Marquette Rail seeking $16.4 million grant to repair tracks, yard

February 13, 2024

The Marquette Rail Ludington Yard

Marquette Rail seeking $16.4 million grant to repair tracks, yard

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief

LUDINGTON — Marquette Rail, LLC is seeking a $16.4 million grant from the Federal Railroad Administration to assist paying for $25.2 million in improvements to its main track and Ludington yard.

Marquette Rail (also known as MQT) operates 162 miles of railroad from Grand Rapids to Manistee and Ludington. It has interchange connections to CSX Transportation and the Grand Elk Railroad. It major businesses served include Occidental Chemical in Ludington, Packaging Corporation of America and Martin Marietta in Manistee.

On Monday, Feb. 12, the Ludington City Council passed a resolution to sponsor the grant application, at the request of MQT. The sponsorship is needed in order for the private company to apply for the grant, but does not cost the city any local tax dollars.

MQT will invest $6.8 million in the project and has also applied for a $2 million grant from the Michigan Department of Transportation.

The grant would cover the upgrade 163,000 lineal feet of new and modern 115 pound and 136 pound per yard rail, plus 56,700 ties, one switch replacement, and supporting grade crossings on the main line. The Ludington yard would also be rehabilitated.

The project has also been endorsed by Occidental, PCA and Martin Marietta.

“The large Ludington rail yard is the hub of operations for the railroad and is utilized to sort and store customer railcars,” the grant application states. “The rail in the yard is old and deteriorated. Up to 50 percent of the tracks can be out of service due to poor rail conditions. Sections of the mainline track consist of older rail that is prone to internal defects and failures. These rail conditions in the yard an on the mainline have resulted in train derailments that have damaged customer railcars, loss of lading, and interruptions to service. The out of service yard tracks restrict the capacity of customer railcars MQT can handle and limits future growth.”

The application also cited the construction of a new potash mine by Michigan Potash & Salt Co. in Evart as a need for rail upgrades.

“The region is home to one of the highest quality natural potash and salt deposits in the entire world. With fertilizer demand on the increase and food security important, production of U.S. potash will offset the need to import the product from countries such as Russia and Belarus. The mine would produce both potash fertilizer and food-grade salt. The project would create more than 300 union construction jobs over three years and 180 full time jobs. The mind would have a lifespan of 150 years.”

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