The Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC) will begin work on the Greenfield railroad line in summer 2021, according to a news release from ORDC.
Though Greenfield City Manager Todd Wilkin told The Times-Gazette that he and other officials had hoped to begin the project in 2020, after a delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the village and ORDC are looking at a late spring or early summer 2021 start.
According to ORDC, the project will rehabilitate 30 miles of railroad known as the Greenfield Line in Highland and Clinton counties. The Greenfield Line is owned by the village of Greenfield and operated for freight service by the Indiana and Ohio Railway.
During the project, the ORDC will replace approximately 20,000 railroad ties across the line and install and tamp ballast and grade-crossing surface replacement in order to ensure the safe and efficient operation of trains over the line.
A portion of the work will take place in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) of the East Fork Little Miami River in the village of New Vienna, which involves approximately half an acre of floodplain. But the ORDC anticipates only minor impact on the floodplain, which will not cause an increase in flooding.
The rehabilitation project is funded by a Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Grant, Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) grant funding, Highland County Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Revolving Loan Fund, and other sources.
“Quite frankly, what’s so good about this CRISI grant is that it’s all administered by the Ohio Rail Development Commission,” Wilkin said. “Other than our contribution — the $125,000 that we would put towards this grant — that’s all we have to do. We just get out of the way and let them do the work, and that’s what’s so exciting about this.”
In October 2019, the village received two grants — one for $250,000 and one for $125,000 — to help with repairs and improvements along the rail line.
In mid-March, the village received the CRISI grant, which totaled more $3.4 million.
As of March, the rail was rated at 10 miles per hour — the lowest allowable rating for transportation of hazardous materials. The improvements will bring the rail to a 25 mile per hour rating.
The Greenfield Line supports approximately 1,800 jobs with the industries on the line — Greenfield’s Adient, Leesburg’s Candle-lite, and New Vienna’s Huhtamaki.
According to Wilkin, all three businesses reported that “business is strong” at a shippers’ meeting last week.
“That’s good to hear with the economy and the virus as it is,” Wilkin said. “When I first started, it seemed like every week we were getting a call like ‘Hey, this is going to cost this much. You have to fix this, you have to fix this.’ Some people said, ‘Todd, why does Greenfield own a rail? Just get out of the railroad business. Just get rid of it,’” Wilkin said. “And I thought, ‘We can’t. There are a majority of people who live in Greenfield and work at one of those facilities. I can’t hurt these businesses in Highland County because, again, many of the people who live in Greenfield work at these places.’
“It’s very important for Greenfield — it’s very important for Highland County — for those businesses to stay operational here. I think we’re going to see a positive impact come out of all this work — and maintain jobs here in Highland County.”
Wilkin also thanked the Ohio Rail Development Commission and local partners who assisted the village in preparing for the project, such as the Highland County commissioners.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.