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Options weighed on Rook Railyard

Green Tree officials have an eye on the Rook Railyard, a 26-acre facility of Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway, for possible development.

The railway, which uses the site near Mansfield Avenue and Noblestown Road for switching and service, is considering selling the property. One rail line at the site is expected to remain in service.

Borough officials have been working with the county Department of Economic Development to find the right developer for the site, according to Adele Bonnassi, Green Tree council president.

Bonnassi would like to see the area developed as flexible space - part office, part warehouse.

Last year, council members rejected the idea for a Port Authority park-and-ride lot in that area, Bonnassi said.

'We want to make sure it is the right type of development,' she said.

One proposal calls for PennDOT to acquire 35 miles of railroad right of way - such as a trestle and tracks along the Parkway West, east of the Carnegie exit - so highways and roads can be widened.

'We're looking to determine if you could send some of the traffic off the parkway on to another facility to take you to the city via the Wabash Tunnel,' explained Cheryl Moon-Sirianni, PennDOT project manager.

PennDOT has conducted environmental studies of areas along the corridor during the process that has encompassed several years.

Just how much land and how much of Rook Station would be needed for such a project has yet to be determined.

Bill Callison, vice president of law and government relations for Wheeling & Lake Erie, said the railroad would like for PennDOT to purchase the entire Rook site and sell or lease the portion not used to other developers.

'We are hoping one entity will make the purchase,' he said.

Callison said the company estimates the value of the property - from the mouth of the Green Tree tunnel through the rail yard and into Bridgeville - at $16 million.

Bonassi has said the railyard is the last piece of developable land in the borough.

Rook Station was built by Jay Gould of the Wabash Railroad and was completed in 1904, said Marilyn Albitz, president of the Green Tree Historical Society.

She suggested the land would be a good site for housing for the elderly.

'It's level down there and it's near the bus line,' Albitz said. 'Rook is a nice little area. I think they're an important part of our community.'

Rook Station was named for a Pittsburgh newspaper publisher who supported the building of the railroad.

The community near the station originally known as Ellisdale, and later known as Rook, was home to people who worked for the railroad and many of their descendants still live in the community.

Susan K. Schmeichel can be reached at sschmeichel@tribweb.com or (412) 306-4527.

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