Albuquerque, we have to send cargo to El Paso to be removed from the trains. This can cause delays as the customs department there inspects the goods,” Martinez said.
Fragoso indicated the U.S. Customs Department had showed interest in establishing an inspection center at an intermodal facility in Belen.
“It could also be established as a Foreign Trade Zone, where items from outside of the United States could be stored without having to pay customs tariffs until they are distributed to locations around America,” Fragoso said.
One of the questions remaining unanswered is: is there a need for such a facility?
“Who would use it?” asked Mike Jacques, BNSF’s Belen terminal manager. “We carry several trucking companies’ trailers, but would they want to use this location to receive their trailers, that is the question.”
Chuck Jimenez, a developer from Arizona, warned the group to have its facts in line.
“You have to show an economic need for the facility so shippers will use it. You have to know who in this region buys how much, when, where and why to see if they would use a facility like this,” Jimenez said. “You also have to determine why companies would want to transfer their cargo here rather than in Oklahoma City or Dallas.”
He also encouraged the developers to investigate what local residents think about this type of industry.
After hearing that developers and the representatives from the railroad and trucking industries were interested in such a facility, Mary Lou Chavez, director of the Belen-Valencia County Economic Development Corpor-ation, said she would lead a committee to determine what the actual use would be for this type of industrial park.
“This was the first meeting to see if those in the industry thought it was a good idea,” she said. “Intermodal transportation was among the ideas for economic development in this area. We will have to see what develops from here.”