October 21, 2014

Freight advisory committee meets for first time

A BNSF crane picks up freight from an incoming train. A new statewide freight advisory committee is tasked with proposing ways to move freight more easily through Kansas. File photo

A BNSF crane picks up freight from an incoming train. A new statewide freight advisory committee is tasked with proposing ways to move freight more easily through Kansas. File photo

Danedri Thompson
dthompson@gardnernews.com
No one from the city of Edgerton earned an appointment to Kansas Department of Transportation Secretary Mike King’s recently-formed Freight Advisory Committee.
However, Edgerton City Administrator Beth Linn and Edgerton Mayor Don Roberts attended the first meeting of the committee on April 2 in Topeka.
Members of the committee include a BNSF Railway staff member, Patrick Robinson, a point person for the LPKC development, and Pat Apple, who represented parts of Gardner and Edgerton in the Kansas Senate.
Though Linn and Roberts formally are not members of the advisory committee, Linn said Edgerton will have representation attending each of the meetings. She said the pair participated on April 2 as if they were members of the committee.
“I think the key for southwest Johnson County is, this process will likely identify transportation infrastructure projects,” Linn said. “That’s why we want to make sure we are there representing our area as an important freight corridor.”
King said in a press release that the committee will provide input to KDOT.
“As well as advising and assisting with identifying freight transportation issues, the committee will help us prioritize highway and rail freight corridors of significance and identify multimodal freight .infrastructure system,” King said.
Members of the committee include a large cross-section of the people involved in the Kansas supply chain. Linn said they included freight owners, distribution owners and railroad staff.
“Really what they are trying to understand is what KDOT can do to have freight move better throughout the state,” Linn said. “They were asking people, like owners of freight, how they decided what routes to take or do we have enough east-west routes?”
It appears that Kansas’ east-west corridor, including Interstate 70, is pretty good, Linn said, and the north-south is fairly well-served via Interstate 35.
Participants also discussed the merits and drawbacks of toll roads.
At the introductory session last Wednesday, committee participants discussed where freight in Kansas goes and why. Linn said the group also discussed whether toll roads discourage people from using them.
There are certain specific benefits to toll roads in Kansas, Linn said she learned.
“(Heavy-haul truck) drivers can do some things on the highway that they can’t do on a state highway,” Linn said. “The limited access on the turnpike, makes it safer and faster.”
Participants also learned some of the challenges that supply chain managers face in western Kansas as opposed to the more populous, eastern part of Kansas.
“One of the things that is unique in Kansas is that Kansas City has different supply concerns than the tremendous agriculture supply chain in other parts of the state,” she said.
Edgerton officials are overseeing the largest transportation (and otherwise) project in the state with the Logistics Park Kansas City and adjacent BNSF intermodal and Linn said she and Roberts briefed the committee on the project.
Trains play a valuable role in Kansas’ supply chain system. However, the way the trains work in the eastern part of the state is different to the rail systems in less-populated parts of the state. For example, Linn said trains that stop at the Edgerton intermodal are full. “There are a lot of communities in western Kansas that don’t have enough grain to put together a full train,” Linn said. “They use these short-line railroads to assemble an entire train and then move it to Kansas City.”
Three other meetings of the advisory committee are scheduled throughout the spring and summer. They include a May 21 meeting in Salina, a July 9 meeting in Wichita and an Aug. 20 meeting in Overland Park.

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