Rail spur needed for New Carlisle area power plant construction

A new rail spur will have to be built before work can start on a $1 billion power plant near New Carlisle.

The reason is simple—many of the plant parts are so big, bulky, and heavy that they can’t be brought in by truck.

Initially, the track could be estimated between maybe $400,000 to $600,000 for the actual rail materials, but the additional cost then is for the necessary fill to build the track up to be able to support it and have it be built structurally to be able to support rail service,” said St. Joseph County Engineer Jessica Clark. Clark estimated that the total price for a one and a half mile stretch of track could be as much as $2 million.

St. Joseph County may end up paying for the spur in the hopes that it may spur additional economic development and attract new jobs.

“One of the things we did last year was look back at projects that happened in Indiana and how many of those were looking for rail opportunities and about 40 percent of them did,” said Jeff Rea, President of the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce.

Some hope that any rail spur that would be built for the power plant would also extend to vacant industrial properties nearby.

“It's a really deficiency in our economic development sales package right now, you know, the two major transcontinental rail lines that run through here, but it’s like having an interstate that runs through the community that doesn't have an exit ramp. It’s hard to get on and off. So there’s not a single property in town right now, rail-served-ready for industrial type development,” said Rea.

The construction of the power plant probably won’t begin until 2014, but it’s hoped that a final agreement on planned public improvements can be ironed out in the months to come.

Clark says the spur may even include a depot that could be used by any area business. “Where there’s a spur that would be considered a public spur, it isn’t specific to a business or a certain site right there in that TIF area, it is a site that other businesses and other industry may be able to utilize to be able to bring in equipment, materials, export materials, it’s a real opportunity for those businesses that may not be located adjacent to a rail line but still need that service.”

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