Columbian to mark its rebuilt rail spur


    A Dec. 16 open house at Columbian Logistics Network for state officials and representatives of The Right Place Inc. will celebrate the reestablishment of a rail link to the company’s facility in southwest Grand Rapids.

    John Zevalkink, CEO, said the spur had not been used in several years and was in disrepair, requiring a “significant investment to get it serviceable.” A partnership between the Michigan Department of Transportation, the CSX railroad and Columbian resulted in reconstruction of the spur, with the help of an interest-free loan from the state.

    Zevalkink said one Columbian customer is already using the rail spur for deliveries to its West Michigan locations.

    The rail freight industry “got a big push when fuel prices went so high a couple of years ago,” Zevalkink said.

    The spur is seven-tenths of a mile long and originates at the CSX Transportation rail yard in Wyoming, west of Columbian’s terminal on Hall Street near Godfrey. According to the Michigan DOT, the spur was taken out of service in 2007 because of washouts and bridge conditions. Columbian, with help from The Right Place, obtained a loan of $72,540 under the Michigan Rail Loan Assistance Program that is repayable over 10 years. Columbian also put $8,060 into the project.

    Although “interest has fallen off a little bit” since fuel prices went down again, Zevalkink said rail is still attractive to many companies that embrace “green” initiatives. He noted that one rail car can replace three or four semi trucks on the highway, resulting in less air pollution.

    “Rail is definitely one of those things that they are looking at.”

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