Long-standing revitalization efforts in McKees Rocks received a major boost Thursday when CSX Corp. announced that it planned to build a $50 million intermodal freight center there.
The center, a transfer point for freight from trucks to rail cars, would be on the former Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad Yard, a strip of land east of Island Avenue straddling McKees Rocks and Stowe under the McKees Rocks Bridge.
Officials believe the center will energize development of a nascent business park on adjacent land and stimulate redevelopment of nearby business districts.
"This ... is the biggest missing piece of a development puzzle that we have been assembling for over a decade," said Taris Vrcek, executive director of McKees Rocks Community Development Corp. "It's nothing short of a dream come true for us."
"This is the kind of development project that can pave the way for more growth," McKees Rocks Mayor Jack Muhr said.
CSX said the facility will tie into its National Gateway project, an $850 million public-private partnership to clear a corridor for double-stack trains. The railroad announced last month that the first phase was completed between its intermodal terminal in Chambersburg, Pa., and a hub in northwest Ohio.
"The proposed facility will create transportation saving opportunities by giving Western Pennsylvania shippers direct intermodal freight rail access, allowing for the shift of long-haul freight from highway to rail and strengthening the transportation infrastructure serving the region's economy," the company said in a statement announcing the site.
McKees Rocks CDC has been working to develop the former rail yard since 1988. It has broken ground for a 50-acre business park that will have five rehabilitated industrial buildings and several new structures.
The CSX facility is "the perfect complement" to the business park, likely to increase demand for the space, Mr. Vrcek said.
It also will boost a planned $2 million makeover of the business district on lower Chartiers Avenue, he said. "Lower Chartiers is going to undergo a pretty dramatic face-lift in coming years, really re-creating the heart of this community."
Officials hope that the development will bring residential growth as well. "We want the folks who are coming here and working here to live here. You're talking beautiful homes for under $50,000, move-in ready," Mr. Vrcek said.
CSX said the center will create about 360 construction jobs, 40 permanent on-site jobs and 40 positions for short-distance haulers.
The company said it expects to complete planning, design, permitting and property acquisition for the 65- to 70-acre site next year and hopes to start two years of construction in 2015.
CSX spokesman Bob Sullivan said the company owns more than two-thirds of the property required for the project and expects about a dozen additional parcels will be acquired for terminal development and roadway access. "Contacts with those property owners are beginning immediately," he said.
The Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad Yard operated for more than a century but began to decline in the 1950s, Mr. Vrcek said. It was primarily a site for maintenance of steam locomotives, and when the railroad industry transitioned to diesel, the site became obsolete. By the mid-1980s, only a skeleton crew remained there, he said.
The new facility will enable businesses throughout the region to expand and efficiently deliver products to the global marketplace, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said.
"The CSX project is a public-private endeavor and illustrates the great things that can be accomplished when business, the community and government work together," said state Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-Brookline, whose district includes the site.
Jon Schmitz: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1868. First Published October 16, 2013 8:28 PM