Government

Iowa lands $25 million grant for one-of-a-kind freight hub in Cedar Rapids

$46.5 million facility to be built in Cedar Rapids

(File Photo) The start of a 2.6 mile long string of 270 hopper cars that are being stored on an unused CRANDIC line can
(File Photo) The start of a 2.6 mile long string of 270 hopper cars that are being stored on an unused CRANDIC line can be seen Thursday, May 28, 2009 between North Liberty and Swisher. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

A grant worth more than $25 million has been awarded to construct a Cedar Rapids intermodal transportation facility officials say is to become a one-of-a-kind freight hub for the state.

Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Thursday a nearly $25.7 million grant to the Iowa Department of Transportation to build a full service intermodal facility southwest of the Highway 30 and Edgewood Road SW interchange, along the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Railway — or CRANDIC.

Craig Markley, director of Iowa DOT’s office of systems planning, said the facility is planned to incorporate three components — intermodal facilities for freight to truck — and vice versa — transfer; a cross-docking facility for truck-to-truck transfers; and a bulk fright storage and transfer operation.

With the state’s only intermodal facility located in Council Bluffs, and the new project incorporating three different freight components into a single location, it is unique, Markley said.

“I’m not aware of very many sites like that,” he said. “It really leverages the benefits of the different modes. It combines their strengths ... and helps with efficiencies.”

The money, made available through the Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies — or FASTLANE — grant program, covers a portion of the $46.5 million project cost.

The remaining $21 million gap is coming from private partners.

Jeff Woods, manager of marketing and business development with CRANDIC, said Alliant Energy — of which CRANDIC is a subsidiary — is to be a big partner in the project.

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Woods said the facility is to provide a much-needed resource for freight operations and the location provides access to a number of rail lines that reach coast to coast.

“There’s a big void right in the middle of the state where we’re located,” he said. “It’s really exciting. Cedar Rapids is an ideal location.”

Branstad touted the project as an economic boon to the entire state.

“We’re delighted that the U.S. Department of Transportation recognizes the value in constructing a new intermodal facility in Cedar Rapids,” Branstad said in a news release. “This high capacity, efficient and cost-competitive facility will provide farmers and businesses in our state additional resources to move our Iowa goods from truck to rail and vice versa.”

Meanwhile, Iowa DOT Director Paul Trombino III said another benefit is the project creates a more interconnected transportation system.

“The facility directly aligns with the highest priority strategy set forth in Iowa’s recently developed State Freight Plan,” he said. “The facility will optimize the freight transportation network, minimizing costs and travel time and improving supply chain efficiency.”

There are a number of steps remaining until the project becomes a reality, including project development, final design work and bid letting, but Markley said work could begin early next year.

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