Plan would redirect freight trains

Under a newly proposed plan, the rail line that’s being rebuilt in order to bring freight trains into Calverton Enterprise Park wouldn’t stop at Metro Biofuel, pictured, as expected.

Riverhead Town officials have agreed to change the plan for the rail spur restoration project that’s under way in Calverton so it will serve more potential users in the town’s Enterprise Park. The work is being funded by a $4.8 million federal stimulus grant.

Supervisor Sean Walter urged the Town Board at its work session last Thursday to have a new siding built near the center of the industrial park instead of restoring the old one at the park’s western edge. The old siding ends near Eastern Wholesale Fence and Metro Biofuel, and both companies have been planning to ship materials to and from the industrial park via the restored siding and spur.

But Supervisor Walter and Councilman Jim Wooten said it was problematic that the spur would benefit only those two businesses. Noting that the restoration so far has cost about $500,000 less than anticipated, they suggested using leftover money to install a new switch on the spur from which a new siding could be laid farther east of the old one, where they said it would serve more customers.

“We have a $5 million rail spur that will basically benefit two businesses,” Mr. Walter said at the work session.

Both men came up with the plan after having met on Wednesday with New York and Atlantic Railways, the company that handles freight on LIRR tracks. Company officials suggested the change to the supervisor and councilman, they said.

The spur, which was reconnected to the LIRR main line on Saturday, Sept. 18, is the track that comes off the main line and leads to the old siding once used by Grumman. The spur’s restoration is about half complete. The old siding is a parallel section of dead-end track from which railroad cars can be unloaded adjacent to storage facilities.

After a contentious, 90-minute discussion, Mr. Wooten and Councilmen John Dunleavy and George Gabrielsen agreed with the supervisor to ask the federal government to approve the change in the project. Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, who worked as a consultant for Metro Biofuel before being elected to the Town Board, did not. She said Metro Biofuel and Eastern Wholesale Fence had made business decisions based on the expectation that the old siding near their businesses would be restored, and that freight cars carrying goods for other EPCAL businesses would be unloaded at that location.

The original EPCAL rail spur was used to bring materials into the Grumman Corporation plant, which stopped operations in Calverton in the mid-1990s. The spur has been unused and disconnected from the main line for more than 20 years.

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