FARMINGTON — New Mexico Department of Transportation officials will meet tonight in Farmington to discuss the feasibility of a freight railroad between the city and Gallup area.
"There's still a little bit of discussion of where the line could be," said Joe Delmagori, a Farmington Metropolitan Planning Organization planner. "But the primary focus is to get something from the (Interstate) 40 area up to the Farmington area."
The New Mexico State Rail Plan outlines the state's five-year goal for its railroad program per 2008 federal requirements, according to a DOT press release. Among other objectives, the document prioritizes potential statewide freight and passenger rail projects.
DOT is hosting meetings around the state from Thursday through Dec. 11 to gather public opinion, according to the release.
Bill Craven, DOT rail bureau manager, and Jessica Cessieux, DOT rail planner, will attend the Farmington meeting.
Delmagori said the proposed freight rail from the Farmington area could change the way the city ships its goods.
According to the plan, the Farmington Metropolitan Statistical Area produces $3.5 billion from its freight transportation-dependant industries, such as retail and mining. That's 62 percent of the area's total output, according to the plan. It's also the source of 21,333 jobs.
Much of the Farmington area's retail merchandise, Delmagori said, is transported by truck. Much of the crude oil, natural gas and refined petroleum is transported by pipeline, according to the plan.
Delmagori said a freight rail could allow the city to ship retail products, oil, natural gas and coal to and from Interstate 40. And from that interstate, goods could be shipped across the country, he said.
But construction of the rail is an estimated 10 years away, according to the plan. Farmington is still in the planning stages and has not committed to any funding, Delmagori said.
"It's really just getting ideas in place and put into this plan so the funding sources can be looked at in the coming years," he said.
There will also be a meeting at 1:30 p.m. today at City Hall with the Farmington Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Committee.
DOT officials are seeking public opinions about the plan at both meetings. People can ask questions after Craven presents the plan, said state DOT spokeswoman Melissa Dosher.
Written comments can also be submitted until Jan. 3, 2014, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once all comments have been reviewed and revisions have been made to the plan, the final document will be produced in spring 2014, Dosher said.
"I'm hoping that we have a good turnout at both these meetings," Delmagori said.