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Published: Friday, 12/22/2006

Erie Township site out of running for rail yard

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

ERIE, Mich. A hotly contested rail terminal that had been proposed for southeastern Monroe County s Erie Township between Luna Pier and Erie roads will not be built there, developers announced yesterday.

But Global Partners Ltd. is looking for other sites in Monroe County for a $90 million rail yard that could transfer up to 1 million shipping containers a year from trains to tractor trailers.

Such a rail yard is predicted to fill a $400 million industrial park to be built nearby, said Howard Moss, executive vice president of Great Lakes Development, which is part of Global Partners.

Together, the rail yard and industrial park are expected to create 5,000 jobs most paying $10 to $20 an hour within 10 years of construction, Mr. Moss said.

First and foremost, we re looking in Monroe County, he said, adding that Global Partners, which also includes Rudolph Libbe Properties and Danberry National, was not now searching for land in other counties for the yard.

The original proposed site between Luna Pier and Erie roads is no longer in consideration, he said, because it does not provide the dimensions and layout the group needs for what it said were its newly modified site requirements for the rail yard.

He declined to elaborate on how the site requirements have changed.

Financing, he said, was not in any way an issue.

Mr. Moss said it was impossible to put a time line on the project until Global Partners has an agreement for land. He declined to say if the group has offers on land. But he reiterated that it will not use eminent domain, as an opposition group has said it fears.

In September, Erie Township and property owners in the possible path of the proposed rail terminal filed a lawsuit seeking to forbid the project s developers from making any further references to condemning property for construction.

The suit, filed in Monroe County Circuit Court, named U.S. Rail Corp., Global Partners Ltd., and Great Lakes Development Ltd. as defendants and sought a declaration that none of those parties has the right to seize property by eminent domain as well as an injunction against the defendants communicating further threats regarding use of condemnation proceedings to take plaintiffs properties.

Yesterday s announcement from Global Partners said U.S. Rail Corp. will not be involved in any Global Partners project going forward.

Crowds of opponents have spoken out against the rail yard plan at local government meetings.

Yesterday, opponent Gary Wilmoth wrote a response to Global Partners statement focusing on previous statements about eminent domain.

His home and 42 acres are in the area originally proposed for the rail yard and industrial park, and he said one of his biggest fears was that eminent domain would be used for a project that would never come to completion.

Mr. Wilmoth, a self-employed maker of shipping racks for automotive parts, called the project unrealistic, saying he doesn t believe it has the business or government support it would need.

If Ohio wants it, they can have it, he said, adding that he has urged Michigan leaders not to provide economic assistance. We don t need to have tax funds going into something that s not going to work.

But Mr. Moss said the rail yard would use new technology that would make it one of the five most efficient such yards in the country.

The closest large rail yard to Toledo is in Chicago.

Our desire is jobs and economic development, and this project will have a tremendous impact in the region, Mr. Moss said. It s a very important project.

His partner David Hall, who is president of Great Lakes, said Monroe County is preferable for the project because it would provide access to a single-line railroad service from the Pacific Ocean via the Canadian National railroad.

Canadian National serves several ports in British Columbia and has a rail line into Toledo from the north that ends near a freight yard that parallels I-75, south of Alexis Road.

But Mr. Hall and others had said earlier this year that insufficient land was available near the Canadian National tracks on the Toledo side of the Ohio-Michigan border to build the container-transfer facility there.

Locating on any other rail line in metro Toledo would require cargoes to be exchanged from one railroad to another somewhere in their journey from any Pacific port.

The rail networks of Norfolk Southern and CSX Transportation, the other two major railroads serving the city, go only as far west as Kansas City and St. Louis, respectively, and both perform most of their western exchanges in Chicago.



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