• Fort Bliss, TX

  • A general discussion about shortlines, industrials, and military railroads
A general discussion about shortlines, industrials, and military railroads

Moderator: Aa3rt

  by RailVet
Planned railway includes 76 miles of track in Ft. Bliss area

A few weeks ago, the 2nd Engineer Battalion at White Sands Missile Range had more than 100 vehicles waiting at the Biggs Army Airfield railhead. They could have used a railroad line between the two posts to transport the equipment, including heavy armored vehicles used to detect and remove roadside bombs, according to local newspapers.

Although it won't be finished in time to help the White Sands engineers, Fort Bliss is planning just such a rail system. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2015 and Fort Bliss officials are in the very early stages of mapping out a route for a 76-mile rail system that would connect new railheads at White Sands, Oro Grande Range and McGregor Range to the existing railhead at Biggs Army Airfield. The airfield's railhead is part of the nation's commercial system, which also is used by the Defense Department.

A preliminary cost estimate conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers came in at about $190 million, said Clark McChesney, director of the Team Bliss Base Transformation Office.

"This really is a project that is designed to save funding and reduce the cost for units to move around the range complex," McChesney said. "This area is larger than the state of Rhode Island."

With nearly 30,000 soldiers coming to Fort Bliss between 2005 and 2013, and nearly 5,000 slated to be at White Sands Missile Range by 2013, the activity on the posts' training ranges will continue to increase. The 1st Armored Division is being relocated to Fort Bliss along with two infantry brigade combat teams, and White Sands is to receive a heavy brigade combat team. That means many thousands of tons of armored vehicles will require transportation between the ranges and the posts.

The rail line is expected to save the cost of gas, maintenance, vehicle replacement and improve environmental conditions by decreasing vehicle emissions and dust. It also is expected to improve safety by pulling a significant amount of traffic off the roads, officials said.

Initial planning began about a year ago, McChesney said. But he said competing demands for limited funds pushed the start date back to 2015.

McChesney said the environmental staff at the post is working on including a preliminary survey of the route in an environmental impact survey needed after the two additional brigade combat teams recently were assigned to Fort Bliss as part of the Army's growth plans. He also is advocating for an engineering survey.

The route currently is planned to be built in three phases. The first would run from the Biggs Army Airfield railhead along the east side of U.S. 54 to a newly constructed railhead near the entrance to McGregor Range. The second phase would run from the McGregor railhead to a new railhead at the Oro Grande Range, where tank gunnery ranges will be located. And the third, a branch starting between the two range railheads and running to the main cantonment area at White Sands, would terminate near the 2nd Engineer Battalion Complex that is now under construction, said Gerry Veara, White Sands director of plans, training, mobilization and security.

Crossing the highway to get to White Sands will require a wide turn-out and the proper, gradual grades for a bridge over the highway.

Currently at the Biggs railhead, switch locomotives are used to move cars into position as commercially owned locomotives pick them up or drop them off. The Defense Department owns rail cars that are used throughout the country, but it may be necessary to purchase locomotives that can haul the heavy weights over Fort Bliss ranges, McChesney said. That cost isn't included in the $190 million estimate, he added.

The Surface Deployment and Distribution Command -- the Army's experts in this area -- will examine the plan to work out any problems, McChesney said. The command also will do a cost/benefit analysis, he said.

The design must allow for minimal interference with range maneuvers and it can't create vibrations that would interfere with sensitive measurements at White Sands research stations, McChesney said.

However, he warned that just about any part of the plan could change. With the new heavy brigade combat team going in at White Sands in 2013, it may become a priority to build the stretch to White Sands before the Oro Grande run.

Railway Age, August 18, 2008
  by Teutobergerwald
A brigade of the 1st Armored Division is going to get disbanded as part of the drawdown of 45 brigades to 33.