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About three years after its opening, CSX Transportation is abandoning a sprawling state-of-the-art intermodal facility in McKees Rocks that was once seen as a key piece in the borough’s revival.
In a statement Monday, CSX stated that it has reached an agreement with Shell to lease the 70-acre property that spans McKees Rocks and Stowe. Shell will use it for a storage-in-transit rail facility.
“As a result, CSX Intermodal Terminals will discontinue its intermodal operations at the McKees Rocks property,” spokeswoman Sheriee S. Bowman said.
“CSX continually reviews its system and makes regular service adjustments to meet evolving business needs. Customer shipments through the area will be rerouted to other lanes providing efficient, reliable intermodal service on the CSX network.”
The Jacksonville, Fla.-based freight rail company did not say when it would discontinue its intermodal operations or when it had leased the property to Shell, which is building the $6 billion cracker plant in Potter Township, Beaver County.
However, in the statement, Ms. Bowman said CSX is working with Shell to develop engineering and construction plans to convert the site to storage-in-transit operations. That construction should be completed next year, she said.
It’s unclear whether the storage-in-transit facility is related to the eventual operations at the Shell petrochemical complex, which will include an ethane cracker and three derivative units that will turn the natural gas liquid into plastic pellets.
A Shell spokesman was unable to provide any information Monday regarding the lease or whether it ties into the cracker plant.
Nonetheless, a connection appears likely given “storage in transit” involves temporarily storing goods or products at one location before they are moved or reshipped to their final destination within a certain period of time.
CSX opened the McKees Rocks intermodal rail facility, which cost more than $60 million to build, in September 2017. At the time, it was seen as a key part of a national strategy to move more freight more efficiently and better compete with trucking.
The company was hoping to rely on such operations to transfer goods from one form or transportation to another to stem losses related to coal and other energy products.
In McKees Rocks, for example, cranes were used to lift shipping containers from rail cars onto trucks and vice versa.
But a year later, CSX, under a new CEO, announced plans to eliminate more than 230 domestic and 65 international intermodal origin and destination pairings as it moved to condense its network into precision scheduled railroading.
That operating model emphasized fewer weekly services, longer train sets and strict schedules that didn’t provide shippers as much flexibility.
It’s not known what impact, if any, such changes had on the CSX decision to lease the McKees Rocks intermodal facility, the site of a former Pittsburgh & Lake Erie rail yard.
At the time of the 2017 opening, borough officials saw the CSX facility as a key piece in an effort to bring more development to a town that has struggled to regain its footing since the collapse of the steel industry.
Neither McKees Rocks Mayor Jack Muhr nor Taris Vrcek, executive director of the McKees Rocks Community Development Corp., could be reached for comment Monday.
On another part of the P&LE site, Emsworth-based Trinity Commercial Development LLC has been planning a shipping and transportation center over 32 acres to complement the CSX intermodal terminal.
This article first appeared on www.post-gazette.com
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