The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) is working to identify locations for transloading facilities. According to a KDOT press release, 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.”
“There’s a need for bringing commodities and other product in by rail and then for short term storage where then trucks could take the product to another location to be used,” Kansas Chief of Transportation Planning Dennis Slimmer, said.
State officials won’t say who would fund such a facility or what is driving the state’s desire to find potential locations for such a facility. Slimmer said a transloading facility could be publicly or privately funded.
“I could see local governments using such a facility for the storage of materials for projects,” Slimmer explained. “Part of what we want to look at is the governance of a facility. Who would own it? Would it be something like an industrial park or a port authority? At this point, we’re looking at those questions as well.”
Edgerton Mayor Don Roberts said whatever or wherever such a project is constructed, it will be in competition with the Edgerton Intermodal and the Logistics Park Kansas City (LPKC).
“It would be direct competition,” Roberts said. “What it comes to LPKC, it doesn’t necessarily matter if it’s a Kansas project or an Illinois project or a Dallas project. It’s competition for what we have out there today.”
The local intermodal and neighboring logistics park are privately funded, though LPKC received financing benefits and tax incentives from the state and city.
Slimmer said a proposed transloading facility would not compete with Edgerton’s facility.
“It’s not the same as the BNSF intermodal facility,” Slimmer said. “That’s strictly for their business.”
According to a press release from KDOT, a freight advisory committee identified the need for a transloading facility somewhere in Kansas.
“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,” the KDOT press release reads.
Roberts and Beth Linn, Edgerton city administrator, attended the state’s freight advisory committee meetings, though no one from Edgerton was asked to serve on the committee. The committee discussed all things freight related, including shipping via car, rail, waterways and air. Roberts said a transloading facility was mentioned briefly, but it wasn’t a main focus of the meetings he attended.
“I think there is an interest in western Kansas to be able to make a unit train or grain,” Linn said. “Some people may define a transload facility to put several cars together for a load of grain.”
Transportation typically makes up 15 percent of product cost, KDOT Secretary Mike King said in a press release.
“So anything we can do to lower that is important to Kansas farmers, manufacturers and the state economy,” King said.
But Roberts said the Edgerton intermodal facility and the DeLong Company, a grain-exporter and tenant at LPKC, is already lowering transportation costs for Kansas farmers.
“With DeLong, we’ve already given people an avenue to do container grain exports,” Roberts said. “We’ve made the farmer or the co-op trip a third shorter than it was prior to the intermodal in Edgerton? How much more can you knock off that trip?”
However, Slimmer said the committee determined a need for a few facilities throughout the state.
“They could be used by the government or they could be used by manufacturers and other types of companies,” he said. “We will look at the locations that appear to provide the most benefit or the best solution, and then would work with local entities to determine what the governance would look like.”
Roberts has trouble imaging that the benefit would outweigh the costs of the state building a transloading facility.
“I am not sure that ever pays out,” he said. “I don’t build railroads, and I don’t know how much it costs to build a mile of track or to upgrade a mile of track, but I’m sure it’s not cheap.”
BNSF, Roberts said, is spending billions on their rail infrastructure each year.
“It’s not cheap to maintain or expand,” Roberts said. “To do something entirely like that for Kansas farmers, which I love and support, I’m not sure it pays out for the rest of Kansas.”
According to a press release, KDOT hopes to select a consultant to begin work on locating and planning for the construction of transloading facilities “to improve the competitiveness of Kansas.”