The Centre Daily Times finally awakened on this subject...
Wednesday, May. 14, 2008
RUSH TOWNSHIP LANDFILL, INDUSTRIAL PARK
Company will seek to reopen rail line
20-mile section would serve proposed industrial park, landfill
By Anne Danahy- [email protected]
A Kentucky-based railroad company wants to reactivate 20 miles of rail line that could serve the landfill and industrial park another company wants to build in Rush Township.
Noel Rush, vice president for strategic planning and development at R.J. Corman Railroad, of Nicholasville, Ky., said the company plans to file the request with the federal Surface Transportation Board in the next few weeks. The proposed rail line would cover about 20 miles from Wallaceton in Clearfield County through Rush Township to the Gorton area in Snow Shoe Township.
Rush said Resource Recovery, the Lancaster County-based company that wants to build a municipal waste landfill and industrial park in the northern corner of Rush Township, is the prospective shipper that could use the rail line.
Resource Recovery has faced strong community opposition to its proposal, which includes building an Interstate 80 interchange to provide direct access to the site. Although the state Department of Environmental Protection’s review of the project is on hold, the company recently bought the 5,800-acre site for the landfill and industrial park.
According to papers filed with Centre County, Resource Recovery bought the land for $3.4 million on April 25. Company President Ed Abel could not be reached for comment.
The Federal Highway Administration review of the proposed interchange has also been on hold because the interchange is not part of county transportation plans.
Rush said if the rail line project is a success, R.J. Corman expects to have one inbound and one outbound train a day, with 10 to 20 cars initially. He said the trains could be used to haul commodities such as “cubed” or compacted garbage to the landfill and sand and gravel from the industrial park. Glenn O. Hawbaker Inc. has said it wants to build a sandstone quarry in the park.
About half of the proposed rail line is part of the Snow Shoe Rails to Trails’ recreational route.
Larry Mayes, the group’s secretary, said if the rail line is rebuilt the group will lose two historic structures: the Peale Tunnel and the Viaduct Bridge. The tunnel was built in 1883 and recently underwent a major restoration with a state grant.
Mayes said the group, which has about 2,300 members, has several other projects under way and will work through the political process to explain what the trail brings to the area.
“We want to make politicians understand the benefits of having a trail there versus reactivating the rail line,” Mayes said.
The rail lines that Mayes’ group maintains are actually owned by Headwaters Charitable Trust. In December 2004, the trust signed an agreement with Resource Recovery that if Resource Recovery reactivated the rail line, the company would give the trust land for a new trail.
Mayes said the Snow Shoe group was not part of that agreement.
Rush said R.J. Corman plans to acquire the easement and right to operate that section from Conrail’s successor, Norfolk Southern Railway Co. While correspondence from the Surface Transportation Board refers to the entire 20-mile segment, Rush said the emphasis of the Surface Transportation Board’s review will be on the half that is not part of Rails to Trails.
The railroad was active from the mid-1880s until about 15 to 20 years ago, Rush said.
The federal Transportation Board’s environmental review will include looking at features such as historic structures, wetlands, whether there are endangered species and the effect the project could have on residents. The transportation board hired a consultant in Harrisburg to handle the process. The review information will be presented to the three-member board, which makes the decision about the reactivation. According to the department, the review usually takes 12 to 15 months but can take up to two years.
The process includes getting input from federal, state and local agencies, including the Centre and Clearfield county planning offices.
Bob Jacobs, director of the Centre County Planning and Community Development Office, said his office will provide background information about the proposed landfill. He said the request to use the railroad lines might be premature because the proposed landfill has been put on hold for more than a year.
Jodi Brennan, director of the Clearfield County Planning Department, said one question she has is where the waste is coming from and where it will be loaded.
She said there are populated areas along the route, too.
“It does drive through some backyards,” Brennan said. “It will be an adjustment for the folks that haven’t had an active rail line going through their backyards.”
Anne Danahy can be reached at 231-4648.