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Punta Colonet project on hold by Mexico
Mexico has suspended bidding on development of a deep-water shipping port on the Baja California coast that would be linked with by proposed rail line with Yuma.
Mexico's Ministry of Communications and Transportation said in a recently published announcement it was canceling bidding on the Punta Colonet project amid a drop in maritime commerce stemming from the world economic situation.
It previously was seeking bidders to build and operate the port and a rail line that would move cargo shipped in from other nations. Yuma-area officials looked forward to the prospects of the line passing through Yuma, creating economic development opportunities here.
Officials of the area's transportation planning agency, the Yuma Metropolitan Planning Organization, say they don't believe the suspension in bidding means the Punta Colonet project is dead.
“We don't think this is a final cancelation but rather (the project) is on hold,” said Charlene Fitzgerald, executive director of the YMPO. “In fact, we are waiting for the results of a study by the Ministry of Communications and Transportation that has to do with Punta Colonet.”
The results of that study, she said, will be incorporated into the Yuma County Rail Corridor and Logistics Study being prepared by YMPO. That study seeks to identify rail routes that make the best use of Yuma County's proximity to Mexico to create international trade opportunities.
Regardless of what happens at Punta Colonet, Yuma-area officials see a rail line as key to the county's efforts to develop trade opportunities with neighboring Mexico.
The Ministry of Communications, announcing the suspension of bidding in the government's publication, Diario Oficial de la Federación, said “the market for (shipping) on the Trans-Pacific route represents growth rates of a single digit in the coming years.”
It said investors in maritime transportation have expressed no interest in bidding or investing in project on the scale of Punta Colonet, a proposed megaport located on Baja's southwest coast.
Somerton Mayor Martin Porchas, who sits on YMPO's Executive Board, agrees Punta Colonet is not dead.
“I would say that it's going to get going again when the economy improves,” he said. “Every government makes decisions according to the conditions of the economy and they just decided that right now it's not justified.”
“I believe a railway would be very good for the Yuma area, if and when it comes here,” said Porchas. “We can take advantage of it for industry, business or agriculture, and to move merchandise and products from here.”
Apart from a rail line from Punta Colonet, said Fitzgerald, one option under consideration in the YMPO study is a rail line between Yuma and San Luis Rio Colorado, Son., that would connect both to Ferromex lines in Mexico and to Union Pacific in Yuma. That would serve industrial parks on both side of the border.
A railway “is going to be very good for San Luis (Ariz.), for Yuma and the area, and for Mexico,” said San Luis City Councilwoman Maria Ramos, who also sits on the YMPO Executive Board. “These are just the first steps right now, but it would bring about many jobs, which is what we most need in the area.”
The ports at Long Beach and Los Angeles are not as busy with shipping as in the past, owing to a drop in demand for shipping,” said Enrique Orozco, director of the International Industrial Park in San Luis Rio Colorado.
“Those ports are now being sufficient for the demand, so Punta Colonet loses some of its viability,” he said.
But, Orozco added, that doesn't mean economic developers in the area should give up trying to bring a freight rail line here.
“We can't continue looking opportunities,” he said, noting that the industrial park recently missed out in landing a Canadian company as a tenant owing to the lack of a rail line.
That company, which he declined to name, needed rail to export 50 railcars containing paper products per week to the United States and on to Canada.
“We have to insist on a rail line, regardless of whether Punta Colonet project is revived or not, because this isn't just about the benefit for San Luis or for Yuma. It's about the economic development of the entire region.”