Kansas governor helps rural communities by awarding $5M to short rail improvements
The Hutchinson News
August 17, 2021

Gov. Laura Kelly and Transportation Sec. Julie Lorenz announced 10 projects, totaling more than $5.2 million, were awarded as part of the Kansas Department of Transportation’s Short Line Rail Improvement Fund Program. The announcement took place at the Gavilon grain elevator in southwest Wichita, one of the recipients of program funding.

“These ten improvement projects will connect Kansas grain businesses with new regions and customers, supporting farmers and our agriculture industry,” Kelly said. “My administration will continue to invest in needed and commonsense infrastructure improvements like these to strengthen our growing economy.”

Six projects were awarded to shippers and four projects were awarded to short-line railroads in nine counties across Kansas. State funding for the individual projects ranges from $56,000 for the installation of new scales to nearly $2 million for siding expansion to increase railcar capacity and car-loading capabilities.

“Since the first rail line opened in Kansas in partnership between Kansas agriculture and rail, rail has been responsible for delivering much of the food found on our dinner tables across our country and around the world,” Kelly said. “Many of these projects are shovel-ready.”

The recipients include Bartlett Grain in Barton County (with funds totaling just shy of $2 million), Central Valley Ag Coop in Michell County,Gavilon in Sedgwick County, Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad in Sedgwick County, Kirk Grain in Scott County, KYLE Railroad in Mitchell County, Midland Marketing in Rush County, Scoular Grain Downs in Osborn County, and South Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad in Crawford county.

Short line railroads run across Kansas, traveling from Scott City to Hutchinson and Dodge City to Elkhart. 

“This Gavilon facility has the capacity of 36 million bushels of wheat, milo, corn, and soybeans,” Kelly said. “That’s the equivalent of 10,000 railcars.”

Switch and crossing replacements will reduce crossing delays for vehicles. All projects will result in less wear and tear on Kansas roadways and bridges. State funding for the 10 projects will be enhanced by a 30% match from each recipient, meaning more than $7.4 million will be invested in the state’s agricultural infrastructure.

“Combining state and private funds illustrates the core principles of IKE – leveraging assets,” Kelly said. 

Lorenz said KDOT received 19 applications requesting more than $21 million in this second year of the three-year Short Line Rail Improvement Program.

“In partnership with shippers and short line railroads, these modernization projects are improving commerce and opportunity for Kansas families and their communities,”  Lorenz said. “Together, we’re working to better connect Kansas-grown grain to the broader network of Class 1 rail for delivery to regional, national and international markets.”

The Short Line Rail Improvement Fund provides $5 million annually for three years. The program was created as part of the Kelly administration’s 10-year bipartisan Eisenhower Legacy Transportation Program.

“Together, we’ll work to make our roads safer, boost economic development and create jobs,” Kelly said. “This will improve economic competitiveness and safety and cause less wear and tear on Kansas highways.”