the past year, our office has said fond farewells to John Hey, Larry Mesenbrink
and Bill Lounsbury, all who chose new challenges in retirement.
would like to introduce you to the newest members of the rail team.
Banks replaces Bill and comes to us from the Iowa Department of Transportation’s
(Iowa DOT) Right of Way Office. Steve is the railroad/highway project
coordinator. Steve is responsible for working out all the sticky details when a
highway construction project involves or impacts a rail line.
Nicholson replaces John as the freight and passenger rail coordinator. Tammy
will be developing policies and direction for Iowa's rail freight and rail
passenger initiatives. She also handles rail regulatory and river navigation
issues. Tammy comes from the Iowa DOT's Office of Location and
Wazny replaces Larry as the rail development manager. Rose is the staff
coordinator for the Iowa Rail Finance Authority and manages the details of the
Rail Revolving Loan and Grant Program. Rose is a former employee of the Iowa
Department of Economic Development and brings years of experience in development
activities. I called on Rose to tell you a little about what rail development
means to Iowa.
Director, Office of Rail Transportation
Rail access creates jobs
“new kid on the block” in August, I jumped right into the middle of the third
application cycle for the Rail Revolving Loan and Grant (RRLG) Program. From
those summer applications, we have a number of new rail projects that will help
create jobs in Iowa and add some additional building blocks to the state’s
development projects promise the creation of 467 new jobs and support more than
$1.3 billion in total capital investment. The
Iowa Railway Finance Authority
(IRFA) Board awarded funding for 11 rail projects totaling $2.8 million in
October 2007. The awards were funded out of a $2 million appropriation by the Iowa
Legislature from the Rebuild Iowa's Infrastructure Fund and loan repayments from
previously funded rail projects.
steel processing and distribution center, Norfolk Iron and Metal, will create
135 new jobs in Durant. Many of the other jobs created through the RRLG Program
are located in rural areas of the state such as Wesley, home of Prairie Creek
Ethanol; and Alta, home of Oregon Trail Energy. Additionally, a new transload facility located
in Palo will help alleviate trucking and rail congestion in the center of Cedar
Rapids. Other funded rail improvements support the construction of four new
ethanol plants, a bio-diesel refinery, two railroad line improvements, and an
industrial expansion project. The jobs pledged anticipate an average wage of $18
Program has proven to stimulate economic activity and job growth for Iowa. This
year the Iowa DOT is again requesting $2 million in assistance from the Iowa
Legislature. The funding will support loans and grants to build or improve rail
lines that enhance the transportation infrastructure of Iowa and create an
environment for business growth.
The Office of Rail
Transportation hopes to announce the next round of the program during the summer
of 2008. If you have questions before then, please call 515-239-1066 or E-mail
Rail Development Manager
Cedar Falls sees big improvements
Falls Utilities receives coal by rail to fuel its plant and is the only
customer at the end of a 1.5-mile spur track. However, the spur track weaves
right through the middle of a residential, downtown neighborhood. In some cases,
the railroad track is within 30 to 50 feet of private homes. The spur track has
11 highway-railroad crossings, including a stretch where the track goes down
the middle of the street for several blocks.
this was former Rock Island track, and Cedar Falls Utilities had not used coal
for a number of years, the tracks and crossings were in tough shape. The
current operator, Iowa Northern Railway, and Cedar Falls Utilities developed
an agreement to provide for the maintenance of the spur track and crossings. The
coal is critical to Cedar Falls Utilities’ operation. Shipping coal by rail is
now the most convenient and cost effective method.
Fortunately, Iowa Northern previously submitted applications for the 11
crossings to the Iowa DOT’s Grade Crossing Surface Repair Program. This program
funds 60 percent of the cost of the improvements at a highway-railroad grade
crossing. The railroad pays 20 percent of the cost and the owner of the road
pays the remaining 20 percent. In this case, Cedar Falls Utilities agreed to pay
the railroad's and city's share.
there was one other hitch. The rail line between the crossings was also in bad
shape. Before highway-railroad grade crossing surface repair funds were invested
in the crossings, the other condition issues needed to be addressed to lessen
the risk of any train derailment near homes in downtown Cedar Falls. Cedar Falls
Utilities agreed to pay for repair work to the track between the crossings. The
upgrade and repair of the line and 11 crossings cost more than $1.5 million,
with Cedar Falls Utilities paying more than $670,000 of the cost.
"The project went so smoothly with cooperation from
the utility, the railroad and some excellent contractors. The track went from
being a community eyesore to a community enhancement," said Mary Jo Key, the
Iowa DOT’s rail project manager.