Pacific Imperial Railroad Inc., the operator of the railway running from San Diego through Tijuana and back across the border to El Centro in Imperial County, said it signed a 99-year lease with the San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railway Co. and the San Diego Metropolitan Transit Development Board to operate the Desert Line.

Pacific Imperial said it signed the lease and it has taken significant steps to refurbish the railway so it can be fully operational.

The company also recently named Ernest Dahlman III as its chief executive officer. He is the founder and president of Dahlman Rose & Co, a full-service investment bank focused on the transportation, and commodities industries.

Plans to rebuild a series of bridges and tunnels on the 130-mile railway have been in the works since 2001. The line was seen as a big jobs creating project because it was linked to the many maquiladoras in Tijuana area, and because the line could connect to San Diego’s marine terminals at 10th Avenue and in National City.

Pacific Imperial didn’t say how much it would invest into the project, only that it had engaged engineering, financial and strategic partners. It also gave no timetable when the line would be fully operational.

— Mike Allen