CSX possibly one step away from salvaging rail line from Niles to Newton Falls
By Ed Runyan
The abandonment of the 13.9-mile CSX rail line from Niles to Newton Falls apparently will proceed now that time has run out on efforts to save it as a rail line or use it as part of the Western Reserve Greenway bike trail.
Warren and other officials expressed concern last June when they learned CSX had asked the U.S. Surface Transportation Board for permission to abandon the line, which runs north from Niles near state Route 169, past the former RG Steel site on Pine Street south of Warren, then west through Warren just south of downtown.
Abandonment of a rail line typically leads to the rails being removed for their scrap value.
“CSX continues to fulfill the [surface transportation board] obligations with the goal of consummating the approved abandonment,” CSX said in a statement to The Vindicator.
The company did not respond when asked whether it plans to remove the rail lines or when that might happen.
Mike Keys, Warren Community Development director, said abandonment of the line could be detrimental to the city’s efforts to redevelop several parcels of vacant land in the southwest part of the city, such as Deemer Park and Westlawn, both near the former Warren Western Reserve High School.
The Trumbull County MetroParks had until early January to reach an agreement with CSX to use part of the line as the final county leg of the Western Reserve Greenway hike-and-bike trail, but the MetroParks could not come up with the $2.8 million CSX needed for the line, said Zach Svette, MetroParks projects manager.
The MetroParks Board consulted with various partners, such as the Western Reserve Port Authority, Trumbull County Planning Commission, office of U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, and Rails to Trails Conservancy before concluding that acquiring the CSX rail line was not possible, Svette said.
The MetroParks has gone back to work on an earlier route for the bike trail.
The surface transportation board earlier rejected requests from BDM Warren Steel Holdings, owners of the former RG property, and the village of Newton Falls to acquire the line in an attempt to keep it an active rail line.
According to transportation board documents, there is one thing still preventing CSX from completing the abandonment process and presumably removing the rails and other salvageable parts.
That is to complete a “section 106 process,” which requires CSX to take into account the effects of salvaging the line on historic properties and to give the U.S. Advisory Council on Historic Preservation an opportunity to comment on it.
According to the board docket, that step has not been completed.