Rail Port Relocation Study to Begin
Friday, February 14, 2020
Greater Ottumwa Partners in Progress has awarded regional engineering firm French-Reneker, of Fairfield, to conduct its Rail Port Relocation Study. The purpose of this project is to evaluate potential rail siding locations, review drawbacks to the existing Burlington Junction Railway siding location, discuss potential opportunities associated with relocation with BJRY, prepare conceptual designs and cost estimates for the relocation, and develop strategies for the implementation of the siding relocation.
In October, 2019, Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) announced that Ottumwa Economic Development Corp. (now GOPIP) 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.
“GOPIP 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, Area 15 Regional Planning Commission, and City of Ottumwa to make sure the study provides what the property-owners and the community need for the long-term. Recognizing in advance that the Riverfront Redevelopment plan could ultimately impact the current rail siding location, we are taking a pro-active approach to recognizing potential barriers,” says Sharon Stroh, GOPIP VP of Industrial Development.
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, Lineage Logistics, and others. 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. within the next 5 years as part of a sewer separation project. Options being investigated include vacant/underutilized properties with existing utilities.
Partners in Progress received four competitive proposals which were independently evaluated by members of the Ottumwa team and a representative of Burlington Junction Railway.
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.
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