WARREN - A study that could help land grant money for developing area rail service in the Mahoning Valley is getting another review by Trumbull and Mahoning County commissioners.
The study, an immediate needs assessment of railroad infrastructure commissioned by the Western Reserve Port Authority this past spring, is now getting a closer look in attempts to find funding for the projects.
The study done by Ken Prendergast's All Aboard Ohio-RESTORE identified the top local potential projects that could be done quickly and cheaply and that would help in specific business development.
Tribune Chronicle file photo
All Aboard Ohio-RESTORE?identified top local rail projects that could be done quickly and cheaply.
Ranking first and second on the list were improvements to the rail in Ohio Commerce Center in Lordstown and the expansion of the Ohio Junction yard in Youngstown near V&M Star.
The study has been the topic of meetings in past weeks with county commissioners in both Trumbull and Mahoning counties and Western Reserve Port Authority Executive Director Rose Ann DeLeon. DeLeon said she is hoping the commissioners in both counties will consider creating a transportation improvement district. Such a district then could apply for state transportation grants up to $250,000 with no local matching funds required.
"We see it as a way of starting to bring funding into our assessments,'' DeLeon said last week.
A recent assessment of needs for rail improvements ranked top local projects. They are:
Improvements to the rail in Ohio Commerce Center, Lordstown
Expansion of the Ohio Junction yard near V&M Star, Youngstown
Improvements to the CASTLO/Lally Rail Service Yard, Campbell-Struthers
Improving tracks at Warren Steel Holdings plant north of Warren and a west Warren connection for the Genesee & Wyoming Railroad and CSX.
Source: Immediate Needs Assessment of Rail study
Trumbull County commissioners Paul Heltzel and Frank Fuda say they're warm to the proposal, but it's one that needs more thought.
"It's something that seems real interesting, something we might want to look into," Fuda said.
The meeting between Trumbull Commissioners and DeLeon held last week was the first on the railway commission idea between commissioners and port authority board officials.
"There are some real advantages. One is, it opens the way for different grants," Heltzel said.
According to the study, the Ohio Commerce Center project would cost about $2.17 million and could be done in a year or less. The center also offers the highest railroad car traffic in the study of about 13,000 railcar loads per year, Prendergast said previously.
The Ohio Junction under the Division Street bridge in Youngstown was budgeted at $2.3 million and also could be done in less than a year. The junction handles 10,000-plus railcars a year.
"The Ohio Commerce Center probably has a good chance of gaining funding," DeLeon said. "They are putting some cleaner connections into their facility. There is a full spectrum of rail opportunities for their center."
DeLeon said the CASTLO project also has good potential for grant funding.
"They are looking at making improvements to their internal rail yard," she said.
The overall goal, officials have said, is to find ways for the Port Authority to generate funding while helping the area economy by attracting employers. More jobs also could help generate business and leisure air travel at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, which the board runs.
"As with most economic development projects, funding is always the issue," DeLeon said.