The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

April 28, 2013

Woods County places hopes in new rail park

ENID, Okla. — An idea formulated a few years ago has become a reality and may bring rewards to Woods County.

A ribbon-cutting is planned for the Avard Regional Industrial Rail Park project Friday. A hot dog feast at noon will precede the ribbon-cutting. At 1 p.m., Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb will speak, followed by Rail Authority Chairman Ed Sutter.

The project location is six miles south of Alva on U.S. 281, then west 6.8 miles on Garvin Road.

Sonja Williams, economic development director for Woods County, said an industrial park was built near Alva at the intersection of two railroad lines that hopefully will utilize unit trains to haul from the area and provide a method of improving manufacturing. The intersection of a Burlington Northern railroad line traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago, with a subline intersection near Avard, will grow, area economic developers hope.

A 6,000-foot siding was built along the railroad, and the second phase is leasing property at the park.

“We’re never going to have an interstate highway in northwest Oklahoma. We must have a way to ship our products out and ship to a global market,” Williams said. Project officials plan to use the Port of Catoosa, and believe the railroad line will give them the opportunity to do that.

They have partnered with Chaparral Energy, a subsidiary of SandRidge Energy, and have received millions of dollars in stimulus money to help build sidings. Martin Marietta Corp. already is actively using the industrial park. The Port of Catoosa has signed a cooperative agreement to help develop the site.

“We used creative means of financing. We made the area — which was blighted — into a tax increase finance district, and Alfalfa Electric Cooperative applied for and loaned to us an economic development loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Those funds were used to help purchase the land, which had been under contract for three years,” Williams said. The cost of the land is $762,000.

The idea took shape in 2004 as a regional rail park. It was presented to Alva Chamber of Commerce board director Neal Williams. Williams is the husband of Sonja Williams.

A total of 508 acres of land was purchased, and the Avard Regional Rail Authority was created to handle the details for the Woods County commissioners. Trustees include Todd Holder, Stan Bixler, Joe Royster and Leslie Kamas, along with Sutter. Woods County Clerk Shelley Reed serves as liaison between the authority and the county commissioners. An $18 million budget was developed through the programs. Northwestern Oklahoma State University and the Avard Project Committee convinced the county commissioners to pave the road from U.S. 281 to the park site, which also passes by the NWOSU park.

Chaparral Drilling Fluids is the founding partner of the park, and Martin Marietta has begun shipments of rock and sand to the park. Between 25 and 30 people work at the two companies.

BNSF has extended its track construction to a Y-shaped intersection to join the two tracks in a northerly direction, making a transition from the tracks to the park. Williams pointed to a report issued in the ’90s, showing water transportation is less costly.

“We have completed Phase I of the project and are beginning Phase 2,” Williams said. “We remain under construction but are growing steadily.”

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