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Industrial access road work for ethanol plant 2 years away

Industrial access road work for ethanol plant 2 years away

Posted: Monday, October 27, 2008 9:13 pm
By: John Brannon Messenger Staff Reporter

  By JOHN BRANNON

Messenger Staff Reporter

If a $170 million ethanol plant comes to Obion County, can a new industrial access road for it be far behind?

Yes. As much as two years, according to the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

Meanwhile, commerce associated with the plant will have to make do with what it has — a battered and beaten rural ribbon replete with potholes and hairpin curves.

The new plant, Ethanol Grain Processors, is here and is up and going in its quest to produce 100 million gallons of ethanol a year.

The plant occupies a 220-acre plot next to McDonald Road, which ties into Wolverine Road on one end and State Route 183 on the other. Wolverine Road leads to Troy; State Route 183 leads to Obion. 

The road, 2.8 miles long, is owned by Obion County, meaning it is a county road, maintained by the county, not TDOT. The road surface consists of alternating strips of gravel and pulverized blacktop.

Its dilapidated state can be attributed to an almost overnight transition from agriculture to industry. The transition began in December 2006 with the arrival of heavy construction equipment to grade the site in preparation for construction of the new plant.

During construction, the road bore the brunt of an army of commercial trucks bringing rock, steel, concrete mix and all manner of building materiels to the site. Wolverine Road was also pounded to potholes in some areas.

As work progressed and four huge silos were built, farm trucks brought in load after load of shelled corn. About a million bushels of corn were accumulated.

And now, with construction complete and the plant operational, McDonald Road, despite its condition, will continue to serve as the only access avenue for wheeled vehicle traffic in and out of the plant.

State pays

TDOT chief engineer Paul Diggs said Friday the state will pay the cost of construction of an industrial access road. “We estimate it to be in vicinity of $6 million,” he said.

Meanwhile, a temporary fix for McDonald Road could be what is called surface treating. “A short-term paving project could be done for about $400,000,” he said.

But contracts for the new project won’t be let until next summer, and construction will start in August or September.

Special program

TDOT spokesman Julie Oaks said Wednesday that state law authorizes TDOT to contract with cities and counties to develop industrial access roads to enhance and encourage economic development. The program is known as the State Industrial Access (SIA) program.

In spring 2007, TDOT and Obion County entered into a contract for construction of the SIA route to the EGP plant.

She said TDOT knew the construction of the plant would likely be completed before the road project. But the project is not only on schedule, it’s been “aggressively accelerated.”

Not competing

Biggs said if this were a state highway-type project, it would have to compete for funding with a lot of other projects statewide. The SIA program is for small projects.

“This is a large industrial access project,” he said. “Typically, these projects are only a half mile in length. The big difference is that it does not have to compete with other projects in the state. We have a special allocation for industrial access roads. It allows us to deliver them much faster.”

Upon completion of the project — sometime in 2010 — Obion County government will assume full responsibility for maintenance of the road.

In-kind work

Obion County Mayor Benny McGuire said TDOT’s plan for the project includes building a new bridge “somewhere down there.”

“They can’t decide whether one of the bridges we built is up to (state) specifications,” he said.

And he doesn’t hear from TDOT much.

“They called me four or five months ago and said, ‘You need to send us $300,000.’ I said, ‘No, sir, we’re going to do in-kind work,’” McGuire said.

In-kind work is work done by local government instead of paying a matching fee for a public project.

“This guy said, ‘That isn’t what the paperwork shows.’ I said, ‘Sir, I’ve got a letter here from Gov. Bredesen and (TDOT) commissioner Gerald Nicely that says we can do in-kind work,” McGuire said. “They finally agreed I was right. We are going to do the in-kind work. Whenever they tell us to go to work, we’re ready.

“Another thing. They are supposed to buy the land where they cut corners (convert hairpin curves to straight lines). They haven’t done that yet.”
Published in The Messenger 10.27.08

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