MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

April 24, 2013

Port rail expansion one step closer

County OKs environmental review, other documents

By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer

— County commissioners signed off on an environmental review and executed other documents that move forward plans to expand rail services at the Port of Muskogee.

Their efforts were required as part of the Muskogee City-County Port Authority’s efforts to secure federal funding for the half-million-dollar project. The funding, if approved, will be made available through a community development block grant

Dave Davis, special projects coordinator for the port authority, said the execution of the documents Monday precede publication of a notice and a seven-day comment period. Once the comment period closes, Davis said commissioners will be asked to approve final documentation required to release project funding.

“Once we get those approved and submitted, it shouldn’t take them but a few days to release those funds,” Davis said. “Once we get the release of funds, then we can start working on the project.”

Officials plan to use the proceeds from the community development block grant to expand the Port of Muskogee’s rail services and marshaling yard. The expansion will include the installation of 2,700 linear feet of railroad tracks at the port’s marshaling yard.

The project is being spurred by V&M TCA’s expansion project at the Port of Muskogee, which is expected to add “25 new, high-quality jobs.” V&M TCA, touted as the nation’s leading producer of seamless tubular products, plans to invest $11.8 million investment in its operations at the port.

The creation of the new jobs is a prerequisite for grant funding. One resolution approved by commissioners requires companies that may benefit from the improvements to report for one year any new jobs added as a result.

Davis said while V&M TCA is expected to realize a direct benefit from the rail service improvements, he doubts other companies located at the port will experience the same. The duty to report continues for a year, so that may be subject to change.

“If they create any jobs as a result of those improvements, they are required to submit that information,” Davis said, noting the duty to report is a way to measure outcomes of the investment of federal dollars. “I don’t know of any other companies that will benefit, but we have to do it just in case.”

Port officials estimate the expansion project will cost $505,000, with 75 percent to be funded by the grant or special financing. The port will be responsible for paying the remaining 25 percent of the expansion costs.

Commissioners said community development block grants have proven beneficial for small cities and rural areas where there is a need for industrial development.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.