KINGSBURY | The much anticipated intermodal facility for Kingsbury took another step forward after meeting a New Year's Eve deadline to reach a development agreement.
There's still negotiating to do, but the hope is to start construction of a refrigerated warehouse, perhaps, as soon as the second quarter of this year.
The cold storage warehouse would hold fresh produce and other perishable food brought in and out of the intermodal facility by trains running to and from Kingsbury and Tampa, Fla.
"We're on target and moving forward," LaPorte County attorney Shaw Friedman said.
The intermodal facility became official Dec. 31 when a development agreement was signed protecting the $6 million investment from LaPorte County that's helping develop the infrastructure at what's known as the INland Logistics Port.
Friedman said all of the players involved in the proposal signed the deal, including CSX, the railroad that would carry the perishable food to and from the site, and Green Express, the company that would be in charge of loading train cars with farm products to and from Kingsbury and the port at Tampa.
Green Express would also operate the refrigerated warehouse that would store the food until picked up by semi-trucks for delivery to markets elsewhere in Indiana and other states.
Also signing the development agreement was Providence Logistics and the Halfwassen Group, LLC, the developers of the 600-acre site.
Green Express is looking to purchase 90 acres of the land and among the things holding up the agreement until now were talks to buy the acreage breaking down between Green Express and the developers, officials said.
To get the produce rolling in, Friedman said the next step is to get approval from the port authority in Tampa to authorize Green Express to get produce off cargo ships in the port and onto the train cars.
He said the intent is for all parties involved in the project to travel to Florida and meet with port officials in Tampa to start the approval process as soon as the end of January.
Port Authority will help Green Express obtain financing "for their piece of the operation," Friedman said.
If, for some reason, things don't come together with Green Express and the port authority in Tampa, Friedman said the development agreement now in place opens the door to pursue deals with other produce shipment companies at ports elsewhere.
"We've now got the pieces in place to entice a developer," Friedman said.
CSX has already completed a 2-mile rail extension to the site for rail cars to bring in perishable food and other products like steel, machinery and grain to and from markets as far south as Mexico and South America.
Products would also be brought in by truck for shipping back to Florida.
Chris McGrath, a representative from both CSX and Green Express, said other things still must occur like getting transportation agreements officially signed between the railroad and Green Express before the refrigerated warehouse can start going up.
"The optimistic viewpoint is to have all of the documentation done and in place in time for a spring start of construction," McGrath said.