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Study: Railroad extension to airport makes sense



Published: Thu, January 24, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

A study says it make sense to extend a railroad line about two miles to the Youngstown Warren Regional Airport to create a facility where raw materials and products can be shipped and received by way of train, truck or airplane.

Study recommends rail extension to airport

By Ed Runyan

runyan@vindy.com

VIENNA

A study says it make sense to extend a railroad line about two miles to the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport to create a facility where raw materials and products can be shipped and received by way of train, truck or airplane.

The study, conducted by Silverload Consulting of Cleveland, said the facility most likely would serve the gas and oil industry.

Dan Dickten, director of aviation at the airport, said the study, completed earlier this month, “is a step in the right direction,” and the Western Reserve Port Authority, which runs the airport, “should consider taking the next step.”

The next step includes searching for funding to design the rail extension and to build it.

The authority, which paid two-thirds of the $29,500 cost of the study, was expecting to hear a presentation from Silverload on Wednesday at the regular monthly board meeting but a mixup moved the presentation back to next month.

Port authority members have seen the study but have not commented on it much in the two committee meetings earlier this month, Dickten said. It was not discussed at Wednesday’s meeting.

One of the high points of the study, Dickten said, is that Silverload recommends not just one facility at the airport but as many as three — one at the airport and two others.

Two loca-tions on the 1,500-acre airport property seem best-suited for such a facility — the northwest part near Ridge Road and the southernmost part.

The Norfolk Southern rail line near the 84 Lumber yard on state Route 82 in Brookfield Township is the nearest rail line that could be extended to the airport, Dickten said. The cost of the extension would be about $10 million.

The study presents two possible paths the line could follow — along an abandoned rail line that travels northwest from the lumber yard or by creating a new line that heads slightly north and directly west and meets the airport property at its south end.

Dickten says port officials would want to talk to the Ohio Rail Development Commission and other government entities to acquire the money for the project. A private entity also might participate in the funding, Dickten said.

“The addition of rail and transloading services at the [airport] site would create a new economic- development asset that may assist with not only the attraction of new jobs, but also with the retention and expansion of jobs at existing businesses in Trumbull County and the study region,” the study’s authors say. The study region includes Ashtabula, Columbiana, Mahoning, Portage and Trumbull counties in Ohio as well as Lawrence and Mercer counties in Pennsylvania.

Increased economic activity near the airport also could have a positive impact on aviation-related activities, the study said.

The Trumbull County Engineer’s office paid a third of the study’s cost because of the likelihood that improving rail access for the gas and oil industry would reduce the amount of truck traffic on Trumbull County roads and reduce the amount of wear those trucks would cause.

Five types of businesses were identified as the most likely users of increased rail at the airport — those in the machinery, petroleum, coal products, chemicals, paper and primary-metals industries.

The study estimates the $10 million investment would create 105 jobs, including jobs for a transloading service provider, oil and gas support services company, frack sand distributor and pipeline construction company. Adding indirect and induced effects, the line could create 300 jobs, the study said.

“With rising fuel costs, the relative importance of freight transportation costs continues to increase,” the study says. “Transloading, the practice of transferring products between modes of transport, has emerged as an option to help companies, primarily those reliant upon long-distance trucking, to reduce freight-transportation costs.”


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