Economic development corporation studying rail spur for Warren’s AutoParkit
By Ed Runyan
The Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corp. is taking steps to help Warren’s AutoParkit automated parking company get rail access at its Dana Street facility.
It is the second significant rail-related project to arise this year in the Warren area.
Mike Conway, executive director of the Liberty-based MVEDC, said the business development group is conducting a pre-engineering study to determine whether a rail spur on the former Delphi site now owned by Chris Alan of AutoParkit can be rebuilt.
MVEDC operates the Warren and Trumbull Railroad line that runs past the plant. MVEDC, which has been in business 40 years, also owns Youngstown Commerce Park and Warren Commerce Park.
MVEDC also runs the Youngstown and Austintown Railroad Co. and helps businesses acquire loans to help them grow. MVEDC helped businesses acquire $6.4 million in loans in 2017.
Alan has expressed an interest in using rail for his business, which designs and builds automated parking structures, Conway said. Alan recently acquired the former Packard plant and former Delphi World Headquarters building out of bankruptcy.
Mike Keys, director of the Warren Community Development Department, has been assisting Alan with the AutoParkit project, but he is also involved with local officials responding to the news that CSX Railroad has asked the federal government to allow it to abandon the CSX rail line from Niles to Newton Falls.
Trumbull County officials are working to preserve the line for rail use but also to use it as the route for the final leg of the Western Reserve Greenway hike and bike trail.
Keys said the city and county want to see the CSX line from Niles to Newton Falls remain usable for rail because rail could be a key selling point for several redevelopment properties on the south side of Warren.
One is the 400 vacant acres at the former RG Steel property off Pine and Main avenues. Most of the property is in Howland and Warren townships.
But rail and/or better access to the Ohio Turnpike would be key factors in attracting a buyer for three vacant, adjacent properties in the city’s southwest area. They are the former Westlawn neighborhood, former Warren Western Reserve property and Deemer Park.
Keys said companies want good highway access. One way to provide that would be for a new highway to be built from the Ohio turnpike exit at Lordstown to a location on Warren’s south side. Another way would be to continue the Route 5 Bypass to make it a circular highway like in some other cities instead of a half-circle as it exists now.