Rehabilitation of a 46-mile railroad that spans three counties advanced Thursday with St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency authorization of a $9.9 million grant agreement with the state.
The agreement has not been finalized, but the IDA gave Executive Director Patrick J. Kelly authorization to sign the documents spelling out its terms and administration if they follow the parameters of what has been agreed to informally.
Mr. Kelly said he is working with Empire State Development on providing it with information on how the project could be phased.
Rebuilding the line that runs through Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties was one of the priority projects chosen by the North Country Regional Economic Development Council partly because it was a necessary component to the plan to restart Newton Falls Fine Paper. Even though that deal has collapsed, the rail remains key for the mills sale and for other businesses along its route, Mr. Kelly said.
Everyone understands rehabilitating the rail is even more critical than before, he said. We need to have the ability to offer the railroad to a potential buyer.
Besides the paper mill, the line could serve any business thats located at the former Jones & Laughlin Steel Co. site, which has an environmental cleanup plan underway, and Benson Mines, which has millions of tons of granite left over from iron production near Newton Falls that could be sold if transportation were viable.
Slack Chemical and Climax Paperboard in Carthage, Jefferson County, use the line for shipments and deliveries. In Lewis County, Harrisville Dry Kiln is a potential user.
Both short and long term, the railroad provides a transportation platform now or down the road, Mr. Kelly said. The paper mill is our end of it. Its an asset. This will make the asset more marketable.