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Rail freight facility studied at proposed Bradley Street industrial park in Pamelia

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WATERTOWN — An intermodal transportation facility, which would allow trucks to deliver and unload rail freight conveniently, is being considered at the industrial park planned by Purcell Construction Corp. off outer Bradley Street in the town of Pamelia.

The idea of such a facility at the planned 88-acre park, north of CSX Transportation’s adjacent rail line, was hatched during a regional rail conference March 25 in Watertown that included rail industry leaders from across the north country, said Richard R. Gefell, Purcell’s project manager. The discussion at the conference came after the Watertown City Council agreed March 17 to sell city water to a water district that will be created in the town of Pamelia to serve park tenants. Only about 7 acres of the proposed park are within the city limits, with the remainder in Pamelia.

By using special shipping containers, intermodal transportation allows goods to be transported by rail, highway and ship without the actual handling of freight itself when changing modes.

“What I gathered from the conference is that we feel there is a strong opportunity to create some kind of intermodal transportation site that would serve the region,” Mr. Gefell said. “Also of great interest is our proximity, of course, to the Canadian border and what that could mean for more international shipping opportunities.”

Purcell Construction didn’t waste any time planning the industrial park after it bought the property last October from Pyramid Cos., Syracuse, for $1.25 million.

Blueprints to extend the city’s water line from Main Street to Bradley Street are now being developed by town of Pamelia engineer Francis A. “Ike” Cook, project manager at MRB Group, Engineering, Architecture & Surveying, Watertown.

“We’d like to start getting the infrastructure to at least extend to our site within the next two to three months,” Mr. Gefell said. “And I would hope to have the site shovel-ready by this fall.”

Several prospective tenants already have expressed interest in moving into the park, Mr. Gefell said; he declined to provide further information.

With room for up to 20 businesses, the park will feature a rail siding built by Purcell on the north side of the CSX rail line to serve industrial clients. The intermodal transportation facility being considered would complement that plan by serving as a hub for trucks to load and unload rail freight, Mr. Gefell said.

“We know that there are places in the area that receive goods on ships, for example, from various ports,” he said. “Trucks go a long distance to do that and it would be more economical to ship goods by rail. Instead of having goods trucked from ports on the Eastern Seaboard, they could come via rail and lead to this destination. They would then be transported a much shorter distance on the road,” helping companies reduce transportation expenses.

Numerous preliminary steps would be needed, however, to attract an outside company to launch such an intermodal transportation facility, including financial incentives, said Donald C. Alexander, CEO of the Jefferson County Local Development Corp. The planning process would likely include a feasibility study that would explore how much use the facility would likely attract. A long-term payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement approved by taxing jurisdictions likely would be needed to entice a company to spearhead the project, along with additional financial incentives from the economic development agency.

During the rail conference last week, private- and public -sector leaders from the region reached a consensus that such a facility would be a major economic asset by growing shipments to and from Canada, Mr. Alexander said. From the perspective of outside companies, a recently announced $105 million project to upgrade the U.S. port of entry at Alexandria Bay could help strengthen the credibility of a proposal to launch an intermodal transportation facility in Watertown, he said.

“We have an international highway that dissects our community, and I think we’re in a great position to explore options for transshipping,” Mr. Alexander said. “The agency would look at this as an economic investment and a job creator. The only thing that could hold it up would be if we don’t believe we can generate enough volume to make a situation like this sustainable.”

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