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New rail spur operational at Brownsville Marine

| Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

With certification by Norfolk Southern, a new rail spur leading into Brownsville Marine Products is ready for use.

Tim Scheib, president and CEO of Brownsville Marine Products, said company officials are awaiting the first rail car on that spur, which can handle six cars loaded with steel at one time.

The rail spur will be used to transport steel to the site. As part of the overall expansion at the site, it was aimed at improving efficiency and safety.

“We, in the past, had all of our steel brought in by truck,” Scheib said. “This takes hundreds of trucks off the roads so it's a win-win situation.”

Brownsville Marine Products was recently awarded a $250,000 grant for the rail spur and conveyor system. It was a part of $8 million in grants for rail improvement projects in southwestern Pennsylvania announced late last week by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. PennDOT announced $18.6 million in grants for like projects statewide.

In addition, Three Rivers Marine and Rail Terminal, based in Rostraver Township, received $303,000 for new and rehabilitated track.

Alumisource also received a $355,00 grant to reestablish a rail connection between the Monessen facility and a nearby CSX rail line.

In both cases, the improvements would permit transportation of raw materials by rail rather than truck, said state Rep. R. Ted Harhai, D-Monessen.

Harhai said with gas so costly, rail provides a less-expensive mode of transportation than shipping materials by truck.

“They employ people and the more things they can do, the more people they can employ and that's good for everyone,” Harhai said.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration awarded an $877,940 Assistance to Small Shipyards grant to the Brownsville firm. The company used the funding to help purchase an automated, horizontal blast and coating system.

The expansion addressed a bottleneck at the prep area of the barge-production facility, where the firm blasts, paints and cuts steel.

The grant was Brownsville Marine Products' second Maritime Administration grant, having previously received $532,226 in 2008 to buy a crane.

Those grants also helped fund the company's expansion efforts. Scheib said the expansion, begun last fall at the site, is now complete.

In addition to making the facility more efficient, it has also helped it to expand. Employment is now at 340, up about 40 from a year ago. And the company is continuing to hire, Scheib said.

Brownsville Marine is relatively new to the area, having begun production in 2006.

But the site is a familiar part of the Brownsville landscape as the site of the former Hillman Barge Co.

Established in 1938 by John Hillman Jr., the facility operated as Hillman Barge Co. until 1985, when it was sold to Trinity Industries. In 1995, the barge-making facility closed.

Brownsville Marine Products took possession in November 2005.

The Brownsville site is one of only three inland river barge yards in the nation. The others are located along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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