Iowa Department of Transportation Awards OEDC $80,000
Friday, November 08, 2019
The Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) announced that Ottumwa Economic Development Corp. (OEDC) received an $80,000 planning grant from the Railroad Revolving Loan and Grant (RRLG) Program to study the relocation of the Burlington Junction Railway (BJRY) spur, currently located downtown near Jefferson and Union Streets.
“The primary objective of the study is to investigate alternative locations for the rail spur that can offer easier and safer access for tractor/trailers, more maneuverability outside the downtown reconstruction area, and greater ability to meet customer demands. OEDC envisions this as a collaborative study and recognizes the importance of maintaining BJRY services to our community. Our organization is working closely with Burlington Junction and Area 15 Regional Planning Commission to make sure the study provides what the property-owners and the community need for the long-term.” says Sharon Stroh, OEDC Executive Director.
While a preferred site has yet to be determined, the desired location would be nearer to the industrialized area on S. Iowa Ave., less than a mile east of the existing location. The new site would be able to serve multiple customers, as the existing site does, but with fewer impediments to access. Iowa Ave. has direct connections to U.S. Highways 34 & 63, and acts as the main thoroughfare for JBS, a major pork-producing industry in Ottumwa. Additionally, Iowa Ave. was rebuilt in 2016 to accommodate the wear and tear of daily heavy truck traffic, a feature the current downtown site cannot offer. Lastly, City of Ottumwa officials have plans to complete a full-width, full-depth reconstruction of Hayne St, near the industrial corridor, within the next 5 years as part of a sewer separation project. Options being investigated include vacant/underutilized properties with existing utilities.
The first railroad arrived in Ottumwa in 1859, and by 1900, four major railroads served the city, but most of the rail activity downtown had ceased by 1980, leaving behind large areas of underutilized or derelict properties. Over the last decade however, Ottumwa has enjoyed tens of millions of dollars in revitalization and has launched several planning efforts to connect downtown to the river. Relocating this spur would provide greater access and expansion potential for the railroad and provide increased commercial and residential redevelopment capacity downtown along the riverfront.
The Ottumwa project was one of six applications presented to IDOT in June, and one of only four to be approved during this round of funding.