WASHINGTON — Rep. Paul Cook, R-Apple Valley, voted June 29 for the annual national security authorization bill, which passed in House Armed Services Committee by a 60-1 vote. In the bill, Cook proposed and succeeded in including language that begins the process for construction of a railroad spur at Fort Irwin’s National Training Center near Barstow.
“We have a long way to go on this rail spur proposal, but this is an important first step, and I intend to see it through,” Cook said. “We have an opportunity to save taxpayer dollars, increase the readiness of Army combat brigades, and provide an environmental benefit. I’ll continue to advocate for this proposal as the defense bill moves forward.”
The railroad spur would link the Army base to an existing freight rail line and would facilitate quick loading and unloading of military vehicles and equipment. First conceived in 2002, construction efforts for a rail spur were delayed and then cancelled. Completion of this project would result in increased efficiency and would save taxpayer dollars by way of reduced transportation costs.
Currently, Army vehicles headed to Fort Irwin for training rotations must use specialized truck transport to travel 40 miles from Barstow at a cost of $5.6 million annually, and these costs continue to rise. Additionally, a rail spur will allow more efficient use of limited Army training time. Days lost unloading or preparing equipment for transport will instead be available for additional military training.
The bill still must be approved by the full House of Representatives and U.S. Senate before being submitted to President Trump for his signature. A member of the House Natural Resources, Armed Services, and Foreign Affairs Committees, Cook served as an infantry officer and retired after 26 years as a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. During his time in combat, he was awarded the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts. Cook represents the 8th Congressional District, which includes all of the High Desert, including Barstow.