Thursday, May 18, 2017

Intermodal Debates Railroad Issue

After reviewing the minutes and financial report for the month of April, 2017, the board spent the vast majority of time talking about an issue that has consumed the board for several months.  The issue is the matter of getting permission from the railroad to building a road on the intermodal site that crosses the tracks.  Some work has been completed, but the intermodal is being told the crossing is too close to a switch and does not comply with railroad regulations.  It is hard to determine whether the rule is a federal requirement or a railroad company rule based upon the discussion.  The rail line is operated by a short line company but is owned by Union Pacific.

The debate among the intermodal board is how to remedy the problem.  It appears a number of the members believe the issue is the responsibility of the engineer to work out, while others voiced interest in hiring a railroad lawyer to address the matter with the railroad company.  Still others did not want to create a legal challenge.

When the project was begun, a different short line firm was operating the line.  They have since been bought by another company.  Union Pacific remains the owner.  According to the engineer, they thought they were following directions from the original short line operator.

Drew County Judge Robert Akin, not a member of the board, encouraged the intermodal to shut the intermodal owned rail spur to use by the railroad company until the matter is resolved.  Board member Freddie Mobley stated he had suggested similiar action in the past to no avail.  Anita McDaniels, Executive Director of the MEDC and a member of the intermodal board, thought securing legal council to communicate with the railroad company might be best.  Chairman John Lipton stated he leans on the engineer to get the problem solved.
Roger George, a board member, indicated that he thought the engineer should have known the requirements and should handle it.  A spokesman for Garver Engineers indicated they were working with the short line and thought all had been approved approved.  It seemed to be agreed by all parties that the matter was very confusing.

After a lengthy discussion, the board voted to send information outlining the history of the project to the current short line operator and ask them to work out the issue with Union Pacific.

Earlier in the meeting the board approved the payment of $89,120.00 to Phoenix Fabricators for completion of a portion of the improvements to the intermodal park.  According to the financial report, the authority still owes Commercial Bank $279,147.19 for a loan and list the following amounts owed by the creating local government entities:
Drew County-$48,673.45
Bradley County-$162,534.83

According to past information, some amount of grant funds will be made available in the future by the state of Arkansas.      

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