Request for rail line crossing heard at county meeting

During the Nolan County Commissioners' meeting on Monday, discussion was held which stemmed from a request by a business in the oil/gas transportation industry to re-establish a rail line--which crosses County Road (CR) 108--and put it back into service.Ken Tootle with MAALT made the presentation to the commissioners, in which he gave an overview of the company. The Fort-Worth based company has been in the business for around a decade, boasting 400 employees and several branches in Texas and Oklahoma, among others.Their initial involvement in the Bennett oil shale has now expanded into participation with the Eagle Ford shale. However, their purpose for presenting in the county meeting would allow for the company to take part in the Cline Shale oil development.The area mentioned by Tootle is located on land owned by Clyde Wagner, who was also in attendance at the meeting. MAALT's proposal deals with the old Orient Rail crossing which is 170 acres north of CR 108.The company hopes to work with Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) on an operating plan in order to place businesses and develop property and possibly haul pipes. Preliminary drafts were shown to the commissioners which also outlined early traffic estimates of about 80 trucks per day.The first phase of the plans presented would come to an estimated cost of around $5 million. However, it was noted that these initial plans would probably have to be cut in half. Most of the projected traffic would come from the east, and while it would be a private crossing MAALT would work with the county to reopen the rail line. Currently, the line is black-topped over.The desire of the company was to see the requirements of the project and to learn if they could begin work with the present conditions. Should the project become more elaborate, expansion would then be considered.One of the concerns expressed was how the county could maintain the road conditions when traffic is expected to increase and the budget only sets aside different times and funding to upkeep the road. Tootle replied that should the concern become a reality, further discussions would take place.In regard to the legal aspect of the matter, county attorney Lisa Peterson stated that liability issues must be addressed before starting the project. Additionally, it must be determined that the road can handle the traffic and construction improvements, along with the placement of signs during the project.Because some of the commissioners were not familiar with the area in discussion, a decision was made to examine the location before taking any action. In the meantime, MAALT would work on drafting a contract between their company and the county.Thus, the item was tabled. The intention is to present any further work and information at the next meeting.