Ceremonial ‘rail breaking’ planned as city moves forward with rail yard redevelopment

By Jodi Schwan

It will mark a symbolic turning point Wednesday, Nov. 8, when city leaders put a twist on a groundbreaking to hold a “rail breaking” at the downtown rail yard, but behind the scenes other progress has been happening.

The city has taken full possession of the land from BNSF Railway and is planning to start removing five rail tracks from the area.

“We couldn’t access the property until now without the rail yard saying so, so now we’re in the driver’s seat,” said Daren Ketcham, the city’s director of community of development.

“We can start tearing track out, scraping about 6 inches of dirt off, and hopefully that work can start in January.”

A wrought-iron fence will separate active track from developable property and will be installed next year.

“Hopefully by the end of the year, rail crossings at Sixth and Eighth streets will be taken out,” Ketcham added.

Pavement will be installed in those areas. During the winter and spring, the freight house north of Eighth Street will be demolished, tracks will be removed, and the site will be prepared for redevelopment.

The city also is working through federal requirements to declare the area a whistle-free zone. Once those requirements are better known, the city likely will move forward with development proposals in the area.

The city is working with multiple parties interested in developing projects. They are looking at several factors, including which costs will be covered privately and which may be public.

“The redevelopment of this site will take several years, and we’re working to establish realistic time lines both for the city and developers,” Ketcham said.

The rail breaking will begin at 11:30 a.m. Nov. 8 at 401 E. Eighth St., east of the 8th & Railroad Center.

Ceremonial ‘rail breaking’ planned as city moves forward with rail yard redevelopment

It will mark a symbolic turning point Wednesday, Nov. 8, when city leaders put a twist on a groundbreaking to hold a “rail breaking” at the downtown rail yard, but behind the scenes other progress has been happening.

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