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Port-rail agency wraps up majority of bridge projects

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Board rejects bids for sale of surplus rail

By KEVIN KOELLING
Managing Editor

TELL CITY – “We have five brand-new, concrete … bridges that’ll be here when my kids are old,” Kevin Teague said Tuesday. He was summarizing at a regular meeting Tuesday of the Perry County Port Authority board of directors work done in recent years along the line between the Port of Tell City and Lincoln City.

The operations manager and trainmaster for the port authority and Hoosier Southern Railroad was responding to a question from board member Tom Holm.

“Where are we at on bridges, all together, now that the smoke’s starting to clear?” he asked when the board was discussing a “status of grants” agenda item. Teague had just reported he had submitted final paperwork on and was awaiting reimbursement on funding from the federal Economic Development Administration. That $2 million grant was awarded in 2008 to upgrade the rail to handle 286,000-pound railcars.

“We’re just waiting for somebody to tell us, ‘you’re done,’ ” the trainmaster told the board.

Two bridges remain to be improved at significant cost, Teague said. A 450-foot-long, timber-trestle bridge over the Anderson River, at the 8.2-mile point on the short line, will cost between $1.7 million and $3 million to replace, “depending on who you talk to,” he said. “That’s the bridge. That’s not the engineering and all of the other stuff.”

It would not be replaced with another timber structure, he said.

The other bridge that hasn’t been updated is at the 11.7-mile point near Evanston, Teague continued, calling it “probably above 8.2 on the priority list,” and estimating its replacement cost under $2 million.

Other bridges that could use work “are so small that we can actually do the work ourselves,” he said, “with the exception of driving piles.”

The board agreed to take a trip along the rail line to review the work that has been done, and tentatively scheduled it to coincide with their June meeting. Teague told the board it will give them a chance “to see what you guys have been working on the last five years.”

In other business, Teague said a trade publication expressed interest in doing a profile on the port, and he had been providing information for it.

“It does go to a lot of places,” he said as the board was discussing the port-rail agency’s marketing efforts. In the same category, Teague reported a new customer had expressed interest in having the Hoosier Southern transport anode butts used in foundry operations.

Alvin Evans, who chairs the board, expressed surprise about moving them by train.

“I don’t know how well it’s going to work,” Teague agreed, “and our stevedore service has their doubts, also, but he wants to try … we’re going to give it a go for them.” He added that the material will arrive in smaller pieces than normal.

“We had a pretty unique month in February,” Teague reported, calling it “a really good month for (having only) 28 days.” Operating revenues exceeded plans by $20,000, but expenses from locomotive repairs carried over from January “impacted us pretty significantly,” he said.

Twenty-five barges’ worth of materials were in storage at the port, providing a revenue source, he reported.

“We’re unloading our eighth barge for the month of March already,” he added, “and the ninth one, we’ll unload tomorrow. We’ve basically unloaded 24 barges in the first quarter, to date.”

He called the port’s operating ratio “underwhelming and a disappointment to me,” saying it was above plan for the first time in 26 months and adding, “we’ll see it dropping down here as we continue along.”

“We planned for a rather poor month; it just got a little bit poorer,” he said. “If you take out that $17,000, we were right where we should have been.”

The board rejected the three bids it received for 577 tons of surplus rail the agency needs to sell.

They were all near $260 per ton, and Teague said “we should see a minimum of $280.” The board authorized him to notify the three bidders it set a reserve price at that level.

Teague also told the board he was informed the agency’s current Blue Cross-Anthem insurance cost was to increase 29 percent, and he’d have information at the next meeting about changing providers.