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New Pennsylvania bulk transfer facility opens

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It is fitting an expansion project at the Newberry Rail Yard would be dedicated on Veterans Day, said Lycoming County, Pa., transportation planner Mark Murawski, according to the Williamsport Sun-Gazette. The railroads were instrumental in helping the nation win its wars by transporting men and equipment vital to the war effort. Today, railroads still are vital to the nation, he said Nov. 11 during a ceremony marking the opening of a bulk transfer facility at the rail yard.

The facility, which will
be operated by Bulkmatic subsidiary Railway Unloading Services LLC, greatly
will enhance the area’s ability to transfer commodities via long-haul rail to
short-haul truck transportation.

For many years, Railway
Unloading Services has operated a Bulkmatic bulk transfer facility on Maynard
Street. It soon will begin transitioning its Maynard Street operation to the
Newberry Yard facility, which is owned by the SEDA-Council of Governments Joint
Rail Authority. The Lycoming Valley Rail Railroad, one of five short lines the
authority administers in an eight-county area, provides rail service to the
yard and businesses in the county.

The new facility will
double the old transfer facility’s capacity, according to Fred Flaxmayer,
company vice president. The facility will employ about 35 workers, Flaxmayer
said. Another 18 short-haul truck drivers will work out of the facility.

According to Joint Rail
Authority executive director Jeff Stover, the facility will handle commodities
such as plastic resin, flour and sweeteners, ethanol and scrap rail. The
facility cost $4.1 million, for which the authority received a $1.5-million
state Department of Transportation Capital Grant. The rest of the cost was
financed through a $700,000 loan from the state Department of Transportation
Infrastructure Bank and a $1.9 million loan from Jersey Shore State Bank.

The authority’s debt will
be covered by lease agreements with tenants, said authority board chairman
Jerry S. Walls.

The new facility provides
many benefits, Stover said. It provides trucks with direct access to Route 220,
expands the rail yard’s track capacity, brought water, sewer and gas
infrastructure to the central part of the rail yard and improves rail yard
efficiency.

Embarking on the project
required a "leap of faith" by the authority, Walls said. It was a
leap of faith that will pay off, he said. According to Walls, the investment
will allow the rail system to grow in the future, enable Bulkmatic to double
its capacity, provide cost competitive commodity transport to other local
companies, enable other companies to locate at the rail yard, and improve the
efficiency of rail switching operations.

The authority has begun
working with the Williamsport-Lycoming Chamber of Commerce to expand rail
service to new industrial parks in the eastern part of the county, he added.

Walls said the authority
has made millions of dollars in capital improvements in the county, including
grade crossing replacements and safety upgrades, rail signal upgrades, railroad
bridge repairs and maintenance, new rail sidings, and additional trackage and
facilities.

The seeds for the new
facility were planted several years ago when a study by the Lycoming County
Planning Commission revealed the region needed a rail-to-truck transfer facility
and Newberry was the ideal place to build that facility, according to Murawski.
The study coincided with information that Bulkmatic was experiencing
"growing pains" at its old facility, he said. There simply was no
room for the company to grow.

A partnership was formed
among the county, Joint Rail Authority, Bulkmatic and other entities, and
funding was secured for the project, he said.

Evidence of the rail
yard’s strategic importance is the fact that 18 major companies are located
within the rail yard or in close proximity to it, Stover said. Among those
companies are Moran Industries and High Steel Corp.

According to Murawski,
increasing rail capacity is vital to the economic future of the region,
especially regarding the movement of freight related to the gas drilling
industry.

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