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From: Scot Ortman
Received: Sept. 5
There have been recent news reports about the Louisville & Indiana Railroad plan to upgrade its railroad through our area (Johnson & Bartholomew counties) and the impact on central Indiana.
While a few county and community officials have concerns about safety hazards and traffic tie-ups, I’d like to offer the perspective of an Indiana business that depends on railroads.
To begin, the Louisville & Indiana is our lifeline. If the railroad wasn’t here, we might see more than 20,000 additional truckloads running up and down local roads. Having a railroad reduces our transportation costs, enabling us to compete in more markets. Lower shipping rates mean better prices for farmers and end users and reduced costs for consumers.
Kokomo Grain has long experience shipping by rail. Founded 63 years ago in 1950, our elevator at Kokomo was one of the first elevators in the U.S. to load unit trains: 50-to-100 freight cars loaded with the grain from one origin to one destination. Why is this important? The economies from volume shipping have allowed us to give farmers a better price for their grain. It’s money in their pockets and local communities and real savings for millions of consumers who buy food, soft drinks and animal products.
We’ve grown from a country elevator with 12,000 bushels storage capacity to 40 million bushels. Kokomo Grain now has seven elevators in Indiana, including one at Edinburgh (served by the Louisville & Indiana Railroad,) and three in Tennessee. Since acquiring the elevator at Edinburgh, we have made investments increasing storage space from 100,000 bushels to more than 9 million bushels.
Rail service is vital to our future. Right now, we are limited as to how much we can load into freight cars on the Louisville & Indiana because of track restrictions on their railroad. Upgrading the railroad will strengthen their track and bridges, allowing us to load 23,000 more pounds into freight cars — the same as major railroads elsewhere in the country. An improved rail line and better service means additional farm income along the rail corridor.
Economical, competitive rail service is essential for other businesses as well. Often it is a prerequisite for firms looking to build the factories that bring jobs to our region. Railroads haul raw materials at lower per-unit cost and move finished products further, using one-fourth the fuel, one-fourth the emissions, and reducing carbon footprints, versus trucks.
Louisville & Indiana’s proposed partnership with CSX Transportation will not only help to assure that the Louisville & Indiana will continue to serve us and other businesses but do so more efficiently and safer. New rail, crossties and fresh track ballast will stabilize roadbeds. New and upgraded bridges will be stronger. Highway grade crossings will be replaced. Although there will be more trains, they’ll be quieter on welded rail and take less time at crossings because they’ll be moving quicker. The alternative is more big trucks on our highways.
Kokomo Grain and the people of Indiana need a strong railroad system. The Federal Highway Administration projects there will be a 62 percent growth in freight shipments by 2040 — 27 years from now. We want to participate in this growth and do so as efficiently as possible. Railroads pay their own way. Taxpayers pay for highways, waterways and airports. Railroads reduce highway congestion, lower emissions and save fuel. Helping railroads improve themselves makes sense to us.
Upgrading the Louisville & Indiana Railroad is vital to our future and the future of our farmer customers and local communities, bringing with it many more benefits than problems.
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