Rail line, debt free, goes back on market
By Ashley Luthern
The 36-mile Youngstown and Southern rail line is back on the market and officially debt free.
Last month, the Ohio Rail Development Commission formally accepted and approved a $900,000 loan repayment from the Columbiana County Port Author- ity, which owns the line, said Julianne Kaercher, the commission’s public- information officer.
The port authority owed the rail commission $1.1 million in loans, and under the previously proposed sale of the line to Canadian company Tervita, the commission agreed to forgive late fees and penalties, Kaercher said.
“These fees were forgiven. ... We forgave the additional amount in order to close out the loan so they could market it debt free,” she said.
The deal for Tervita, an environmental and energy-services company, to purchase the line for $2.9 million fell through in August when Tervita contended there was an environmental problem, citing contamination near the car barn in Negley.
Port Authority Executive Director Tracy Drake said a draft report about the alleged contamination is complete and will be formally presented at the next port authority board meeting. He said he couldn’t comment further on the matter at this time.
Tervita had given the port authority $150,000 to serve as a good-faith payment, and if the environmental problem is valid, the money goes back to Tervita. If the problem is unfounded, then the port authority can keep the money.
Drake said the port authority has put out requests for expressions of interest in acquiring the line.
“I think we’ll allow that to run through October. We’ve already received one, and we expect to receive a couple more,” he said.
Kaercher said the rail line is marketable.
“There’s a lot of action that can be taken on the line. There are potential sites out there where companies can develop and use it as transportation. Also, there is the waste with the landfill that can be served via rail,” she said.
Oil and natural-gas development in the area gives the rail line a strategic value, Kaercher added.
“It is a very viable line,” she said.