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When nearly 14 miles of railroad is abandoned by CSX Transportation, it will eliminate the last rail connection in Newton Falls, leaving the village without a tie into the main rail line running outside the village, said Mayor Lyle Waddell.
The failure to convince CSX or the U.S. Surface Transportation Board not to abandon the rail is frustrating, especially because Newton Falls was “left out of the loop,” Waddell said.
And efforts to persuade the transportation company not to abandon the rail were filed with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board past deadline, with incomplete information that lacked important supporting documents and contained other errors.
“They want to take this line apart, I think we need to fight for it. It is important to us here. I’m not going to give up on it,” Waddell said.
But it is unclear if there are any interventions left.
On behalf of BDM Warren Steel Holdings and the area’s economy in general, the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber (YWRC), the Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corporation (MVEDC) and Team NEO submitted documents pleading the case for keeping the rail.
BDM owns the former RG Steel plant and started negotiations for the purchase of the line at $741,000. The company is in the process of cleaning up the site and interested in attracting a new business to occupy it.
But the information required was sent after a June deadline. And even if it had been received on time, the offer was incomplete, according to STB standards, documents filed by the STB state.
BDM needed to prove 10 percent of the financial responsibility amount was in an escrow account.
The notice of CSX’s intent to abandon the line wasn’t published until May 30, giving interested parties only a month until the June 29 deadline to file the documents.
The offer was rejected.
The supporting letters by the other organizations did nothing to help either, according to STB documents.
“The letters of support from YWRC and MVEDC state that rail service is economically valuable but do not provide any evidence demonstrating a specific need for continued rail service on the line. Nor does Team NEO point to any current need for continued rail service on the line,” an August decision from the STB states.
The STB was interested in hearing about existing businesses that rely on the line, not about the potential businesses that might, according to the decision.
“BDM and the regional organizations have not presented sufficient evidence of a continued need for rail service,” the decision states.
The director of Trumbull County MetroParks attempted to negotiate a deal with CSX in order to take over the line and create trails, but the county couldn’t come up with the $2.8 million CSX wanted and the company wouldn’t budge on the price, said Zachary Svette, director.
The company doesn’t pay any property taxes for the land the rail line sits on.
Waddell said he isn’t going to give up, and is planning to meet and speak to U.S. Rep. Timothy J. Ryan, D-Howland, and Ohio Sen. Sean O’Brien, D-Howland, to see if there is anything that can be done.
“This rail is extremely important to our economic development plan, and I plan to do everything I can to keep this spur,”Waddell said.
Shea MacMillan with the regional chamber said the organization tried to hold discussions with CSX, “but they didn’t seem to be interested in selling,” he said.
The time it takes to abandon the line, compared to the amount of time it takes to sell it, was probably one of the factors CSX was considering, MacMillan said.
“To abandon it, it is a 30-day process. But to sell it, because of the environmental factors, it would take a significant amount of more time,” MacMillan said.
This article first appeared on www.tribtoday.com