Union Pacific Railroad announced last week that it acquired complete ownership of a rail line in Oklahoma decades after state officials saved what continues to be a link of commerce through the Sooner State.
The agreement was originally drafted 30 years ago when Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad Co. filed for bankruptcy, potentially eliminating a critical rail connection that linked Texas and Kansas through Oklahoma. Oklahoma purchased 351 miles of track that runs through Enid, El Reno, Oklahoma City, Chickasha, Duncan and Lawton.
The tracks were operated by Oklahoma-Kansas-Texas Railroad Co. through a 30-year-lease purchase agreement signed Nov. 1, 1982. Union Pacific acquired the tracks after several mergers and finished paying $35 million plus accrued interest for the rail line last year.
“This type of agreement was unique, but we felt it was critical that we preserve the rail corridors and work towards getting them back in the hands of private industry,” said Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation Gary Ridley. “The railroad tracks that were saved 30 years ago are a valuable part of the transportation network and are bustling with activity today.”
UP maintains the rail line and operates trains carrying mixed goods through the area. The north-south line is a route favored by oil and gas companies operating in the Anadarko Basin. Trains deliver frac sand and pipe used in the hydraulic fracturing process.
Ridley and Tony Love, UP assistant vice president-real estate, signed the documents that transfer the rail line to UP during the Oklahoma Department of Transportation Commission meeting this week. Love presented Ridley with a UP Partnership Coin, which commemorates the company’s 150th anniversary.
“This coin is representative of so many partnerships Union Pacific has built over our 150-year history and we thank the Oklahoma Department of Transportation for being a part of our history through the foresight you had in recognizing the value that rail transportation brings to the state,” said Love. “Your investment has paid off for rail shippers in western Oklahoma and throughout the country.”
UP invested more than $214 million in Oklahoma transportation infrastructure from 2007 to 2011. The company operates 1,173 miles of track in Oklahoma, which serve as a vital link between the Midwest and the Gulf Coast. Grain bound for export moves through the state, as well as coal bound for southern power plants. UP also ships Oklahoma wheat, cement and aggregates out of the state.