Cumberland Times-News

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July 16, 2013

CSX railroad property near Carpendale could become freight hub

Mineral County leader working to establish intermodal facility

— CARPENDALE, W.Va. — Mona Ridder, executive director of the Mineral County Development Authority, is working to promote the idea of an intermodal facility on 300 acres of CSX property that lies along the North Branch of Potomac River adjacent to Carpendale. The proposal is in the very beginning stages and Ridder hopes to have a meeting with all the key players to brainstorm and move the project forward.

“There are other businesses in the northern part of Mineral County that would benefit from the access that would be provided by the proposed intermodal facility,” writes Ridder in her proposal.

Highway upgrades in West Virginia to accommodate the facility would be minimal and would be done at two small intersections in Ridgeley with state Route 28, according to Ridder.

“A feasibility study is also likely needed for future highway improvements to the area as growth occurs,” writes Ridder in her proposal.

An intermodal facility uses two or more forms of transportation to move goods or commodities in or out of an area, according to Doug York, West Virginia Public Port Authority executive director, who has expressed an interest in the project. An example would be the Heartland Intermodal Gateway at Prichard, where cargo is transfered from rail to trucking.

York has received Ridder’s proposal and noted the next step would be a feasibility study, which would look at things like where the closest port of call is located. Ridder indicated that the MCDA would be willing to pay for the study but it would have to go to the board for approval. The nearest inland port to the region is located in Front Royal, Va., according to Ridder.

“Once a feasibility study is complete the next step would be how to fund the project,” said York.

Ridder said that the project could possibly be funded through grants.

“As always, funding is an issue, but in this case, it is believed that CSX may have an interest in seeing this project developed,” writes Ridder in her proposal.  

Jennifer Tanner, an industrial development manager for CSX, met with Ridder to look at the site as well as other sites in Keyser and Piedmont.

Ridder has spoken with Butch Armentrout, mayor of Carpendale; the West Virginia Economic Development Auth-ority; Potomac Highlands Airport Authority; and The Greater Cumberland Committee economic development subcommittee about the idea as well as giving her proposal to numerous state and federal delegates.

Delegate Gary Howell has approached Armentrout with the idea of turning the CSX property into a Tax Incremental Finance district similar to that of Cabela’s in Wheeling. A TIF district would require the involvement of the Mineral County Commission, state legislators, Division of Highways and the Department of Commerce.

Armentrout likes both the idea of bringing in a commercial business and an intermodal facility to Carpendale but said a bridge from Carpendale to Bowling Green is necessary to bring either idea to fruition.

“Whatever happens, whe-ther it’s a commercial business or an intermodal port, it’s going to benefit the town,” said Armentrout. “Either would be good for the community and good for the whole tri-state area. It will give us a better tax base and will give us another (road)way out.”

Armentrout said that the bridge, which would be 300 feet long and cost about $3.5 million, would open up the area for potential development and would help Kingsford Charcoal become more accessible to trucks. Armentrout and Howell recently met with U.S. Rep. David McKinley, who is a civil engineer, at the site to discuss the bridge.

“The bridge will open up all land, give us better access and make (U.S) Route 220 more accessible,” said Armentrout.

McKinley thought the bridge was a terrific idea and suggested that Armentrout have Paul Mattox Jr., secretary/commissioner of highways for the West Virginia Department of Transportaion, come look at the property, according to Armentrout.

“MCDA believes that without a more regional reason for such access, a bridge alone would be a difficult project,” writes Ridder in her proposal. “Maryland would likely see little to interest that state in such a project. An intermodal facility seemed to be a more reasonable approach.”

In addition to adding a new rail bridge, Ridder suggesst extending the bridge at Upper Potomac Industrial Park. The closest intermodal facilities are located in Pittsburgh and Somerset, Pa., according to Ridder.

“This Western Mary-land/Potomac Highlands location seems to be a much more centralized location that would serve a larger number of users that connect to the Port of Baltimore and other ports on the East Coast,” writes Ridder in her proposal.

Ridder presented the idea to the airport authority in April.

“If you have freight flying in, you need to put it on a truck to go somewhere. If you have the inland port, it can go by rail, it can go by truck,” said Ridder during the presentation. “It will help you, it will help the entire region.”

Creade Brodie Jr., chairman of PHAA, noted that while he supports the idea, it’s not crucial to the airport.

“If it was to get up and running it would be good for the airport for transportation in or out,” said Brodie. “I’m just not sure how close or feasible the idea would be.”

Brodie, as well as Mineral County Commissioner Jerry Whisner, have agreed to offer letters of support, according to Ridder.

The North/South Highway study that was completed in 2000 and updated in 2010 indicated that construction and upgrade of the highway, which has been an initiative of the TGCC, would likely produce 20,000 construction jobs and 10,00 permanent jobs, according to Ridder.

“We believe that with the addition of an intermodal facility, these figures could easily double,” writes Ridder in her proposal.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.

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