Matt Sapara, a port authority official, says the Ironville Dock could ship a wide variety of cargo, from food to ore.
The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
The Ironville Dock in East Toledo has been accessible to trains for most of the year, and soon it will be suitable for ship docking too.
A Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority contractor has worked in recent weeks toward finishing construction of a new steel dock face along the Maumee River shore of what once was the Gulf Oil refinery on Front Street. It also is working on dredging the river bottom off shore to provide 27-foot-deep water for ships.
Still to be built are the roads, conveyors, and storage facilities the port authority says are needed to establish the Ironville Dock as a focal point on the Toledo waterfront for the shipment of bulk material, “project cargoes,” and anything else that its stevedore, Midwest Terminals of Toledo International, might be able to bring in by boat, truck, or train.
“It could be foodstuffs, it could be iron ore,” said Matt Sapara, the port authority’s vice president for facilities development.
In the meantime, Midwest Terminals has developed a modest business storing idle freight cars on the dock’s railroad loop, giving the company a bit of income to service debt it incurred as part of the project’s development cost.
“This is the first time this property has made money in probably 30 years,” Mr. Sapara said.
Gulf Oil shut the refinery down in 1982.
Drew Johnson, Midwest Terminals’ manager of rail operations, said he expects the new dock’s conveyor system for loading and unloading ships to be operational by June or July. Mr. Sapara said other construction is scheduled for completion about a year from now.
The materials-handling system will be designed to handle as many different cargoes as possible. Storage facilities are to include 19 acres of ground as well as silos for storing materials that need protection from the weather.
“We want to create as much diversity for the product we can bring across the dock as possible,” Mr. Sapara said.
If nothing else, he said, the new terminal will supplement the storage capacity at the port authority’s General Cargo Docks, which in recent years have been busy with stored shipments of coal, ore, various metals, sugar, and other bulk products as well as several shiploads of wind-turbine components and pipe for a natural gas pipeline project.
“It also gives us access to Norfolk Southern,” Mr. Sapara said, identifying the mainline railroad to which Ironville Dock’s tracks connect. That gives potential Port of Toledo shippers a competitive rail option, with CSX Transportation having sole rail access to the General Cargo Docks.
Port officials had planned for Ironville Dock to be fully operational this fall, but the schedule was delayed when a $3.2 million federal Economic Development Administration grant was returned three years ago. A new agency administrator “put in conditions we couldn’t meet,” Mr. Sapara explained.
Since then, he said, the port authority arranged for the project to be eligible for New Market Tax Credits, a federal program under which private parties agree to invest in projects in economically distressed areas in exchange for credits against their taxes. The tax-credit program will finance the construction of roads and buildings and installation of equipment on the site.
“This is truly development,” Mr. Sapara said. “This is going to make things happen, absolutely going to make things happen.”
Other state and federal grants paid for the work done this fall and earlier construction of the site’s railroad tracks. Toledo Caisson of Ottawa Lake, Mich., is receiving $2.85 million to build the dock face, make other shoreside improvements to the docking area, and dredge about 33,200 cubic yards of clay from the river bottom.
The clay, Mr. Sapara noted, has been tested and found clean enough to reuse as fill elsewhere on the Ironville Dock site.
Contact David Patch at: email@example.com or 419-724-6094.