A plan 12 years in the making comes to life – 50 different entities, including all three levels of government, pulled together to make a $7 million rail expansion possible
“It started 20 – 30 years ago with one individual’s vision,” said Rochelle Mayor Chet Olson. “[It] has snowballed into many, many miles of rail for our community.”
The man Olson is referencing is Rochelle’s former Economic Developer Ken Wise. Wise had decided the Hub City would benefit from building and controlling its own rail system. He argued it would entice industries to the area with the access and ability to distribute their products.
“It’s all about infrastructure,” said Wise. “Even though industry changes hands, they move whatever. But, the infrastructure’s still here.”
It all led to Friday’s groundbreaking. Rochelle will begin a $7 million expansion to its rail system to meet the demand of businesses.
“Our rail system today is now at its capacity,” said current Rochelle Economic Developer Jason Anderson. “We have 15 customers on the city rail system and no room to put one more car.”
The project will use 1000s of acres for new rail tracks, along with building new tracks to current businesses that need them. Officials say that will allow direct product pick up.
“When you can put a full train together and the main lines can pick up… a full train of your products, it makes it more appealing for industry to move here.”
It’s also opening the door to industries across the nation and world to use the resources.
“In northern Illinois… all of us… have the opportunity to cater to any type of shipping needs that any industry that wants to come, even if it’s coming from China, Japan, [or] across the seas.”
“We’re talking about jobs for years and years to come,” said Rep. Tom Demmer (R-90th District). “We’re talking about a project that’ll move next door to another one because it was successful. [This] $7 million investment is going to pay for itself many times over.”
The project should be completed in about six months. Olson says businesses are already reaching out.