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Great Bend, Garden City selected as finalists for shipping hubs
new deh transload facility udate pic 1
Tracks owned by K&O Railroad pass through the Great Bend Municipal Airport and Industrial Park area west of town. Great Bed is one of two finalists for a new freight transload shipping facility. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

 The process to select locations for the new train-truck shipping hubs in Kansas has reached the end of the line, and that line ends in Great Bend and Garden City, it was announced Tuesday morning.

The two communities have been selected as finalists for development of transload shipping centers. They emerged from a group of seven cities, whose representatives made formal presentations in July and August before the Kansas Department of Transportation/Kansas Turnpike Authority Transload Facility Site Analysis Selection Committee.

The seven cities were among 111 sites that were initially proposed.

“We feel this is going to be a huge project,” said Great Bend Chamber of Commerce President Jan Peters. Peters along with Great Bend City Administrator Howard Partington presented the city’s case before the committee on July 31.

In the coming weeks, Garden City and Great Bend leaders will be asked to provide business plans and financial models that will detail the development costs and the projected increase in related rail service and business opportunity, Peters said. Based on that and other relevant information, the state will determine the amount of funding to contribute to the projects. “We’re going to build a facility that the markets bares,” Peters said. That is why it is important to bring all the players to the table and come up with business and marketing plans that make sense.

“It goes back to what products can be shipped by rail,” she said. Grain handling and wind power are among the many industries that could benefit from this.

Great Bend has worked with K&O Railroad which owns the track in the Great Bend Industrial Park where the facility would be located. The railroad is a subsidiary of Watco Companies LLC. of Pittsburg.

Peters said there are a lot of potential business partnerships possible with this effort. Ultimately, the local goal would be to attract new businesses and jobs to Great Bend.

“It’s very exciting,” said KDOT’s John Maddox. “It presents a number of opportunities for economic development, not only for these two cities, but also regionally and statewide as well.”

“I’m confident the cities, state and rail providers will develop a funding package that will allow these projects to move forward,” said Kansas Transportation Secretary Mike King.

This is being done during the in-depth meetings that will begin in the near future, Maddox said. It is hoped this process will be done by the end of the year.

However, ground breaking for the facilities is still a ways away, Maddox said. “That has not been determined.

Transloading is the process of moving goods from one mode of transportation to another, or in this case, from truck to rail and rail to truck. By blending the benefits of shipping by rail and local/short haul trucking, a transload facility can provide more flexible and cost-effective solutions for customers who may not have local access to freight rail service or those who need expanded warehousing.

In other words, the idea is to create a seemless flow of commerce linking trucks and trains.

“I was extremely pleased with the process and partnerships with the trucking industry and the railroads,” said Secretary King of the proposals. “We learned a great deal about railroad operations, expectations and the potential we have in our state.” The Transload Facility Site Analysis Selection Committee comprises Kansans from industry, finance, transportation, technology, agriculture, banking, development and energy.

The Kansas Department of Transportation/Kansas Turnpike Authority Transload Facility Site Analysis Committee (which includes private sector representatives of Transportation, along with the Kansas Turnpike Authority and departments of Commerce and Agriculture) selected the finalists from the 111 proposals submitted for consideration. Some communities submitted multiple sites. 

The other finalists included that didn’t make the cut were Abilene, Concordia, Eldorado (Refinery Road site), Great Plains Industrial Park just south of Parsons and Norton.