Johnson County approves more funding for airport rail project

The Johnson County airport commission has been in the middle of repairing the railroad at the New Century Airport.

Thursday, March 9 county commissioners approved $153,204 more in funds for the 2022 Airport KDOT Rail Grant Maintenance Capital Improvement Project. The funds are being transferred from the Airport Enterprise Fund. This brings the total project authorization to $705,771. A change order with T.L. Wallace, LLC for the $153,204 will not exceed the total contract of $1,534,620.30 Aaron Otto, Johnson county airport commission executive director, said they needed to replace one switch.

Michael Ashcraft, 5th district commissioner, said was it the last upgrade they needed, were they half way done or threefourths done.

Otto said they hope to receive a third grant.

“We have replaced 40 percent of it,” he said. “We are replacing 10 switches of the 20 and also replacing granite rock.”

Ashcraft said there had been a lot of recent news focused on rail safety, especially with the train derailments from Northern Southern in East Palestine, Ohio.

“Are there any concerns about ours,” he said.

Otto said there are three contributing factors to rails mishaps.

“Rail mishaps are speeding, training and track condition,” he said. “Ours doesn’t go over 10 miles an hour. Ours is inspected once a month by a third party. It is old rail, but that is not uncommon.”

Otto said the airport commission and county are taking steps in the right direction.

Charlotte O’Hara, 2nd district commissioner, said were the funds for the project coming out of the reserves because this would but them over the 2022-23 budget.

Otto said the 1.5 million deficit was a loss of revenue and operating expenses and the rail project funds were not from the General Fund.

The JCAX rail system is comprised of more than six miles of track through the New Century Commerce Center. It operates two locomotives daily and moves between 750 and 1000 cars annually. In 2021 over $400,000 was invested in ballast, ties and switch components from the KDOT rail program. Nearly all on-site rail crossings had been converted from the original wood infrastructure to concrete.