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How the Rocky Mountain region is turning to rail

By |  March 26, 2021

Rocky Mountain Industrials logo

Construction aggregate is no longer plentiful in and around metro Denver.

As permitted reserves dry up, sources drift away from the city and new pressures emerge in the supply chain. With aggregate sources now situated farther away from Denver, the prospect of railing materials into the market makes greater sense.

Railing aggregate into Denver is certainly an opportunity Rocky Mountain Industrials (RMI) sees. The company is currently building a 620-acre rail park in Adams County, east of Denver, for a number of reasons.

One is to connect the company’s Mid-Continent Limestone Quarry, which sits in the heart of the Rocky Mountains in Glenwood Springs, to metro Denver. According to RMI, that quarry contains about 120 million tons of limestone and dolomite, and the opportunity to serve the Denver market will be tremendous once RMI navigates permitting with Colorado’s Bureau of Land Management and other agencies.

RMI is also bringing the rail park online to support anticipated growth east of Denver that will drive demand for a variety of commodities. The company expects that growth to take place in the coming years.

“If you look at potential geographic growth opportunities, you can’t necessarily grow west,” says Brian Fallin, CEO of RMI, noting that Denver’s population is spiking because of transplants from states such as California and Texas. “The next 10 to 15 years of growth is going to move east along I-70, toward the airport (Denver International Airport). The airport is one of the busiest in the U.S. right now, with acres of adjacent land to develop for both residential and commercial need.”

That area east of Denver – and, specifically, adjacent to the Colorado Air & Space Port – is where the Rocky Mountain Rail Park will reside.

“What started for us as a simple search for an aggregate landing spot on rail turned into a 620-acre infrastructure and supply-chain solution for metro Denver,” Fallin says. “The early vision for our facility was to simply connect our Glenwood Springs, Colorado, quarry expansion project to the Denver market via the Union Pacific Railroad. During our diligence process, it became very clear that an efficient rail solution with unit train capabilities was a highly underserved infrastructure component for the Denver market.”

Once RMI identified this greater opportunity, it pivoted from an RMI-designed aggregate-only solution to a fully developed, high-capacity rail park servicing a variety of industries.

“We’re excited about the park and being able to provide solutions that will help sectors like building materials, aggregates and cement, oil and gas, agriculture and general high-volume distribution,” Fallin says.

Preparing for the future

Rocky Mountain Rail Park offers both rail and non-rail served industrial zoned parcels to users. Photo: miflippo/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Rocky Mountain Rail Park offers both rail and non-rail served industrial zoned parcels to users. Photo: miflippo/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

RMI dedicated about one-fourth of the rail-served Rocky Mountain Rail Park to asphalt, cement, ready-mixed concrete and precast uses that are actively being marketed.

An aggregate loop, unloading pit and conveyor system will be added to meet the needs of these customers, Fallin says, with capacity at full buildout of about 5 to 7 million tons of aggregate each year.

“We have had extensive discussions with Denver-based operations interested in locating material storage and batch plant facilities inside our rail loop,” he says, adding that Rocky Mountain Rail Park will boast three full unit trains of capacity. “Our intent is to lease land inside the aggregate loop while maintaining control of the rail operation.”

The other three-fourths of the park will be utilized for other commercial and industrial purposes for either sale or lease, RMI says. Construction will coincide with the contract execution of Rocky Mountain Rail Park’s first 85-acre tenant: a Fortune 500 company looking to expand its Colorado footprint.

“Put aggregates aside, and rail traffic through Denver is congested,” Fallin says. “Landing spots for different commodities are becoming more challenging. People are wanting to find any economies where they’re moving product by volume.”

Trucking product isn’t necessarily the answer because of recent driver shortages and further distances from source to destination, Fallin adds. Plus, traffic in and around the Denver metro area remains challenging.

So, rail becomes an obvious solution.

“The pendulum from truck to rail is swinging, and many strategic players are rushing to improve or create their own rail-served solution,” Fallin says.

Kevin Yanik

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is the editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry magazine. Yanik can be reached at 216-706-3724 or kyanik@northcoastmedia.net.

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