Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Plans for railcar mall move forward in Savanna, Ill.

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Plans for railcar mall move forward in Savanna, Ill. | Railway Track & Structures

The Jo-Carroll Depot Local Redevelopment Authority, LRA, is accelerating plans for development and jobs at Savanna Depot Park after the federal government agreed to expedite the property transfers needed for the proposed railcar mall and other development.

Following several meetings with Congressman Don Manzullo and staff from the offices of Senators Dick Durbin and Roland Burris, the Army has agreed to transfer two parcels in 2011 needed for the railcar mall that will create up to 400 jobs when fully developed. The Army had announced in January that the parcels were to be transferred to the LRA in 2012 and 2013 and that the LRA would not receive the final parcel until 2023, nine years later than projected a year earlier.

"The LRA especially appreciates Congressman Manzullo's support for the railcar mall concept and his efforts to help the LRA receive property that can be used to spur investment and job-creation in northwest Illinois," said Diane Komiskey, LRA executive director.

In addition to stepping up the timetable for transferring the two key parcels in the industrial park, an official with the Base Realignment and Closure, BRAC, office in D.C. has assured the LRA that the final transfer can be made sooner than 2023, Komiskey said. "We hope to build on the success with our friends at BRAC in our discussions with the USEPA and IEPA as together we work to remove impediments to economic development."

Riverport Railroad is pursing the concept of converting portions of the closed military base into a location where companies could scrap, repair, re-stencil, clean and load railcars and switch them onto BNSF. Containers loaded in the foreign trade zone, enterprise zone and port authority at the Savanna Depot Park could be shipped overseas.

Fully developed, the railcar mall concept could result in an estimated 400 direct jobs. Riverport has invested more than $8 million to improve and increase its rail services. The shortline railroad is currently upgrading four tracks for loaded cars and improving two main lines at a cost of approximately $1/2 million.

The Savanna Depot Park is the 3,000 acres in Jo Daviess and Carroll counties of the 13,062-acre base that are to be conveyed from the Army to LRA, and from the LRA to employers who create jobs on the property.

The LRA launched a campaign in January to accelerate the pace of property transfers. In 1995, the military base was selected to be closed, and it closed in 2000. A sunset agency of the two counties, the LRA has received title to only 35 percent of the Savanna Depot Park. The LRA has buyers for all but two percent of the 1,043 acres (18 parcels) remaining to be transferred. Some of the property previously transferred remains available from the LRA.

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