The purpose of the Rail Yard Redevelopment Project is to make the downtown rail yard land available for economic development purposes by removing the yard tracks, while maintaining BNSF's railroad operations, meeting applicable railroad design criteria and safety standards and being feasible from an engineering and logistics standpoint.
Through the Environmental Assessment process, multiple alternatives were evaluated. An alternative has been selected which meets the purpose and need for the project and does not significantly impact the human or natural environment. The selected alternative has four main components:
• The city will purchase the western half of the rail yard.
• A new rail connection will be constructed at the south end of the yard between the Ellis and Eastern rail line and the BNSF Railway main rail line.
• Two siding tracks, approximately 3,400 feet long, will be constructed along the BNSF rail line north of Rice Street and west of Timberline Avenue.
• BNSF will make changes to their regional operations to accommodate the loss of the rail yard.
In 2001, a feasibility report was developed and in 2002, a conceptual phasing plan identified four key phases to accomplish this project. Phase 1 of the plan has been completed and portions of Phase 4 have been completed. In 2005, Congress authorized funding to complete Phases 2 and 3 of the plan that specifically addresses the removal of the downtown rail yard.
"With the Environmental Assessment completed, we can now work on appraising the rail yard property and negotiating the sale with BNSF," said Mark Cotter, director of public works for the city.