As we reported last week, Greenfield’s rail line, a 29-mile stretch of rail from east of the village to Midland, will continue to serve area businesses and manufacturers after the completion of an upgrade and repair project that began in 2010.
The rail line was in danger of being discontinued due to safety issues and lack of repairs, endangering about 1,000 jobs in businesses that depend on the line’s viability. But due to an aggressive effort to find the funding for the project, the work has been completed.
The scope of the project included work to upgrade and repair bridges, more than 20 crossings, signals, ballasts, and the rail ties along the 29.5-mile route. It has all come with a price tag totaling about $4 million.
The effort to find the funding to repair the line began when Betty Bishop was city manager in Greenfield, and her successor, Ron Coffey, continued driving the project, ably assisted by other local village officials and employees. The project was largely funded through the Economic Development Administration (EDA), which awarded a $2.63 million grant to Greenfield more than four years ago. The remainder of the funding was gained through supplemental grants from the state, support at the county and local levels, and private investments.
Coffey told The Times-Gazette that so far the project has created 94 jobs, retained 776 jobs, and leveraged more than $10 million in private investment – much of it coming from the businesses that were impacted, such as Greenfield’s Adient (formerly Johnson Controls), Leesburg’s Candle-lite, and New Vienna’s Huhtamaki, which all lie near the rail line and utilize it. Another manufacturer in Greenfield has also previously expressed interest in using the railroad, and the possibility of the village putting in a transloading facility for that purpose is being explored.
Since the project was funded in late September 2012, village administrators have dealt with title paperwork issues, easements, wildlife surveys, flood plain impacts, and other examples of red tape.
“Jobs are the key to our continuing sustainability,” said Coffey in a prepared statement. “Nearly 1,000 jobs in Greenfield, Leesburg and New Vienna are supported by the railroad, and they are vital to this region. We are also trying to get a transloading facility built in Greenfield that would open up opportunities for other employers to use the railroad.”
We commend everyone who has worked hard to make the repair and continued use of the Greenfield rail spur a reality. Those efforts have helped save jobs and keep our local economy strong.