Did you consider other locations, and why did you settle on this one?
When looking for a new location, we explored five options close to the facility. Four of the properties were not feasible due to challenges posed by insufficient space, changes in elevation, topography layout and entrance/ exit safety issues.
What is the “compelling need” that justifies this project?
Rail service is a critical part of our business. On a daily basis we are loading on average 25 rail cars per day. The rail cars pass through downtown daily at between 7-10 AM and between 5-7 PM. When the rail cars are not in use, we store them at the Union Pacific location in the North Yard located near Cedar Lake.
Building our own rail yard was a strategic business decision to keep us competitive in the marketplace. After assessing the significant cost associated to parking our rail cars at another location and the efficiencies we could gain by storing them closer, we decided it was best to build a rail yard ourselves. In doing so, the City also benefits from less rail car traffic through the downtown area.
The new rail yard would put us in a position to operate more efficiently and cost effectively, which in turn allows for us to be more competitive in the market.
What modifications have Cargill included to mitigate disruption for neighbors? And, why in Cargill’s view would this not be inconvenient for neighbors?
The overall rail transportation system is being built with safety of the public and employees in mind. Trips between the plant and the rail yard would have a locomotive in the lead to maximize visibility while crossing road crossings. Communication between rail yard employees would be handled via two-way radios to reduce noise generated in the area.
The rail yard would be operated from 7AM-7PM seven days a week. This time restriction was included in the Development Agreement with the City. The yard would have stadium-style lights to allow us to safely operate the facility in the late afternoon during the winter. When work is done at the yard for the day, the lights would be turned off and the yard closed up for the night. Occasional transloads from rail cars to trucks are planned to occur. These transloads are via transfer hoses so that product is contained. Light rail car maintenance is planned to keep the cars safe and compliant for use. At this time no buildings would be built for rail car maintenance.
A six-foot tall berm is proposed on the north end of the rail yard as a visual block and noise barrier.
Our facilities in Cedar Rapids are not immune to flooding. Our soybean facility along I-380 and our corn plant were devastated in the 2008 flood. In more recent history we have protected our corn plant against the flood in 2016 and the four recent flood crests in September/October 2018. We would likewise protect the rail yard from water encroaching under the rail tracks through existing storm water drainage culverts. The existing rail tracks protect the area to just above the 100-year flood level. Stopping water from backing up through the culverts would protect the area to the 100-year flood elevation.
What additional modifications can Cargill make?
We took the insight shared by the neighbors in the January meetings and made some modifications to the plan. Similar to the first meeting, our intent is to share and listen again to what insight they would like to share with us about the rail yard.