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Thursday, November 19, 2009

$5 million grant paves the way for new railroad spur

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A $4.8-million federal grant will let Riverhead Town, N.Y., live out its longtime dream of having freight trains running to and from the Enterprise Park at Calverton, the Riverhead News Review reports. The entire cost of rehabbing the Calverton rail spur, which leads into the park, will be funded with federal stimulus money, lawmakers said.


"Not only will these funds create needed construction jobs in Riverhead and ease traffic congestion along highways, but it will lower the cost of transporting goods on Long Island," U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.

"This project is a win-win-win for Long Island," said Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton), who, along with Schumer, helped secure the funds. "Transporting goods by freight to and from Calverton will lower the costs of goods, create jobs and remove trucks from our crowded roadways."

The spur, which hasn't been in use for a quarter-century, runs along Connecticut Avenue before linking up with the Long Island Rail Road's main line. It was used by the Grumman Corporation to transport materials when the company built Navy fighter jets at the site, which is now referred to as EPCAL. Grumman abandoned operations in 1994, with the Navy turning the land over to the town for economic development.

Above all, local officials are hoping the option to ship materials by rail will increase the attractiveness of Calverton to potential developers and business owners.

"This award is monumental in terms of infrastructure to support long-term economic development for EPCAL and the East End region," said John Dunleavy, a Riverhead Town Board member.

The town, which was recently awarded a $650,000 grant from the state for the spur project, has begun preliminary planning and engineering work. It also expects to start negotiating with the Long Island Rail Road and the New York and Atlantic Railway, a freight company, according to Christine Kempner of the town Community Development Agency.

Lawmakers noted that less than two percent of goods are brought to Long Island by train, the lowest percentage of any metropolitan area served by rail.

One example of a benefit of a rail spur, according to the press release issued by Schumer and Bishop, would be the price of stone, which is higher on Long Island than anywhere in the state.

"Building and road construction on Long Island uses millions of tons of stone," the release reads. "This spur would help reduce the price of stone and has been requested by regional quarries for years."

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