Saratoga County

Rail yard revitalization moving along

A $40 million intermodal rail yard and trucking facility being built in Mechanicville, Halfmoon and

A $40 million intermodal rail yard and trucking facility being built in Mechanicville, Halfmoon and Stillwater is 40 percent complete.

Part of it will be operational before the end of the year, Norfolk Southern Corp. officials said Wednesday.

The Pan Am Southern rail yard, which will accommodate 11⁄2-mile-long trains from two main railroad lines, have been under construction for the past year, along with a large trucking center.

The trains will bring large shipping containers, as well as new automobiles, to the site. The containers (370 spaces) or cars (690 spaces) will be loaded onto tractor-trailers for distribution in the greater Capital Region and beyond.

Local officials said during a tour of the sprawling Capital District Intermodal and Automotive Facility on Wednesday they expect the project to result in warehouses and other spin-off businesses in the Stillwater-Halfmoon-Mechanicville area.

“We are very excited about the growth,” said Mechanicville Accounts Commissioner Mark Seber. “We want to take advantage of the new businesses that may locate here to service the intermodal facility.”

State Sen. Roy J. McDonald, R-Saratoga, said large distribution warehouses in Saratoga County, such as the Target and Ace Hardware distribution centers in Wilton, are expected to be customers of the intermodal facility.

A new bridge over the Anthony Kill (Tenandeho Creek) connecting the intermodal rail yard with Route 67 in Stillwater is complete but not yet open. That will be the main truck entrance to the complex, and officials said it will see about 300 trucks coming or going when the center is in full operation.

The facility is on the main line of the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Pan Am Railway, which is the former Guilford rail system, a 155-mile main line track that runs from near Boston, Mass., to Mechanicville. Decades ago, it was one of the nation’s largest rail yards, shared by the Delaware & Hudson and Boston & Maine railroads. More recently, it was cluttered with weeds and trash, the miles of track having long since been removed.

U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, said he is impressed with the number of jobs the facility is creating, both during construction and after it is completed. David Becker, an assistant chief engineer for Norfolk Southern Corp., said more than 100 construction workers are currently on site, many of them local subcontractors. He said between 80 and 85 people will be employed permanently to operate the facility when it is completed.

Gibson also said the review and permitting process for the large-scale project has been a cooperative, bipartisan effort among local governments. The largest portion of the project is in the town of Halfmoon, with smaller parts in Stillwater and the city of Mechanicville.

The congressman, who toured the construction site with more than a dozen other local officials, said the facility includes $40 million in private investment but is a “public-private partnership” in that the state and local governments have had to guide it through a “complicated permitting process.”

Becker, a project engineer, said significant earth grading was necessary to lay down new tracks in what was many years ago the Mechanicville rail yards. Also, several streams cross the property and the contractors have had to address environmental issues related to the protection of the streams and wetlands, he said.

In early 2009, two large railroads, Norfolk Southern and Pan Am Railways, created a joint venture called Pan Am Southern to operate and improve the former Guilford rail network from Ayer, Mass., to Mechanicville. The joint venture includes $102.4 million in track, signal and capacity improvements. The $42 million for the rail yard and trucking center is part of this investment, according to Norfolk Southern officials.

Mechanicville Mayor Anthony Sylvester said he worked for the former Boston & Maine Railroad in the Mechanicville yards for 17 years. He said even though much of the rail yard is in the town of Halfmoon, it was called the Mechanicville yard.

He said the current 200-acre parcel being developed is mostly in the Mechanicville school district, which has different boundaries than the towns and city.

“I compare this to GlobalFoundries,” Sylvester said about the large computer chip manufacturing plant under construction in nearby Malta. “I’m looking at spinoffs in warehousing.”

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