The State remains silent, but not Central New York’s top economic leader after Thruway Executive Director Matt Driscoll, who all but announced on a local radio show a couple of weeks ago that the DeWitt Rail Yard was the favored site for an Inland Port.
CenterState CEO President Rob Simpson tells NewsChannel 9 he has many questions about the apparent announcement, where Driscoll said he’s been negotiating a deal on an Inland Port with CSX for months.
When it was first announced about two years ago the Inland Port was pitched by local economic leaders as not just a facility to handle thousands more rail containers but a real economic engine.
Simpson and others on his team pointed to Inland Port Greer in South Carolina, which opened in October 2013 and created instant economic activity and many jobs and is already expanding.
A Syracuse-area Inland Port they said would create upwards of 2,000 jobs. It was convincing enough to be part of a plan to win the region a $500-million in State money to help facilitate ideas like this.
“A project like this is an opportunity for us to do things differently and put jobs back into the neighborhoods where people need them the most.” Simpson says.
And he’s not convinced the DeWitt Rail Yard is the best site, especially without the release of the state’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement and market analysis.
“So the reality is every site has its pros and its cons. The DEIS was designed to evaluate those and try to make an objective decision about which site might be best.” He tells NewsChannel 9.
Another question Simpson has about the DeWitt site is whether there’s enough room around the current DeWitt Rail Yard to build an actual inland port especially with so much wetland right around it.
“Certainly the maximum benefit that we’re going to drive is to be able to have those facilities co-located immediately adjacent to the rail connection.” Simpson says.
Without knowing any details of the State’s negotiations with CSX about the DeWitt Rail Yard he wonders if this will be an enhanced terminal that they simply call an inland port, which won’t bring the jobs and other related economic opportunities he says.
“The conversations about individual sites are pretty important to leverage that investment into warehousing, into manufacturing and ultimately to jobs for people who need them the most.” Says Simpson.
CNY is not alone in pursuit of an inland port to help the Port of NY/NJ with its ever increasing cargo shipments. The Port Authority itself has dedicated money in its new budget for a facility to handle all these containers coming from larger and larger ships.