San Antonio

Union Pacific has announced plans to build a $90 million state-of-the-art 300-acre intermodal rail terminal alongside Interstate 35 in San Antonio, advancing the city’s goal to establish itself as a NAFTA inland port.

In an Aug. 23 announcement, the railroad said the San Antonio terminal will process more than 100,000 truck trailers annually when completed in 2008, with the capacity to grow to a potential of 250,000 trailers and containers per year.

Kyle Burns, president and CEO of the Free Trade Alliance San Antonio, told WND in an e-mail, “The new Union Pacific Intermodal facility located in south San Antonio will be a benefit to San Antonio by further enhancing our world-class logistics and transportation infrastructure, that currently handles interstates and rail lines, running both north-south and east-west. San Antonio is at the cross-roads of U.S.-Mexico-Canadian trade.”

With over 80,000 semi trucks currently traveling to rail yards within the San Antonio city limits to pick up or drop off containers and trailers, the new facility is designed to relieve traffic in the city.

Additionally, the new terminal will give truckers the option to drop off their containers with easy access from I-10 and I-35, accommodating in San Antonio many trucks that now must go through the city to Houston to drop off containers for trains bound for other destinations.

Union Pacific plans to utilize advanced computer systems and technology to coordinate the movement of rail cars, trucks, trailers and containers such that, “a truck entering or leaving the facility will be stopped at the gate for only 30 to 45 seconds, compared to the national average of four minutes.”

In making the announcement, Union Pacific positioned the railroad as a North American railroad, commenting, “Union Pacific connects with Canada’s rail systems and is the only railroad serving all six major gateways to Mexico, making it North America’s premier rail franchise.”

The San Antonio Business Journal noted the Union Pacific terminal was strategically located to ship and receive containers with household goods both from West Coast ports such as Los Angeles and Long Beach, as well as Mexican ports such as Manzanillo and Lazaro Cardenas.

Additionally, the terminal will receive containers of auto parts destined for the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas Inc. plant in San Antonio.

“Combined with multi-modal services at Port San Antonio,” Burns told WND, “this new facility provides a service and infrastructure that will assist existing manufacturers and attract new manufacturing companies to join the already successful Toyota tundra manufacturing plant.”

The Free Trade Alliance San Antonio was created in 1994 as a trade group dedicated to promoting the development of San Antonio as a world trade inland port.

In a position paper on the Alliance website, the group notes “congestion in U.S. West Coast ports combined with poor rail service has led to a virtual choking of Chinese exports into the United States.”

The Alliance position paper continues to state, “San Antonio is working with alternative ports in Mexico (Manzanillo and Lazaro Cardenas) and on the Texas Gulf Coast (such as Houston and Corpus Christi) to offer Chinese exporters a competitive and time-efficient alternative to their traditional distribution routes through California.”

Burns told WND, “International trade is growing at an unprecedented rate in our community and we are pleased that Union Pacific is investing $90 million to build a world-class intermodal rail yard to process freight in and out of our city.”

Remarks by Alliance President Kyle Burns posted on the group’s website in its current newsletter documents the active steps being taken to promote San Antonio in world trade.

Future events in the next few months include two Alliance-led trade missions, one to Mexico and the second to China.

Additionally, the Alliance has scheduled in October its second annual Business Conference China, second annual Mexican Business Leaders meeting, and the third annual Inland Ports Conference.

Following a recent Alliance-led trade mission to Canada in July, the group is planning trade missions yet this year to Mexico City and to China.

An advocacy position paper on the Alliance website makes clear the group strongly supports the Department of Transportation’s planned cross-border Mexican truck demonstration project, arguing “this program is paramount to developing new logistics and distribution opportunities for San Antonio.”

The Free Trade Alliance San Antonio is a member of the North American Inland Port Network, which has been incorporated as a subcommittee into the North America’s SuperCorridor Coalition, or NASCO, the Dallas-based trade group supporting the development of NAFTA and WTO-related trade along Interstates 35, 29 and 94.

WND reported Kansas City SmartPort also has declared itself an inland port but with intentions to open a Mexican customs office in Kansas City.

Containers entering the U.S. through Mexican ports such as Manzanillo and Lazaro Cardenas would utilize cheaper Mexican dock workers instead of the longshoremen who work at West Coast ports such as Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Additionally, containers transported from the West Coast overland to the heartland today use U.S. truck drivers or United Transportation Union railroad workers, who are typically more expensive than their Mexican counterparts.

In addition to the Free Trade Alliance San Antonio, the other members of NAIPN are AllianceTexas, Kansas City SmartPort, the city of Winnipeg, The Central Mexico Inland Ports Initiative, and Iowa Inland Port.

WND also has reported the ports of Houston and New Orleans are preparing to handle an increased flow of containers from China, including the post-Panamax container ships from China designed to travel through an expanded Panama Canal.

The Wall Street Journal reported March 28 that Princeton economics professor Alan S. Blinder, the former Federal Reserve vice chairman who advised President Clinton to push through the passage of NAFTA, now estimates the U.S. could lose up to 40 million jobs to outsourcing over the next two decades as the country transforms into a service economy.

To handle the anticipated influx of millions of containers with cheaply manufactured Chinese goods into North America, transportation economists have emphasized “intermodal” as a methodology for moving containers efficiently by ship, truck and train, without having to reload the contents.

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