ROCHELLE – The City of Rochelle recently completed its three-part, $7 million Rochelle Railroad expansion project.
The project consisted of building the new Rochelle Trans Loading Center, a four-track wide bridge with an adjacent detention pond, and expanding the old track to create new unit change interchange tracks. Construction on the project began in August 2018 and was expected to take nine months, but due to an excess amount of rain last spring and an early winter, the project took about two years.
The railroad system serves many industrial businesses and was in need of expansion since it had reached its capacity. The railroad is one of the main driving forces behind economic development in the community and the city hopes the new expansion will attract even more businesses to Rochelle.
“The City of Rochelle railroad is an economic development engine,” economic development director Jason Anderson said. “It drives industrial development because of the many benefits of having easy access to two class one railroads. And what the city of Rochelle has uniquely done is being able to create its own railroad and from that, attract industry that creates jobs, tax base, and customers for RMU.”
When train cars are loaded at the Rochelle Trans Loading Center, they then connect to either the Union Pacific Railroad or the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad to reach their final destination. Having access to two Class 1 railroads doubles the amount of business the city is able to serve.
This also helps provide leverage to businesses who use the railroad over the railroad companies because it forces the railroads to place bids rather than choosing a set price. In addition to the railroads and loading center, Rochelle also has the resources businesses are looking for when choosing a new location.
“When it comes to economic development, a community needs to have every utility that is needed for a business,” Anderson said. “You may have an abundance of water and that is great, but do you have the sewer treatment or enough power to support it. A community needs to have it all and Rochelle has all of the infrastructure in place to attract new businesses and industries.”
In addition to the Trans Loading Center, the city built a new four-track-wide bridge and extended the old railroad by laying three new tracks, each 3,300 linear feet in length. This extension provides the Rochelle Railroad with additional space that is currently used for storage, but will eventually be utilized by new businesses.
These tracks were built with the end goal of extending the railroad to Elva Road in Steward and eventually looping it back around. When building the bridge and unit change interchange track, a 3,300-by-160-foot detention pond also had to be dug to prevent flooding. New drainage tiles also had to be place under the farmers field next to the pond.
“Whenever we do a big industrial project like this, we always look at the impact it will have on the environment,” Anderson said. “When laying the tiles under the farmers field, they actually made the land more rich and valuable, so it was a win-win situation for both of us.”
The City of Rochelle is currently working on more economic development projects around town and more details will be released in the coming future.