FILE - US Virus Outbreak Iowa

An Iowa Department of Transportation digital sign displays a message over a highway in response to the spread of COVID-19, Thursday, March 26, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa.

(The Center Square) – Iowa Department of Transportation will be following up with two former Railroad Revolving Loan and Grant Program targeted job creation grant recipients.

At issue is whether the two recipient companies fulfilled grant commitments to create jobs.

The Iowa Transportation commission approved a loan of $196,294.50 and a grant of $327,157.50 for a West Charles Street Viaduct job creation project in 2014, according to an October 2014 press release from the department.

“Per the files I have, the project was completed in 2016, although the records I found are incomplete,” Iowa Department of Transportation Modal Transportation Bureau Director Tammy Nicholson told The Center Square in an emailed statement. “We will be confirming the job creation with the applicant.”

Job creation for the project, which was summarized in a 2014 commission presentation as “reconstruction, removal, and replacement of the east side of the West Charles Street Viaduct,” was listed as retaining 57 employees while creating 16 new positions.

As part of “more than $4.6 million” for six projects in 2015 that were “expected to support the creation and retention” of 73 jobs “within the next three years,” the Iowa Transportation Commission approved a $316,050 loan and a $240,000 grant for Boone Scenic Valley Industrial Park Line Phase I, a November 2015 news release from the department said.

The project included construction of a 1,700-foot passing track, replacement of ties, adding ballast, and construction of 1,425 feet of track extending to a facility in a nearby industrial park, its description in the department’s Infrastructure Annual Status 2020 Report said.

The award was based on the project’s commitment to retain and create a total of 40 jobs. The commission unanimously approved a request to reduce the loan portion to $226,050 and increase the grant to $330,000, when the commitment increased to 55 jobs, according to a March 2016 commission meeting packet. Nicholson said the project was completed April 13, 2017.

“The [Boone Scenic Valley Industrial Park Line Phase I] jobs should have been confirmed in 2020, during the pandemic, and that is contributing to our difficulties in our records,” Nicholson said in an emailed statement Oct. 12.

“We do not have records for the job creation and will be following up with BSVR on this,” Nicholson added in her Oct. 14 statement.

Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad was approved to receive a $551,112 Rail Network Improvement projects loan in this year’s round of $6.2 million in funding for seven rail infrastructure and rail development projects through the program, an Oct. 12 release from the department said. Funding for the seven projects was $3,151,112 in loans and $3,045,600 in grants.

“The projects are expected to support the creation and retention of 285 jobs within three years of project completion,” the Oct. 12 release said.

Targeted Job Creation projects:

  • Clinton Connecting Track, Wabash Cannonball, LLC: $550,000 grant
  • Charles City Terminal, Charles City Rail Terminal, LLC: $900,000 loan, $240,000 grant
  • Project Peony, City of Sioux City: $2 million grant
  • CP Unit Train Expansion, Pattison Sand Company: $200,000 loan, $180,000 grant

Rail Network Improvement projects:

  • Rail Port Expansion and upgrades, Ten D/Merchants Distribution Service: $1.5 million loan
  • RR Expansion and upgrade, Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad: $551,112 loan

Rail Port Planning & Development projects:

  • Oskaloosa Industrial Park Transload Facility, Mahaska Chamber and Development Group: $76,500 grant

Ten D/Merchants Distribution Service, which applied for funding for two projects, did not receive funding for the East Polk County Industrial Park planning study.

Nicholson said there was limited funding available for the program, and Ten D/Merchants Distribution Service prioritized its Railport Expansion and Upgrade project in Des Moines “so the available funds were recommended for award to the Des Moines project rather than the East Polk County study.”

She said job creation reporting is due in November for the Iowa Tractor Transload project, which in 2015 received a $35,792 loan and a $59,653 grant. That project was completed Nov. 27, 2018, Nicholson said. The A to Z Rail Enhancement project, which received a $200,000 loan in 2015, was cancelled, Nicholson said. When projects are canceled, funding returns to the grant funding pot for future awards, she said.

Loans are offered at a maximum term of 10 years at 0% interest, according to the Railroad Revolving Loan and Grant Program guide.