CSX says station project will bring jobs to McKees Rocks/Stowe area

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Tracey Pedersen, a member of the McKees Rocks Historical Society, said plans by CSX Corp. to build a $50 million rail cargo transfer station in McKees Rocks and Stowe, is "like history repeating itself."

As a member of the historical society, she's familiar with the story of how McKees Rocks grew along with the railroad industry.

In the 19th century, the town became home to extensive rail yards and industries that manufactured rail cars and other products for the railroads.

"It's a very exciting rebirth for McKees Rocks. I am excited for the town. It's a shot in the arm that's really needed," said Ms. Pedersen, who is a fourth-generation resident of McKees Rocks.

Her connection to the railroad industry runs deep in her family. Her ancestors emigrated from Ireland to find work with the railroads in McKees Rocks, she said.

The intermodal hub, being planned for McKees Rocks and Stowe on 65-70 acres of the former Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad Yard along Island Avenue, will generate jobs for current Western Pennsylvania residents, too.

CSX projects 360 construction jobs, 80 on-site jobs and 100 indirect jobs added throughout the region once construction is complete.

Residents learned more about the project and other plans for the revitalization of McKees Rocks and Stowe at an open house hosted by CSX at the Father Ryan Arts Center in McKees Rocks last Thursday. 

Melanie Cost, manager of financial and media relations for CSX, said the intermodal hub is part of a larger multistate $850 million project called the the National Gateway designed to improve the flow of freight between the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest.

At the intermodal hub, trains and trucks will transfer cargo for rail freight customers.

Ms. Cost said the benefits of the hub include limiting the number of trucks traveling on highways, reducing traffic congestion and reducing maintenance costs for the highway infrastructure.

She said there are environmental benefits as well.

"Moving cargo on double-stacked rail is four times more energy efficient than shipping the same cargo by highway," she said.

Double-stacked rail is a shipping method in which two trailer loads of cargo are stacked on top of each, doubling the amount of freight that can be shipped on each rail car.

Taris Vrcek, executive director of the McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation development, greeted visitors to the open house and said the transformation of the closed P&LE Railroad Yard into a center for new industry has been a project 13 years in the making.

He called the CSX intermodal hub "a fantastic project."

CSX expects to complete planning, design and property acquisition in 2014, with the two-year construction phase scheduled to begin in 2015.

Mr. Vrcek said the intermodal facility is a key part of a larger plan to revitalize the economy of McKees Rocks and Stowe.

Those plans include dedication of $2 million in resources through the Allegheny Conference's Strengthening Communities partnership to fund redevelopment of lower Charters Avenue, the main thoroughfare through McKees Rocks.

Also underway is a $40 million reconstruction of West Carson Street, and further planned business development at the former P&LE Railroad Yard and along the riverfront in McKees Rocks and Stowe.

Ed Beliunas, who grew up in McKees Rocks, said he believes the development will bring new jobs and restaurants to McKees Rocks.

"This is big news. I am excited. I think it will back life to McKees Rocks," said Paulette Beliunas, his wife.

Bob Podurgiel, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

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