Despite the work that went into bringing a transload facility to Great Bend, the idea behind it is a simple one, the Great Bend City Council was told during its Monday night meeting.
“It’s the utilization of multiple modes of transportation to increase market areas,” said Pat Cedeno with the Pittsburg-based Watco Company. Watco owns the K&O Railroad which will serve the planned facility in the Great Bend Industrial Park west of town.
“The idea is to connect to the national railroad network and expand the marketplace,” he said.
Transloading is the moving of goods from one mode to another, in this case, from truck to rail and rail to truck. This can provide flexible and cost-effective solutions for customers who don’t access to rail service or need expanded warehousing, Cedeno said.
The Kansas Department of Transportation/Kansas Turnpike Authority Transload Facility Site Analysis Committee selected the finalists from 111 proposals. Great Bend and Garden City made the final cut.
“Kansas is in the middle of the United States and Great Bend is in the middle of Kansas,” Cedeno said. This makes Great Bend an ideal fit.
In addition, the location near the Great Bend Municipal Airport has access to more than one rail line, on-ground storage and, through an agreement with Fuller Industries, to warehousing options. “All things are starting to align,” Cedeno said.
Watco is a small railroad company that works with 35 shortline railroads and services about 890 miles of track in Kansas and into Colorado. It manages 65 to 70 terminals or transload facilities across the country.
“This isn’t our first rodeo,” Cedeno said. Watco will run the trains while its long-time business partner Sherwood Construction of Oklahoma City, Okla., will manage the Great Bend facility.
The operation will be on 17 acres leased from the city for $400 per month. When running, there will be three tracks for loading and unloading, as well as staging, for up to 45 rail cars. “We can handle a lot of traffic right out of the gate,” Cedeno said, adding there is potential for expansion.
The city has already beefed up roads to accommodate increased traffic, and made sure utilities are available. Now Watco will rehabilitate of some of the area track.
The company has submitted its funding application to KDOT and it is under review. The amount of funding KDOT will offer is undetermined.
It will be K&O that signs the final state contract.
“I hesitate to give an exact date,” Cedeno said. But, “we want to gets started as quickly as possible.”
Cedeno said there shouldn’t be much more train traffic. But there could be more trucks rolling through the region which has excellent access to highways.
“You’ve been a great partner for this,” Councilwoman Allene Owen said.
Cedeno thanked the city and Great Bend Chamber of Commerce for their efforts, adding this project has been in the works for quite some time.