“The train generates a significant economic impact for the city,” he said. “We did an impact study in 2014 which indicated that the train had an economic impact of approximately $2.5 million per year.”
The 2021 Railway Bridge Inspection Report noted that two of the five railway bridges, Bridge 4.10 and Bridge 2.10, are due for replacement in the near future, Brunka said. The cost of replacing the bridges was estimated at $1.3 million each.
The new agreement also includes the addition of a $1 facility usage fee on every ticket sold in calendar years 2022-2024. This fee will increase to $1.25 for calendar years 2025-2026, then to $1.50 for 2027-2030. These royalties will be placed in a fund for future rail infrastructure repair and replacement projects.
LM&M will also make an annual payment of $3,000 for the track and restrooms, while continuing to pay property taxes.
The railroad will be responsible for coordinating, scheduling and funding routine and periodic track inspections, as well as regular track maintenance up to $6,000 per year, depending on the proposed contract.
The city will apply for an $800,000 State Capital Improvement Project grant and use $250,000 in ARPA funds from the city and $250,000 in ARPA funding from the county to replace Bridge 4.10 in 2022/2023 . City officials hope to approach the replacement of Bridge 2.10 in 2025/2026 with $600,000 from municipal reserve and replacement funding and $700,000 from incremental LM&M revenue.
“We have done several surveys and the railway is iconic and unique in Lebanon,” Brunka said. “It’s a source of community identity for our downtown.
Kammer said the proposed contract is “a win-win for everyone because it’s an economic wheel that brings visitors to the city.”
He said the nonprofit loves the city, local businesses and works with the city. Kammer also said that all profits made are donated to the preservation and maintenance of historic railroad equipment.
“It was a great thing for everyone involved,” Kammer said. “2021 was the best year in our company’s history. We’re really excited about it.”
Kammer said the train, which operates from March to December, plans other events. He said the North Pole Express holiday train sold out on December 1 and he expects the increasingly popular Easter Bunny Express to have plenty of passengers.
Rebecca Strole, executive director of Main Street Lebanon, said the train plays an important role in the success of downtown businesses. The downtown non-profit association has 150 members.
“This unique and historic tourist attraction attracts thousands of visitors to Lebanon’s downtown shopping district,” she said. “Main Street Lebanon and our members, many of whom own businesses in the downtown corridor, benefit directly from the influx of tourists who come to eat, shop and explore our community.”