07/11/13 6:00am
07/11/2013 6:00 AM
EPCAL Rail Spur

FILE PHOTO | The rail spur that was extended into the Enterprise Park in Calverton.

To the Editor:

While I enjoyed reading Tim Gannon’s story about the $5.5 million Calverton rail spur having “just one customer,” having had the pleasure of spending many years in the rail industry, I would like to point out some realities as they relate to rail construction, customer placement and overall freight service.

“Just one” customer is often enough to make any project successful, Eastern Wholesale Fence being no exception. The benefits of rail spurs at customer sites are numerous, both to the industries and the surrounding communities. Reduced road truck traffic can benefit the public through reduced infrastructure expense and by reducing overall road congestion. Pricing advantages can ensure a company’s ability to remain competitive, keeping valuable jobs in our communities. Eastern Wholesale Fence has established itself as an anchor customer, making subsequent rail service for smaller single-car customers a reality.

Many rail projects have a lengthy development time line due to the engineering, build out and coordination involved. Two years is not an excessive amount of time between first inquiry and first car. The Enterprise Park at Calverton, or EPCAL, has been “live” for less than a year and I am encouraged by the inquiries received since its construction.

An untapped opportunity offered at EPCAL is the use of a “team track,” on which any party can receive a carload of product despite their lack of a rail-served building. This model is extremely well suited to products that can be unloaded from rail car and into or onto truck for delivery back to the base of operations or other distribution point. Many commodities can be handled in this manner; including, but not limited to, rebar, steel, building products (lumber, brick, wall board, aggregate, etc.), paper, plastics, rice, flour and other food grade commodities.

While one of the hurdles to the customer placement is the lack of easement rights on property sold by the town and the Navy’s control of additional land, we continue to extoll the benefits of the facility.

It is New York & Atlantic Railway’s intent to continue offering consistent, reliable rail service at this site with the expectation that other customers and community members will benefit.

James Bonner

director of sales and marketing, New York & Atlantic Railway

To read more letters to the editor, pick of copy of this week’s News-Review on newsstands or click on the E-Paper.

07/05/13 2:30pm
07/05/2013 2:30 PM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | The rail spur runs along Connecticut Avenue and into the EPCAL site.

The $5.5 million restoration of the rail spur into the Enterprise Park at Calverton was hailed by politicians with hard hats and shovels when the job was first begun in May 2010, but three years later, only one company is actually using the rail spur.

Paul Victor, president of New York and Atlantic Railway, which handles freight on the Long Island Rail Road, said the company has only one active customer using the rail spur, Eastern Wholesale Fence.

When the spur was completed in 2011, two Calverton companies, Eastern Wholesale Fence and Metro Biofuels, were expected to use the spur, which terminates near those companies’ locations on the western side of the EPCAL industrial park.

Since then, however, Metro, which also had oil terminals in Brooklyn, has declared bankruptcy. The business, including the EPCAL site, was acquired by the Red Apple Group, headed by billionaire John Catsimatidis, who also bought the ConocoPhillips oil terminal in Northville.

The new company is called United Metro.

Mr. Victor said that, so far, the new company has not reached out to New York and Atlantic about using the rail spur.

United Metro representatives could not be reached for comment.

On the other hand, Mr. Victor said, the arrangement with Wholesale Fence “has worked out precisely as we hoped it would.”

But, he added, “We were hoping to have two anchor customers.”

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter was critical of the rail spur’s design when it was under construction, saying it essentially was designed to serve only two businesses. He had proposed building a new siding off the spur, heading toward the center of the industrial park, where it would serve more businesses — a plan that did not come to fruition.

“I think the ultimate goal is to try to have businesses at EPCAL locate either on property to the south that we are subdividing, where the rail could fit right into that property, or to try to run it up Burman Boulevard, where there are a lot of businesses,” Mr. Walter said Friday.

But, he added, any changes to the rail spur would need additional federal funding or funding from the private businesses that seek to benefit from it.

The rail spur restoration was funded with $4.8 million in federal stimulus funds and additional money from the state.

“The town is not going to pay [to extend the rail spur],” Mr. Walter said. “I’ve heard passing interest, or people saying they think it’s a good idea and they’d like to use it, but nobody has come to me directly and said, ‘We need this. When can we get it?’ So right now, it’s just serving one business.”

Another existing EPCAL business that’s interested in extending the rail spur is Island International, which is in contract to purchase property on Burman Boulevard with the intention of building facilities for a new company there, Island Green Steel, that will make metal studs for use in construction.

Although he hasn’t reached out to town officials, Island International president Tim Stevens told the News-Review he’s hoping to have a new rail siding extended through the east side of buildings along Burman Boulevard, which would feed the Island Green Steel building at 400 Burman Boulevard, along with the adjacent Lido Stone building, and possibly four other buildings to the north, he said.

But the land from which he proposes to have the spur extended is currently under the control of the U.S. Navy, which is still conducting cleanup activities to remove pollution from the land. Official with the Navy, which used to own the former fighter jet plant property, have given no timetable for completion of the remediation work.

Use of a rail spur would take trucks off the road and allow materials to be shipped by rail, Mr. Stevens said.

“Direct delivery is key in our business,” Mr. Stevens said. “Our master coil steel exceeds weights of 60,000 pounds per coil and total freight car loads will exceed 250,000 pounds per car. We always try to achieve maximum efficiency when moving this kind of weight and limiting excess cranes and trucks.”

He said the company will be trying to engineer a plan that would benefit both his business and others at EPCAL.

Mr. Victor said that while New York and Atlantic provides freight services to businesses, it’s up to the businesses themselves to provide the direct rail connection to their properties.

“We’re like any utility: If you want the service, you’ve got to pay to connect,” Mr. Victor said.

tgannon@timesreview.com