Like a wood pile fit for a giant, thousands of wooden railroad ties are resting in stacks each the size of a house.
The ties are part of a rail line renewal project by Union Pacific Railroad. Using massive machinery, Union Pacific is replacing thousands of wooden ties with longer-lasting - but more expensive - concrete ties.
This project is part of a $42 million investment throughout Arizona, including track renewal work in Phoenix and Mesa, tie replacement on the main line between Casa Grande and Yuma, and in the Tucson and Phoenix rail yards.
Additionally, the Tucson yard, near 22nd Street and Kino Parkway, will be updated with new ballast, 140,000 tons of rock, distributed to relevel the roadbed.
The project relies on more than 46,000 concrete ties manufactured by LB Foster, which runs a plant next to the Union Pacific yard in Tucson.
Current track work is focused on existing rail lines, said Aaron Hunt, a spokesman for Union Pacific. While traffic has slowed in the midst of recession, Union Pacific expects traffic to increase as the economy recovers.
A larger series of improvements, however, remain shelved, according to Hunt .
"Rail is very important. Thousands of products come into Tucson by rail," said Al Altuna, freight planner for the Pima Association of Governments and president of the Southern Arizona Logistics Education Organization. "And rail will be increasingly important in the future, as moving cargo by rail is more environmentally friendly, and often less expensive at longer distances."
Paul M. Ingram is a University of Arizona journalism student apprenticing at the Star. Contact him at 573-4244 or firstname.lastname@example.org