Greenfield’s rail line, a 29-mile stretch of rail from east of the village to Midland, has been renewed after the completion of a upgrade and repair project that essentially began in 2010.
Six years ago is when then-city manager Betty Bishop began the process of seeking funding to repair the deteriorating rail spur. The project didn’t get funding until the fall of 2012, and actual work didn’t begin until June 2015.
But in recent months all the physical work on Greenfield’s railroad has been completed. The scope of the project has included work to upgrade and repair bridges, more than 20 crossings, signals, ballasts, and the rail ties along the 29.5-mile route. It has all come with a price tag totaling about $4 million, according to city manager Ron Coffey.
The project was largely funded through the Economic Development Administration (EDA), which awarded a $2.63 million grant to Greenfield more than four years ago. The remainder of the funding was gained through supplemental grants from the state, as well as support at the county and local levels.
Coffey said that so far “the project has created 94 jobs, retained 776 jobs, and leveraged more than $10 million in private investment.”
Greenfield’s Adient (formerly Johnson Controls), Leesburg’s Candle-lite, and New Vienna’s Huhtamaki all lie near the rail line and each manufacturer utilizes it. Another manufacturer in Greenfield has also previously expressed interest in using the railroad and the possibility of the village putting in a transloading facility for that purpose is being explored.
The slow-to-get-off-the-ground project saw its share of setbacks through the years. Since the project was funded in late September 2012 village administrators have dealt with title paperwork issues, easements, wildlife surveys, flood plain impacts, and everything in between along the whole of the rail spur. When it was time to bid the project, the first round in October 2014 saw the lowest bid come in at more than $1 million over the village’s budget for the project. It was eventually rebid and awarded to Balfour Beatty Infrastructure, Inc. In February 2015, a derailment on the bridge crossing Paint Creek, the second on that bridge in less than three years, underscored the need for the project.
In an announcement on the village’s website, www.greenfieldohio.net, Coffey said that the completed upgrades on the railroad should help lower its operating costs and that continued maintenance and an emphasis on safety will remain a focus of the village.
He said that while the village’s railroad income is limited, there are ways to perform preventative maintenance with what funds are available. Additionally, he said administrators are looking at ways to increase railroad traffic, thereby generating more income.
The city manager also restated his belief of the importance the railroad plays in Greenfield’s future and that of the entire region.
“Jobs are the key to our continuing sustainability. Nearly 1,000 jobs in Greenfield, Leesburg and New Vienna are supported by the railroad, and they are vital to this region. We are also trying to get a transloading facility built in Greenfield that would open up opportunities for other employers to use the railroad,” Coffey said.
In his report to council members last week, Coffey said the village had received its last payment from the EDA to help pay for work that has been done. What’s left, he said, is likely “years to come” of follow-up reports, but the project is done and the financial aspect of the massive undertaking is complete.
“It’s the closing of one chapter of the railroad’s history — a small part of a bigger book,” Coffey said. “We hope that the next chapter will involve a transloading facility to increase usage of the railroad and help bring more jobs to Greenfield.”
Reach Angela Shepherd at 937-393-3456, ext. 1681, or on Twitter @wordyshepherd.