Wednesday, July 11, 2018
By Ed Runyan
The U.S. Surface Transportation Board has given Trumbull County officials until Jan. 2 to negotiate an interim trail-use agreement with CSX Transportation for CSX’s 13.9-mile rail line from Niles to Newton Falls.
The county, through its MetroParks board, wants to use part of the rail line as the path for the final phase of its Western Reserve Greenway bike and hike trail.
The Trumbull County Planning Commission wants to acquire the entire 13.9 miles to preserve it as an active rail line for economic-development purposes.
In its Friday decision, the Surface Transportation Board ruled against two other entities expressing a desire to bid on the rail line: BDM Warren Steel Holdings, owner of the former RG Steel property south of Warren, and the City of Newton Falls.
The successful attempt by the county puts on hold for 180 days CSX’s attempt to abandon the rail line, meaning removal of the rails, ties, signal equipment and other structures. If negotiations fail, CSX “may fully abandon the line,” the STB said.
Zach Svette, MetroParks project manager, said the MetroParks is interested in four miles of the rail line from Burton Street Southeast in Warren through Howland and Weathersfield townships to the Niles Bikeway in downtown Niles.
The decision said the attempt by BDM Warren Steel Holdings to acquire the rail line failed because BDM failed to file the necessary paperwork. BDM then filed a document Monday indicating it failed to meet the deadline because of “confusing information” and wants another chance to purchase the line.
The Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce has said BDM wants to acquire the rail line to keep it active for the next user of its former RG property and other industrial properties in the area. The former RG property is served by the CSX line and a Norfolk-Southern line, Chamber officials said. The CSX line has not been active for at least two years.
The filing offers to pay $741,912 to CSX for the property. The filing is signed by Charles J. Betters, president of BDM Warren Steel Holdings.
Newton Falls, which was interested in the CSX line for industrial users there, was eliminated from consideration because its filing did not comply with notice requirements.