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Bring on the freight trains

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A New Jersey construction company could begin restoring the long-dormant railroad extension in Calverton, N.Y., as early as mid-March, with the possibility of work being completed by summer's end, officials said. Freight trains could start heading into the Enterprise Park at Calverton, or EPCAL, soon after the job wraps up, said town community development director Chris Kempner, the Riverhead, N.Y., News-Review reports.

The Riverhead Town Board on
Feb. 11 awarded a contract to Railroad Construction Co. Inc. of Paterson, N.J.,
to restore the overgrown rail spur leading into the EPCAL property from the
Long Island Rail Road’s main line. The company’s bid of $3.49 million was the
lowest of the seven received for the project, with the highest coming in at
$6.7 million. The town received a $4.8-million federal stimulus grant to pay
for the construction late last year.

The project is expected
not only to help businesses operate out of Calverton but also to take trucks
off Long Island roadways.

"Each rail car can
hold four to five tractor-trailer loads," said Paul Victor, the president
of New York and Atlantic Railway, a private freight rail company that currently
has the contract with LIRR for freight services. Each rail car holds about 100
tons of materials, he said.

"We expect this
project to reduce costs of business for many EPCAL businesses," Riverhead
Supervisor Sean Walter said in a statement. The freight access, he said, will
help companies expand to new markets due to the lower shipping costs, which
would lead to job creation.

The spur, which runs
along Connecticut Avenue, was used by the Grumman Corporation when the defense
contractor built jet engines at the Calverton site. Grumman left Calverton in
1996. Once the restoration is complete, Riverhead Town hopes to sign a contract
with New York and Atlantic to operate the spur, Kempner said,

However, the town must
first work out an agreement with LIRR to construct the switch to allow trains
to access the spur from the main line, according to Kempner.

"We’re working with
the LIRR and we hope to have an agreement in place by the end of March so we
can put the switch in by May," she said, adding that all other permits for
the project are in place.

While the bid is much
lower than the grant amount, the town will have access to up to the full amount
of the grant to complete the project, town officials said.

Congressman Tim Bishop
(D-Southampton) was instrumental in securing the stimulus funds, which he has
described a win-win-win situation.

"This rail improvement
project will create jobs … help lower the cost of shipping goods on Long
Island and reduce truck traffic on area highways," he said.

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