The railroads are making a comeback in Kokomo, where 12 miles of inactive railroad track are about to be returned to service.
Kokomo Grain, US Rail and Norfolk Southern Railroads are partnering on a $5.5 million project to reroute much of the grain company’s freight, sending it south toward Tipton instead of east toward Marion.
A dormant Norfolk Southern line, which runs southeast from Home Avenue, will be placed back into use, and portions of Kokomo which haven’t seen train traffic since 1997 will again be seeing and hearing trains.
But the bottom line for the project is jobs, in the form of expanded business for local farmers, for Kokomo Grain and for the railroads.
Right now, cars full of grain are sent from Kokomo to Norfolk Southern in Tipton via Marion and Alexandria, a process that often takes up to three days.
US Rail President Gabe Hall said that once the project is complete around March, he expects to cut the time it takes to get a car full of grain to Tipton to around four hours.
The move will also cut out one of the railways currently carrying Kokomo Grain’s shipments, Hall explained.
Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight applauded the rail rehabilitation project, and said the city will be providing up to $600,000 toward the project, in the form of property acquisition and infrastructure improvements.
Goodnight said thinks Kokomo Grain and the railroads won’t be the only companies to benefit from having more rail options in Kokomo.
“Kokomo and central Indiana companies will benefit from this world-class transportation system,” Goodnight said. “As an economic development tool, access to a rail system is again becoming more important to agricultural, construction and manufacturing industries.”
With about $400 million in annual sales, Kokomo Grain operates a system of 10 grain elevators in Indiana and Tennessee.