Crews will be “workin’ on the railroad” before long in parts of Iowa. Kevin Schieffer, CEO of a regional rail company which two years ago bought the Iowa-Chicago-and-Eastern Railroad, has landed a $233 MILLION loan from the Federal Railroad Administration. It’s to fix up track and refinance some debt in Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota. Schieffer says down the line, other states will be included in the repairs and improvements, which will mean shiny new rails. He says they’ll lay new steel, put down ties and ballast, and work on bridges — what he calls the bread-and-butter of railroad infrastructure. Many are in desperate need of repair, as Schieffer’s corporate empire was put together from remnants of old railroads that were aging and, in some cases, ready to be abandoned. That was the case with the so-called “corn line” that runs through Iowa for hauling the harvest and Schieffer says there’s plenty of other cargo to haul, as well. In Iowa, the railroad’s predominant cargo is grain, fertilizer and chemicals, as well as cars, steel and other things. Schieffer’s Dakota Minnesota and Eastern railroad took over tracks that in some cases had speed limits below 50 miles an hour because the track and railbeds were too rickety to support faster trains. With these improvements, he says the future’s secure for decades, not just years, and certainly for the term of this 25-year loan. Work will get underway this year in three states, with more to come in time. There’ll be a lot of work between Dubuque and Mason City, and from Mason City to Minnesota, where he says it’s most needed because the line is in the “toughest” shape. Schieffer’s railroad empire, formed within less than a decade, comprises the Iowa Chicago and Eastern railroad as well as parts of other lines that cross nine states from Wyoming to Illinois.
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