The Odessa Chamber of Commerce and Leeco Properties held a spike driving ceremony Wednesday, launching the Leeco Industrial Park rail spur at Faudree Road and Business 20.
The rail spur is a track used for loading and unloading oilfield related items, including sand and tubing, connecting a secondary track to the main Union Pacific Railroad, Leeco owner Larry Lee said.
“This happens to be the first new rail spur built in this area in over 30 years,” Odessa Chamber of Commerce President Mike George said. “This new railroad spur and industrial park will bring folks direct and indirect benefits to this area. We’re already seeing direct benefits displayed because of the new jobs that have been created and the businesses that have located out here in this industrial park.”
George said another benefit is the spur will take thousands of heavy vehicles off the road, reducing traffic and wear and tear on streets, and saving millions of tax dollars to repair those streets.
“To put it into perspective, one fully loaded 18-wheeler carrying 80,000 pounds does the damage of 9,000 passenger vehicles,” George said.
Mayor David Turner said the rail is a significant step for Odessa’s economic growth.
“It’s an opportunity to bring more business in because we’ll have access to the rail spurs,” Turner said. “I think it will bring in a lot of business because you have access to be able to put your products on rail to either bring them in or take them out and that’s huge.”
Lee paid about $3 million to build the spur at the request of his clients. Before the spur was built, Lee said it was inconvenient because companies had to offload items on a small site to put it on the main line, which was tying them up.
It took about six months to construct the spur and was officially in use about 30 days ago, Lee said.
Eventually, about 10 of the 40 businesses within the industrial park will also have tracks leading onto it, and Lee said he anticipates thousands of cars per year being accessed through the park.
“Constructing a railroad was an extreme adventure the whole time,” Lee said. “It has worked really well. At this time, we have clients wanting to move along the rail access now.”
Brenda Mainwaring, vice president of public affairs for Union Pacific’s southern region, based in Spring, said in the last two years Union Pacific’s volume in the Permian Basin and West Texas has increased 63 percent.
About 100,000 cars came through the three rail yards in the Permian Basin last year in Odessa, Big Spring and Monahans, Ken Lueckenhoff, regional manager of industrial development for Union Pacific Railroad, said.
It depends on the commodity, but one rail car is equivalent to about three trucks, which is about 100,000 trucks that aren’t traveling on the roadways, Mainwaring said.
In addition to the spur, work continues on the Union Pacific rail expansion, with construction on two new tracks that will be part of an unloading facility located just south of the Odessa rail yard, a $14 million investment.
“The rail industry has done very well in the last several years, just like the Permian Basin has done very well, and those two things are tied together in a lot of ways,” Mainwaring said. “We have long history in the Permian Basin and we’re committed to expanding our customers.”