In August 2018 Arconic reached out to Kevin Pearson, Senior V.P., Economic Development for the Wichita Falls Chamber, seeking assistance for improvements to the Bacon Switch Road rail crossing.
Two manufacturers utilize this rail crossing which has deteriorated over the last 15 years and was affecting their transport of goods. Arconic and Vitro Architectural Glass both voiced concerns about quality control for shipped/received parts and their failed attempts to rectify the situation with Wichita Tillman Jackson Rail Road (WTJRR) and Wichita County.
The Chamber arranged meetings with both entities to inspect the rail crossing, discussed funding and coordinated the efforts toward a solution.
What were the issues?
The WTJRR did not have funds in its 2018 budget to repair the crossing and does not budget for repair or replacement of a crossing until it is not safe for rail traffic. The County didn’t want to make improvements to the roadway until a new rail crossing had been completed.
Since Arconic and Vitro are two of the area’s largest employers, WTJRR was willing to supply the labor for the crossing if the 4a Board was willing to assist with the material cost, and Wichita County agreed to improve the roadway approaches to the crossing.
With Pearson driving the project, the WFEDC and City Council approved $50,000 for materials to improve the rail crossing, the WTJRR supplied labor for the crossing improvements, while two County Commissioners – Lee Harvey and Barry Mohler – combined their road budgets to approve $70,000 to make concrete road improvements on both side of the crossing. The new crossing was completed as on March 26, 2019. Pearson said this about the project, “As usual, everyone came together to ensure the absolute best outcome for two of our largest employers. The WTJRR crew went above and beyond the call by improving drainage, new ballast, new ties and straightening the track over the crossing. The County’s team originally planned to use asphalt for the approaches but decided it was in the best interest of Arconic and Vitro to use a much more expensive concrete with a longer useful life. Concrete aprons were also added to air trucks in making turns onto and off of the frontage road. While this may appear to be an almost insignificant project, it is not insignificant to Vitro, Arconic, its employees, or the truck traffic that use Bacon Switch Road.”
“Kevin, I wanted to also send you a personal note of thanks. This would not have happened without your leadership. You stayed focused to find a way through the various obstacles that would have otherwise killed the project. You worked all the possible alternatives until a solution was found. This is a sign of a strong leader. I and Arconic really appreciate your effort. Thanks!”