Wadena railroad extension spurs development
Wadena city and business leaders had been waiting on word for a proposed rail spur project, and after the grant approval was announced on Sept. 14, they expressed optimism and explained how the spur would benefit the area.
Wadena Development Authority director Dean Uselman said the spur was crucial to economic progress in the vicinity.
"This rail spur project would benefit potentially up to six businesses ... that are either existing or in negotiation for the property," Wadena Development director Dean Uselman said. "And then there are other properties that are vacant that this rail spur could also service."
Uselman said it could benefit businesses as a transportation alternative.
"It would be an option for these other businesses to receive goods via rail. With the cost of transportation escalating, it just makes it another option that they can explore to reduce the cost of shipping their particular goods and materials," he said.
He said that the construction of the rail spur itself would make an economic impact in the form of work crews of probably between 10-15 people staying in hotels, eating in restaurants, buying other provisions and participating in recreational activities for about six weeks - in addition to the long-term benefit of potential jobs created in the businesses affected by the spur.
There used to be a north to south rail line along U.S. Highway 71 which was decommissioned in the 1980s, and the spur would be built along the existing rail bed into the southeast industrial park.
"There will be no new impact to wetlands," Uselman said.
Scott Dau, manager at Leaf River Ag, said that they would use the rail spur primarily to bring fertilizer in - which was what they had used their previous spur for.
Right now, they are using the New York Mills facility to bring fertilizer in, as well as the rail at the old Wadena site which was hit by the tornado. "Once this new building was completed, then we unloaded rail cars at our old site onto that spur," he said. "That's how we've gotten by to this point. Plus trucks."
At their previous location along U.S. Highway 10, Leaf River Ag had its own spur behind the building, and the cars would leave from the main line.
Uselman said that the rail spur is a factor in enticing the still unnamed business that has been interested in the old Peterson-Biddick site.
"They would further process sugar and corn syrup into additional products for food grade and feed grade use," he said. "Their business is completely reliant on rail."
He said that they would not be able to park cars on the main BNSF rail line along U.S. Highway 10, and the spur would give them that ability.
"I'm happy about the grant award. We worked hard, a lot of us worked hard at pursuing that grant," Uselman said. "It will benefit the community for many years to come."
Uselman was involved in the quest to get the rail spur since last year, a project supported by then-Congressman Jim Oberstar.
He said that the rail spur could potentially recruit businesses like distribution centers and other industrial and commercial businesses.
"There needs to be more business brought to town to utilize that spur," Dau said.
Wadena was one of eight locations around the United States to receive Rail Line Relocation and Improvement grants from the United States Department of Transportation and Federal Railroad Administration.
Rachel Klemme is a reporter for the Wadena Pioneer Journal, a publication of Forum Communications Co.