Rochelle wins $6.8M rail grant to expand transload operation

Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 6:09 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Rochelle will up its game as the Hub City thanks to a $6.8 million grant from the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Officials say they will use those funds to expand its transload operation to include intermodal service.

“We want to be able to receive loaded containers into Rochelle and then ship loaded containers out of Rochelle,” said Economic Development Director Jason Anderson.

Anderson said the city currently takes in about $1 million in rail fees every year, dollars that do not come from taxpayers.

“Those are rail user fees. And we believe that what this expansion today will do is it will double that railroad revenue to the city to over $2 million a year,” he said.

Rochelle’s municipal railroad serves about a dozen industries including manufacturing and lumber. Doubling that capacity, according to experts, will be a game-changer for the city and the entire northern Illinois region.

“Rochelle is in a unique situation where it has more than one Class 1 railroad that head out west,” said R1 Planning Council Executive Director Michael Dunn Jr. “They have the U.P. and the BNSF.”

Those railroads, along with Canadian National in Rockford, make the five-county region a extremely desirable shipping hub, especially with the Rochelle expansion in the works.

”You have a number of Class 1 railroads connecting Chicago with the West. It’s good for all of us,” Dunn said.

The four-phase project is currently underway and will take a few years to complete. However, Anderson said the city will be in the intermodal shipping business by summer.

“We believe this is going to attract many, many new businesses and industries to Rochelle,” he said.

The grant is part of a $200 million state transportation investment announced by Gov. JB Pritzker Thursday.