ERWIN — With grant funding secured and the construction firm selected, repair work on a problematic rail spur that runs through Erwin’s Riverview Industrial Park is on track for completion in the coming weeks.
The project will focus on approximately 1,000 feet of railroad track in the industrial park, which is utilized by several businesses including Nuclear Fuel Services, Impact Plastics and Foam Products. Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch said the approximately 30-year-old track has simply deteriorated due to its age.
Deterioration of the rail spur has proven to be a costly issue over the years. Lynch said CSX has closed the track several times over the past decade until “emergency repairs” could be completed. When these temporary shutdowns have occurred, industries served by the rail spur have had to bring in raw materials via truck, which costs the businesses more than having the material transported via the rail line, Lynch said.
Lynch said these shutdowns were also costing the county, which owns the property on which the rail spur sits. The county has had to foot the bill for emergency repairs to get the track reopened. Lynch said the planned rehabilitation project should stave off the need for such Band-Aid repairs in the future.
“It was getting quite expensive just to do those emergency repairs,” Lynch said. “We could have done four or five or six (emergency repairs) and spent more money than we’re spending on this rehab, so this is not like totally new, everything will be new, but it will be rehabbed to the point where it will last several more years.”
The work will involve the replacement of ties, tie plates, spikes and switch points in the affected area, Lynch said. Gary Tysinger with Tysinger, Hampton and Partners, the engineering firm overseeing the project, said the maintenance is needed.
“Some of those ties have been in there since the very beginning when we first built the track,” Tysinger said. “That’s what holds the gauge or holds the rails together so the trains can run open.”
The county has pursued grant funding for the rehabilitation project, which is estimated to cost around $160,000, for more than two years. It was recently awarded an $80,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission. Lynch said the grant, which covers the engineering services and construction, requires a 50 percent match from the county. However, he said the county’s economic development board, which has around 60 percent of its budget funded by the county, will reimburse the county when construction work is complete.
“So what we’ve done is we’re sharing the cost of it, and it helps us because we don’t have to put the whole thing onto the debt service,” Lynch said. “It’s just a good little partnership we’ve got with the EDB.”
Tysinger said officials hope to receive the go ahead to begin construction in the next couple of weeks. From that point, construction should take around 30 to 35 days to complete, Tysinger said.
Two construction companies submitted bids on the project, and the project was recently awarded to South Carolina-based Bundrick Grading and Construction. Tysinger said the company has worked on the track before and is familiar with its needs.
“They know the track and know what we need to do, so we’re glad that they were the successful bidder,” Tysinger said.