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Staten Island Railroad benefits touted

Staten Island Railroad benefits touted

It’s only eight miles long, but New York City officials said Tuesday that a reactivated Staten Island Railroad would be a boon to the local economy and environment.

   Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Richard Larrabee, director of the Port Commerce Department of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and other government officials celebrated the reopening of the railroad, though trains hauling garbage have been making test runs on its tracks since earlier this month.

   The city said the short line will connect the island to the national rail grid, create 220 permanent jobs and reduce truck traffic by 100,000 trips per year.

   The New York City Economic Development Corp. and port authority joined together, each contributing half the $75 million needed to renovate the eight-mile rail line and modernize the Arthur Kill Lift Bridge.

   New York Container Terminal at Howland Hook hopes to begin intermodal train service from the terminal by late May or June, said Jim Devine, chief executive officer of the terminal. The terminal, the only container facility on Staten Island, has been providing information to CSX and the Norfolk Southern about shippers who might want to use the rail service, their volumes and destinations, he said.

   Imported containers arriving at NYCT can be loaded on doublestack cars at the on-dock rail facility, then shuttled to sidings at Port Newark and Elizabeth, where they will be integrated into intermodal trains being made up with containers on cars from the ExpressRail terminals there. Exports could trace the route in reverse.

   The Arthur Kill Lift Bridge, the longest moveable lift bridge in the world, connects the railroad to the Chemical Coastline Connector in New Jersey. Separate from the $75 million investment, the port authority provided $56 million for the construction of the bridge viaduct connecting the railroad to the national freight network in New Jersey. It has also invested $26 million in the Express Rail ship-to-rail facility at NYCT, enabling the terminal to ship cargo to western markets by rail.

   City officials said in addition to NYCT, several of Staten Island’s largest businesses are expected to be big users of the railroad, including the Visy Paper mill, which uses recycled paper as feedstock, and VanBro Corp., which sells aggregate and paving material.

   The Staten Island Railroad’s linkup with the Chemical Coast is a key component of the city’s historic Solid Waste Management Plan. A $40-million truck-to-rail solid waste transfer facility will process an average of 900 tons per day of Staten Island generated residential and municipal waste.

   The waste is compacted inside the 79,000-square-foot facility into sealed 12-foot-high by 20-foot-long intermodal shipping containers, which are then loaded onto waiting flatbed rail cars — four containers per car — to be railed across the Arthur Kill Lift Bridge to New Jersey and then onward to an Allied Waste landfill in South Carolina.

   “This project to resurrect a dormant railroad after 17 years has been a perfect partnership between the port authority and the city,' Larrabee said. 'It provides Staten Island’s Howland Hook port terminal with an environmentally friendly way to transport cargo by taking up to 100,000 trucks a year off the region’s highways, while giving the city a way to move its containerized municipal solid waste to out-of-state landfills without shipping it by truck.

   “This project is just one component of our overall $530 million port-wide investment in on-dock rail infrastructure that will allow us to be good environmental stewards for years to come,” he said.

   Construction on the Staten Island Railroad’s reactivation began in late 2004. It had been closed since 1991. In March 2007, NYCEDC entered into an agreement with CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern Railway and the Consolidated Rail Corp. to provide rail services to Staten Island.