April 18, 2014

BNSF offers sneak preview of intermodal

Nine story electric cranes are visible in the distance from the approximate center of the 400-plus acre intermodal property. Staff photo by Danedri Thompson

Nine story electric cranes are visible in the distance from the approximate center of the 400-plus acre intermodal property. Staff photo by Danedri Thompson

Danedri Thompson
dthompson@gardnernews.com
It’s big, Nathaniel Hagedorn described the intermodal facility to a crowd of more than 200 people during a sneak peak of the facility last week.
Hagedorn is the President and CEO of NorthPoint Development, the company who will oversee warehouse and manufacturing development adjacent to the intermodal hub under construction in Edgerton.
“Everything about this project is big,” Hagedorn said. “You don’t really appreciate how big it is until you drive from one end to the other.”
A bevy of tour busses, loaded with dignitaries including Johnson County Board of Commission Chair Ed Eilert; former Gardner Mayor Carol Lehman; and Johnson County Sheriff Frank Denning, rode from one end of the development to the other after hearing speeches from many of those involved with the intermodal project.
Many of the roads surrounding the facility are closed to through traffic as the intermodal is being built. U.S. 56 Highway, a portion of which runs parallel to the development, sits too far from the project for drivers to really see the construction that has already taken place on the 400-acre intermodal facility.
Two, orange production cranes are visible from a distance, in part, because they are nine-stories high. At full build-out, there will be five cranes. Located at the eastern portion of the intermodal facilty, they straddle 8,000 square-feet of railroad tracks that are under construction south of to the existing tracks alongside 56 Highway. Eventually, five cranes will be capable of lifting 1,000 containers from trains each day.

Patrick Robinson, vice president of development at Northpoint, points out some of the features of the intermodal during a bus tour of the site on April 5. Dignitaries loaded onto five tour buses to tour the project, which is set to open this fall. Staff photo by Danedri Thompson

Patrick Robinson, vice president of development at Northpoint, points out some of the features of the intermodal during a bus tour of the site on April 5. Dignitaries loaded onto five tour buses to tour the project, which is set to open this fall. Staff photo by Danedri Thompson

According to BNSF officials, the cranes are the most technologically advanced of any in service at an intermodal facility. However, the technology isn’t exactly new. Similar cranes are used at U.S. sea ports for stacking containers. At older facilities, it takes 125 people to operate a crane. Each crane in Edgerton will be staffed by approximately 80 people. And yes, the cranes each contain bathrooms and a small office space at the top.
To the south of the cranes, there’s a building that will be used for hazardous material pit. There’s also a large, circular water tank. The 750,000-gallon tank is in place for fire protection.
The western end of the facility boasts high-tech entrances and exits for trucks that will deliver goods from the trains to warehouses and other facilities, typically within 250 miles of the intermodal facility. It somewhat resembles a highway toll plaza. However, the entrances will be largely unmanned and truck drivers entering the facility will be vetted electronically.
Vann Cunningham, a BNSF official, said from conception to its opening, the project has taken more than 10 years. Cunningham said in one of his first meetings with BNSF railroad staff, he asked about the company’s needs. The company was just opening an intermodal facility near Chicago in 2002, when he asked where they should build next.
Railroad officials determined they would eventually need something to replace the 45-acre intermodal in the Argentine district in Kansas City, Kan.
Eventually, they settled on 1,000 acres of land between Gardner and Edgerton. Of that, 400-acres will be the actual intermodal hub. The remaining 600-acres will be developed as an industrial or warehouse park.
The Allen Group was initially set to develop the adjacent logistics park. That primary responsibility has since been shifted to NorthPoint Development and its Edgerton Holding Company subsidiary.
Richard Allen, the CEO of the Allen Group, said location wasn’t the only consideration when the companies were looking for a space to develop an intermodal and logistics park. Allen said there are actually four elements to the tenants of real estate – location, logistics, labor and love.
“You have to have all four of those elements to bring a project like this to fruition,” Allen said. “It’s very difficult to put a facility like this in an area where you don’t have the political support to make it happen.”
That support includes a cash injection of $35 million from the state of Kansas and the construction of an interstate interchange on Homestead Lane. The county is funding a multi-million dollar road improvement project on 191st Street to service the facility. And the city of Edgerton has offered tax abatements and other incentives to the project.
Mayor Don Roberts told the crowd that Edgerton is the little engine driving a great big project.
“The town of almost 1,700 people is pulling this off,” Roberts said.
The intermodal facility is set to open in the fall of this year.

By the Numbers

The intermodal facility sits on 443-acres. It will have the capacity to load 500,000 units annually.
When it is completed, the intermodal will include:
• 48,000 feet of track
• 1,810 paved parking spaces
• 4,300 container stacking spots
• 5 wide-span, all electric cranes

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