New rail yard to link trains, trucks, and ships with $40-million investment

Oswego (WSYR-TV) - A new multi-million dollar rail yard is being planned in Central New York, to connect the Port of Oswego to shipments in New York City.

The investment is part of the latest New York State budget.

Over the past 30-years, revenues have quadrupled at the Port of Oswego. Terry Hammill, the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Port of Oswego Authority, projects total earnings of $20-million between 2010 and 2015.

"We go to the Atlantic ocean through the St. Lawrence River, so we are in a perfect location, it is like a crossroads to transport materials from one place to another, internationally - Canada, US, Europe, other countries," Hammill said.

But, the Port's executive director, Zelko Kiricich, says his customers hit a roadblock when trying to import and export products between plants or farms across the Northeast and New York City, a major hub for shipments.

"Shipping is a large component of their business, sometimes 10-12% of the good. That's quite a bit and you have to find an efficient way to market," Kiricich explained.

Hamill adds, "For about a third of what it costs to deliver materials by truck, you can deliver it by rail."

Both men say it's possible to expand rail deliveries and shorten the trip for trucks, if there is a central location to transfer the goods.

There is a rail yard in Dewitt, but Kiricich says CSX fills the space with long haul deliveries, which are more profitable than a short trip to New York City.

As a result, short haul shipments may be delayed, waiting for space at their destination...or the may be unloaded quickly and sent back empty to make room.

"Our goal is not only to be able to get materials out of New York rapidly, but then to fill those containers and send them back to New York, so it is a round-trip and everybody making money both ways," Hammill said. "It's like a giant puzzle that is just being fixed. How do we get stuff from here to there. We have to have a Central location. It turns out that central location is essentially Central New York."

Hammill says a $40-million dollar state investment would upgrade existing railways and put a new intermodal rail yard in the Syracuse area.

The idea is to establish a transportation hub, built with enough room and equipment to move containers between ships, rail cars, and trucks.

Businesses would have the option of sending deliveries via truck to the hub, then switching to a rail car for the next leg of the shipment.

"We're talking about paper goods, we're talking about household packaging goods, we're talking about air conditioners, we're talking about TV sets. Things you buy in stores, that's what moves via these systems," Kirincich explained.

Kirincich says word is spreading and the investment could lead to private partnerships to expand the rail system after the first phase is completed with state funding.

He enthusiastically pitches the familiar promise of attracting more businesses and jobs to Central New York, an outlook that has accompanied many economic announcements.

"Large companies are actually calling us up and asking, inquiring about the particular site," he said. "Panama Canal is due to be open in 2016...we want this facility to open in line with that opening. That means - transfer of goods from Asia through the East Coast, through us."

He believes construction will begin this summer with completion in a year to 18-months.

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