A stretch of long-abandoned railroad will be fixed up again to haul ethanol from Iowa’s newest ethanol plant when that plant’s completed. Betty Baer, the rail transportation director for the Iowa Department of Transportation, says when the line shut down in 1989, shippers bought it, to keep their options open. About two years ago a group got together to develop an ethanol plant, on that line near newU.S. Highway 20 just north of Steamboat Rock, and the plant’s working with shippers to restore service. Farm co-ops and elevators formed the North Central Rail Association and successfully landed a loan from Iowa’s Railway Finance Authority to renovate the track. Now the seven miles of track will be used to haul ethanol and its byproducts north to Ackley, and from there the Canadian National Railroad will take it to the east and west coasts, big consumers of ethanol. The plant’s expected to be finished and beginning its operation just about a year from now. During the coming summer the line will be rehabilitated and they’ll build a “spur” leading to the plant. The renovation’s expected to make 15 to 20 jobs fixing up the line. Baer says this is a more likely prospect than many of the miles of abandoned railroad right-of-way that still cross the state. The shippers bought it but left the rails in place, good steel despite weeds and trees that have grown up along it, so it won’t be as costly to rehabilitate this line as it would be to build a new one. The D-O-T will contribute a little over 70-thousand dollars to renovate the line, part of a railroad which was first built in 1868 to haul coal from mines north of Eldora.
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