Siding to be ready for wheat harvest

Work is nearing completion on a more than $1.5 million rail siding near Colwich that local grain companies hope will cut train traffic congestion in Wichita.

The short-line Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad, owned by Watco of Pittsburg, said it needs the 8,000-foot siding along its tracks between west Wichita and Colwich to temporarily hold a train up to 110 cars.

The company expects the siding to be done by June 12, just in time for wheat harvest. Dondlinger and Sons Construction is the general contractor.

The company received nearly $1 million in federal stimulus funds to help pay for the siding, said Watco spokeswoman Tracie VanBecelaere.

"It's the grain companies that have been pushing for this so their product can get in and out more quickly," she said.

According to letters from DeBruce Grain, Bartlett and Co. and Cereal Food Processors that were submitted in support of the grant request, Wichita has long suffered serious congestion problems during harvest. The siding will speed up turn-around times and improve efficiency.

The company estimated that the siding will allow it to hold 2,800 more carloads, or 9.2 million bushels of grain, on its tracks during the summer and fall harvests.

According to company documents, the siding will allow some rural elevators to reduce costs by switching from truck to rail. It also will allow elevators to improve cash flow because railroads pay upon pick up, while trucks typically pay after delivery. And it will improve the efficiency of and lower costs for grain companies in Wichita.

The company estimates it will create 10 jobs.

K&O shipped about 12,000 carloads of grain, about 40 million bushels, into the Wichita area in 2009.