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Iowa DOT, Illinois county OK funds to improve infrastructure for proposed ethanol plants

Iowa Department of Transportation and Kankakee County officials recently approved funds totaling $994,500 to improve infrastructure associated with Alternative Energy Sources Inc.’s (AENS) proposed ethanol plants in Kankakee, Ill., and Boone County, Iowa.

The Kankakee County Board approved an $850,000 grant to improve roads in the Kankakee Regional Industrial Park, where AENS plans to begin building a 110-million-gallon-capacity plant in late spring. To be completed in fall 2008, the facility will be adjacent to a Canadian National Railway Co. mainline.

Meanwhile, the Iowa DOT approved a $144,500 grant and $94,500 loan to help fund improvements to a Union Pacific Railroad line. In late spring, AENS expects to begin building a 110-million-gallon-capacity plant near Ogden, Iowa, that will be served by UP. The facility is scheduled to open in late 2008.

Last year, AENS also announced plans to build a 110-million-gallon-capacity ethanol plant in Greenville, Ill., adjacent to BNSF Railway Co. and CSX Transportation mainlines. To be served by Illinois Western Railroad Co., which interchanges with the Class Is, the facility might be completed next year.

AENS’ projects are part of an ethanol boom in the United States. During the next 18 months, 63 plants will be built and eight facilities will be expanded, doubling the nation’s ethanol production capacity to more than 10 billion gallons, according to the Renewable Fuels Association. Just yesterday, newly formed Cargill subsidiary Emerald Renewable Energy L.L.C. announced plans to build four 100 million-gallon-capacity plants in the Midwest.

Last year, the number of U.S. ethanol plants exceeded 100 and production surpassed 5 billion gallons for the first time, the association said. That’s good news for railroads, which move about 75 percent of all ethanol-related traffic, including inbound materials, and outbound ethanol and byproducts.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 1/9/2007