Ten years after BNSF Railway first considered the idea, Logistics Park Kansas City formally opened Thursday, a marriage of trains and trucks thats expected to dramatically improve the regions reputation as a national distribution center.
About 350 civic leaders and guests, including Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, made the trek to Edgerton on the south edge of the metro area, most of them using a new $36 million Homestead Lane interchange off Interstate 35 built to serve the 443-acre intermodal center.
The sprawling complex is dominated by five 90-foot tall electric cranes painted bright orange. Each is 276 feet long, almost the length of football field, and weighs 1.6 million pounds.
Those cranes are expected to hoist a half million containers from BNSF trains arriving from Pacific ports. The containers will then be transfered to trucks for a quick trip to the I-35 interchange and beyond, or storage and redistribution in what is expected to be 8 million square feet of warehouse space built during the first phase.
Three more cranes are expected to be added when the logistics park is fully built out, according to its 1,550-acre master plan. Its capacity at that point will be 1.5 million containers annually.
NorthPoint Development already has built a 326,000-square-foot distribution building for Demdaco and has started a 500,000-square-foot speculative distribution center. In addition, DeLong Co. Inc. has opened a grain distribution facility that will load emptied containers for the return trip to the Far East.
Matt Rose, chairman and CEO of BNSF and a Kansas City area native, said the logistics park approach to intermodal shipping has been a big boost to the railroad industry.
Twenty years ago, developers would have been focused on utilities and tax abatements, he said. Today, its access to transportation and railroads that drive that upfront.
Most of our highways were built in the 1960s and 1970s, and theres been little new investment. This intermodal facility allows for more tons to be moved by railroads and also provides more work for truckers. Its a win-win.
Rose grew up in Gladstone and was a 1977 graduate of Oak Park High School. He received his bachelors degree in business from the University of Missouri in 1981.
The new logistics park is replacing the current BNSF Intermodal center at its Argentine yard in Kansas City, Kan. It handled 330,000 containers last year. About 65 percent of the work already has been transferred to the Edgerton facility. The rest will be switched by the end of the year.
More than 350 people will work at the logistics center, many of them transfers from Argentine. Thousands of additional jobs are expected at the distribution centers to be built on the site. BNSF already employs 2,500 people in the Kansas City metro and 1,000 in Topeka.
Chris Gutierrez, president of Kansas City SmartPort, a part of the Kansas City Area Development Council, described the new BNSF facility as a game changer.
Our activity in Kansas City has gone through the roof since the start of construction, he said. The impact of the railroad building this is huge.