Riverhead seeking funding for EPCAL rail projects

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The rail spur at the Enterprise Park in Calverton.

Riverhead Town is seeking new state grants for two potentially major rail projects at the Enterprise Park at Calverton.

One would establish a “freight village” at EPCAL, while the other would make EPCAL a testing ground for high-speed magnetic levitation trains, also known as maglevs.

The town applied for federal stimulus money for both projects last year under the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant program.

But the TIGER program only has about $600 million available nationwide, and only chose to fund one project in New York State, the proposed Moynahan train station in Manhattan, according to Chris Kempner, Riverhead’s Community Development director.

This year, the town is applying for funding for both projects under a new Regional Economic Development Council program Governor Andrew Cuomo established earlier this year. That program has about $1 billion in funding available statewide, Ms. Kempner said.

The new program establishes 10 regional councils statewide, including one on Long Island, and pools together available funding from nine different state agencies to come up with the $1 billion, according to state officials.

The New York Metropolitan Transportation Council has proposed and studied the concept of establishing freight villages in the state, and EPCAL is one of the area’s they’ve studied.

NYMTC defines a freight village as “an area in which all activities relating to transport, logistics and distribution of goods are carried out by various operators.”

Ms. Kempner said EPCAL’s chances of getting funding to establish a freight village are enhanced by the fact that the freight rail spur connecting EPCAL to the Long Island Rail Road’s main line is now complete.

Last year, the proposed freight village was centered around the industrial core at EPCAL, but this year, it can include more of the site, she said.

Councilman John Dunleavy said two business currently at EPCAL, Eastern Fence and Metro, plan to use the rail spur to transport items currently trucked in.

“If we get this freight village, that would take thousands of trucks off the roads, and it will help the environment because we won’t have all that diesel,” Mr. Dunleavy said at last Thursday’s Town Board work session, where the state grants were discussed.

“NYMTC studied the need for freight villages in the region, and EPCAL is identified as a regionally significant area for development,” Ms. Kempner said in an interview. “So the freight village is definitely a priority project for this type of funding.”

The maglev project involves demonstrating and certifying the second generation maglev, known as the Maglev-2000 system, which was developed by two Brookhaven National Lab scientists, Doctors Gordon Danby of Wading River and Jim Powell of Shoreham. Both are retired from BNL, but are still active in trying to bring about the maglev project.

Dr. Danby and Dr. Powell hold the patent on an original form of maglev that is currently used in Japan.

The maglev system uses superconducting magnets to levitate and propel trains, which are capable of reaching speeds of up to 300 miles per hour, Dr. Danby told The News-Review in a 2009 interview. Thus, maglev trains actually float on air rather than resting on rails.

The second-generation maglev technology would be able to use the existing LIRR tracks, without having to remove the tracks, he said, so both maglev and conventional rail could operate together. The Maglev 2000’s principal goal would be to transport freight, which is profitable, and could then subsidize passenger rail, which often depends on government subsidies now.

“If you could get one-fifth of the trucks on the road using maglev, it would pay for the thing in fives years,” Dr. Danby said in 2009. “But without freight, forget it. It’s just a better Amtrak.”

The main portion of the demonstration eyed for Calverton would involve getting a maglev vehicle levitated and running, according to Mr. Danby.

“Maglev, if we can get that design and manufacturing done at EPCAL, that would be fantastic,” Supervisor Sean Walter said last Thursday.

Ms. Kempner said the freight village project costs about $12 million and the maglev project costs about $20 million.

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