Regional Chamber, Partners Form Rail Commission

May 30, 2019
In response to a request by a Class 1 railroad to begin the abandonment of 14 miles of rail line that runs from Newton Falls through Warren, and the eventual approval of this request, Trumbull County Commissioners brought together regional partners—which then joined to form the Mahoning Valley Rail Commission—to discuss how similar matters can be addressed with the most optimal outcome.

railroad

In response to a request by a Class 1 railroad to begin the abandonment of 14 miles of rail line that runs from Newton Falls through Warren, and the eventual approval of this request, Trumbull County Commissioners brought together regional partners—which then joined to form the Mahoning Valley Rail Commission—to discuss how similar matters can be addressed with the most optimal outcome.

Although there is no protocol for rail abandonments in the Valley due to their infrequency, the newly formed Commission—comprising the Regional Chamber, Eastgate Regional Council of Government, Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corporation, Mahoning County and Trumbull County Commissioners and the Western Reserve Port Authority—has been working since earlier this year to finalize the group’s structure and future scope of work.

With the initial request for abandonment occurring in May 2018, the Regional Chamber began working to salvage the line by reaching out to the Federal Surface Transportation Board that oversees the abandonment process, notifying local businesses and property owners and contacting developers who may have had interest in purchasing the line. Additionally, Trumbull County pursued negotiations directly with the railroad company.

Mauro Cantalamessa, president of the Trumbull County Commissioners, said, “We need to be proactive rather than reactive. These types of situations do not arise often, but we need to make sure that when they do, we’re prepared and have a plan to assist in any way possible. That was really the impetus for creating the rail commission...making sure we do everything we can for communities and businesses that currently benefit or will benefit from rail usage.”

The Rail Commission has committed to exploring how it can examine current and future railroad challenges throughout the Mahoning Valley. “We have a number of businesses and many property owners with developable sites and buildings that place a great value on these rail lines. A big focus of this Commission will be to protect and bolster that resource,” said Shea MacMillan, manager of Business Development at the Regional Chamber.

The Commission, which meets quarterly, has started to identify the current rail infrastructure and work towards ensuring that railroads and the corridors they run on are fully utilized to serve both businesses and communities. Some initiatives have already been put in motion, such as establishing regular communication with rail operators, surveying and meeting with businesses that currently benefit from rail or may have a future use, marketing current rail served sites to potential end users, identifying funding streams that could be used to support the preservation/acquisition of such economic assets and, ultimately, being prepared for abandonments when they do occur.

For more information, contact Shea MacMillan at (330) 744-2131, ext. 1101 or shea@regionalchamber.com.

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