The Iowa Transportation Commission has approved nearly $500,000 in grants for railroad planning studies. D.O.T. spokesperson, Rose Wazny, says the grants will go to six city or county studies.

“The planning study grants are a pilot project that was initiated by the legislature in 2001 and we are no implementing that idea that areas as they have rail development and rail needs, that there needs to be some thought as to how that development will happen in a much broader picture,” according the Wazny.

The Central Iowa Planning Group won a $100,000r grant to look at what’s called a “transloading” facility, which most often is a combination of trucking and railroad transportation.

“A couple of years ago the Central Iowa Planning Group did a study on the idea of an intermodel facility, which is kind of a very, very large capital intensive type of transloading facility. And now they are going to look at maybe different shapes to see how transloading might be applicable in the central Iowa area,” Wazny explains.

Sioux City won a $100,000 grant for a second phase of their study. “Phase one laid a basis for some freight activities that might occur in the future. And phase two is going to look at a very broad picture of rail and road-freight transportation and those needs through the city and surrounding areas, and how those future investments will best serve the movement of freight and people through the Sioux City area,” Wazny says.

Iowa Falls won a third $100,000 grant. “They are in the process of developing a new rail industrial park…and they are looking at very specific things about how it will be structured and how it too will play off existing structure in that area,” Wazny says.

A study that includes Pottawatamie and Mills County is the largest project in terms of the area it covers. Wazny says, “That’s the largest one and they are looking at potential areas that might be suited to a railport. And it’s a large area, so they are going to look at both man-made and natural constraints that could impact how rail is developed in the future.”

Waszny says the idea with all the planning grants is to be ready to meet the transportation needs across the state. She says rail transportation is becoming more and more of an option for Iowa shippers, as many of the things produced here are very heavy and are sent long distances.

The Transportation Commission approved the grants at its meeting Tuesday in Ames.