Local leaders, officials gather for Fort Hood multi-modal rail facility study kickoff meeting
By LYNETTE SOWELL
CPCS Transcom is in the process of conducting a feasibility study for a joint use rail/truck facility to be constructed that could be an economic development boost, particularly to Coryell County and Copperas Cove.
Last week, Fort Hood representatives along with a number of key local stakeholders were present for a kickoff event, which involved tours of possible areas where a facility could be built. Fort Hood representatives showed several sites to the consultant, sites that Fort Hood requested the feasibility study consider, said Coryell County judge John Firth who represented Coryell County at the meeting.
While the original railhead near Darnall Medical Center isn’t viable, two sites close to Copperas Cove were also shown to the consultant as possibilities, Firth said.
Those sites are located west of State Highway 9, one north of Tank Destroyer and the other south of Tank Destroyer. The site that is south of Tank Destroyer is adjacent to the BNSF line and a spur that is near the current main rail facility, and according to Firth, likely the one that will be recommended.
Then on Tuesday, the feasibility study team met with economic development reps for Killeen and Copperas Cove.
Firth said the outlook is good for the project, in that the most current appropriations bills in the United States Senate and House of Representatives and the final appropriations bill in Congress could be “a perfect fit to move this project forward next year.”
As far as funding the railway design and construction, he said that a NDAA for fiscal year 2019 would authorize grants to communities for off-base infrastructure projects that improve military value, resiliency, or quality of life of a military installation. Firth said the Senate version of the same bill includes similar language with differences that will be worked out in conference.
“Based on initial descriptions, this grant program would appear to be a Federal version similar to the Texas Defense Economic Assistance Adjustment Grant program. The House version specifies an 80/20 Federal to Local cost share percentage while the Senate version specifies a 70/30 Federal to Local cost share percentage. Both versions allow for waivers of local cost shares for rural communities and the Senate version includes a local cost share waiver for reasons of national security. I am convinced that we can entice private companies to pay the local match share for an option to get access or land near the joint rail facility.”
Both the Coryell County Economic Development board and the EDC board have authorized contributing $15,000 apiece to fund the local share of the study, which is a 10 percent match of an estimated $300,000, 90 percent funded by the federal government.
Firth said that with how close The Narrows Business & Technology Park is in Copperas Cove, he believes it will create opportunities for manufacturing and distribution to come into the area with a joint use railhead nearby, especially with upcoming land swap between Copperas Cove and Fort Hood, property that is located in the area of Anderson Mountain and State Highway 9.
Ryan Haverlah, interim city manager for the City of Copperas Cove, also sees the potential for Copperas Cove and the greater Fort Hood area, but looks ahead to what the study will reveal.
“The feasibility hinges on two major points: is there a commercial need and interest, and will Fort Hood support such a partnership? The City of Copperas Cove sees a benefit for such a facility especially when in close proximity to the business park, I-14/US-190, and State Highway 9 and relatively close proximity to the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport,” Haverlah said. “The ability to ship and receive materials, products, or inventory from and to our region by rail will have a huge economic benefit to Copperas Cove.”
The feasibility study is a cooperative effort with Coryell County (lead), City of Copperas Cove, Fort Hood, Central Texas Council of Governments, City of Killeen, the Economic Development Corporations of Copperas Cove and Killeen, and the Heart of Texas Defense Alliance.
The study’s timeline projects that it will be completed by December 2018.