CSX looks to build rail and truck terminal in Allegheny

Tom Fontaine
| Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012, 12:16 p.m.

Railroad giant CSX narrowed its search for a location to build a major $50 million train and truck terminal to two sites in Western Pennsylvania, officials said Tuesday.

CSX would not identify the possible locations for the facility, where freight shipments could be transferred between trains and trucks, potentially easing pressure on the region's highways and cutting costs for companies that ship large amounts of goods.

“There aren't many sites that meet all of the criteria,” said Dewitt Peart, executive vice president of economic development at the Downtown-based Allegheny Conference on Community Development, noting the site needs to be close to the company's rail lines and to an interstate highway.

Peart, who has knowledge of the terminal talks, said one site being considered is near the company's rail line and Interstate 79 in Allegheny County; the other is near the rail line and I-376 in Beaver County.

Places that fit the bill include a former Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad rail yard in McKees Rocks and the site of the former LTV Steel plant in Aliquippa.

Reached by phone on Tuesday, developer Charles Betters, who owns the LTV site, said, “If I am (one of two finalists), nobody told me about it.”

Taris A. Vrcek, executive director of the McKees Rocks Community Development Corp., welcomed the possibility on the P&LE site.

“Hopefully, there is an opportunity there. It's a site that we've been looking to develop for a long time,” Vrcek said.

Company CEO Michael Ward said the terminal will occupy 90 acres and be able to handle about 50,000 containers a year, with room to expand to handle up to twice that number.

Ward said the company plans to announce its choice within three to six months. Similar facilities are located in Pitcairn and near New Stanton, neither of which CSX owns.

Construction is expected to start in early 2014 and finish by early 2015, creating about 100 permanent jobs, Ward said.

The rail yard's opening will coincide with the completion of CSX's larger, $850 million project to increase rail freight hauling between the Midwest and the Mid-Atlantic ports. The completion of a $5.2 billion expansion of the Panama Canal should double shipping capacity there, and Ward said that would increase traffic to Eastern seaboard ports.

CSX is covering $525 million of the costs of the so-called National Gateway project. State and federal money is covering the rest, including Pennsylvania's contribution of $35 million.

“This project is a prime example of how to leverage public and private dollars to improve our nation's infrastructure,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills.

Aside from building the Pittsburgh-area terminal and three others in Pennsylvania and Ohio, CSX is increasing the clearance for trains in areas along the corridor so they can haul taller, double-stacked containers, effectively doubling capacity, officials said. That includes raising the roof in the 132-year-old J&L Tunnel in the South Side.

Company and government officials visited the Southside Works site Tuesday morning. CSX expects to finish that $13 million project next year.

Ward said the projects will “alleviate congestion and enable our customers to better leverage rail,” which he called “the most environmentally friendly way to ship goods over land.”

PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch said the project should reduce congestion and improve safety by reducing the number of large trucks on highways.

David Taylor of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association said, “Anybody who makes anything or buys anything or sells anything, when infrastructure is improved, it's going to be good for business.”

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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