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Rail traffic remains slow

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Barge count headed upward, trucks above plan

By KEVIN KOELLING
Managing Editor

TELL CITY – The Perry County Port Authority continued to feel the effects of reduced rail traffic, its board members heard in a regular meeting Sept. 10, but August had brought some improvement.

“That brought us pretty close to our budgeted income” for rail freight, according to Kevin Teague, operations manager and trainmaster for the authority and Hoosier Southern Railroad.

Other areas were slightly under plan, as well, he said, pushing operating revenues below budgeted income. The reduced activity had brought reduced expenses, as well, Teague said. “Everything but materials was below plan,” allowing the port-rail agency to exceed its budgeted income for the month.

Eighty-one rail cars had transported materials for Waupaca Foundry versus a plan of 106, Teague reported, adding that quite a bit of pig iron had to be trucked in because expected river deliveries were late.

Traffic for American Colloid was up slightly but “will be a car or two below plan every month just because of a new formula they have.”

Consolidated Recycling met its goal of one outbound car for the month, he reported, but was seven cars below the expected inbound traffic due to a continuing inability to find ethylene glycol, which it reclaims from used antifreeze and provides to another company for processing into new antifreeze.

He said at an August board meeting the local firm was having difficulty finding ethylene glycol clean enough to recycle.

The total rail-car count was 226 under the 1,364 planned for so far this year and “quite a ways off the mark for 2012,” he said. That count at August was 1,535.

“We’re going to start catching up with the 2012 number as we go later into the year,” Teague said.

The barge count was also below plan, “but that’s because of timing,” the operations manager said, but “we’re going to make a pretty big stride in catching up with that this month. We’ve already done five barges in September … and four more are leaving New Orleans … I expect us to do 10 barges this month.”

Truckloads were above expectations for the month.

Reaching a customer-service entry on the meeting agenda, board member Alvin Evans reported quotes would go shortly out for some new customers and products. He also said he was finishing work at J.H. Rudolph. As the News reported in April, he was selected to become president and chief executive officer for the Perry County Development Corp., Perry County’s economic-development agency.

He stepped down as president of the port authority but will continue to serve as a member and said he would begin working more closely with Teague.

He also reported he would seek archeological surveys costing $5,000 to $10,000 for a couple of port-authority sites where some fill work needs to be done. He wasn’t sure the surveys would be required, but board voted to approve them should they be necessary.

In discussing the status of several grants, Teague expressed frustration about one Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant, authorized under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“There’s a city in Alaska that got $2 million to pave their roads,” he said. “The city’s only accessible by airplane, but they’re going to pave all of their streets.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation administers the grants intended for infrastructure improvements and announced the village of Alakanuk would receive $2.2 million. An Associated Press report on Alaska TV station KTUU Sept. 7 explained the money would be used to “resurface, realign and widen almost three miles of roads made out of boards and gravel” and “will connect residents to key community economic hubs, including the health clinic, village store and tribal and city offices.”