Report: Port of Inola’s Rail Project Advances

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
(Map Courtesy of Tulsa Ports)

(Map Courtesy of Tulsa Ports)

The City of Tulsa-Rogers County Port Authority in Oklahoma has awarded a $15.768 million contract to Chicago-based Ragnar Benson LLC for the construction of a 4.4-mile rail spur at the Tulsa Port of Inola, according to a Dec. 4 Tulsa World report.

Site work for the inland port rail project is expected to begin in February and be mostly complete by December 2023, according to Tulsa World, which reported that Burns & McDonnel of Kansas, City, Mo., will “oversee construction and conduct material testing” under a $382,100 contract.

The track will link Union Pacific to the Tulsa Port of Inola and tissue paper company Sofidel, whose 1.8 million-square-foot manufacturing and distribution facility is located at the 2,000-acre Inola industrial site, which currently offers road access only. Sofidel in 2020 became the site’s first tenant. Automotive OEM and parts manufacturing, metal forging and processing, plastics and resin manufacturing, and aerospace and defense manufacturing companies are also being targeted, according to Tulsa Ports, which comprises the Tulsa Port of Inola and the Tulsa Port of Catoosa. Both inland ports are managed and operated by the City of Tulsa-Rogers County Port Authority.

Andrew Ralston, who heads economic development at Tulsa Ports, told Tulsa World that “The Port of Inola currently is just a large collection of industrial land. … This next step is for rail access. In the future, as we get waterway users, we will renovate the barge slip and the waterway access. This is a critical part of building an inland port.”

The Tulsa Port of Inola has navigable river access with a barge slip on the McClellan Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, and is located 13 miles from the Tulsa Port of Catoosa, a multi-modal shipping complex and 2,000-acre industrial park. (OmniTRAX in August was selected as the exclusive rail partner for the Tulsa Port of Catoosa.)

According to the newspaper, “Sofidel is contributing $1.5 million in matching funds toward the [Tulsa Port of Inola rail] endeavor, which also is getting $6.1 million in the form of a U.S. Department of Transportation Infrastructure for Rebuilding America grant.”

“This improvement, first it will help to develop this industrial park. And, at the same, it will … attract more industries to this region of Oklahoma,” Sofidel Site Operations Manager Jose Zarandona told Tulsa World. “For Sofidel, this new [rail] line will help us to bring raw material from several ports in the south (United States), mainly in Texas. And, we could dispatch parent reels to some of our operations in other states.”

According to Ralston, ““Not having that rail spur and that industrial lead track renovated and operable is seen as a hindrance to speed-to-market for those companies [we are recruiting to the industrial park]. So, getting this project started is a huge trigger for them to see our site as ready to go and meet their deadlines.”

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