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9/26/2008



Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

STB to assess environmental impacts of NS/Pan Am Railways' Patriot Corridor


The public has spoken and the Surface Transportation Board (STB) is listening. Because a number of public comments expressed environmental concerns about Norfolk Southern Corp.'s and Pan Am Railways Inc.'s (PAR) proposed Patriot Corridor, the board announced yesterday it will prepare an environmental assessment (EA) on the project.

"Initially, the applicants had asserted that the proposed transaction would not require formal environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act," STB members said in a prepared statement. "Based on comments expressing possible environmental concerns, however, the board has found that an EA is warranted."

The STB decided to vacate the remainder of its procedural schedule established in June to provide time to complete the environmental review. After the EA is complete, parties will have 30 days to review the assessment and issue comments. Following the comment period, a final environmental document will be prepared addressing concerns and providing recommendations.

The STB plans to issue a final decision on the proposed transaction "as soon as possible" after the environmental review is completed. However, the board didn't release due dates for comments, the final environmental document or final decision.

In May, NS and PAR created joint venture Pan Am Southern and launched plans to establish the Patriot Corridor, a 155-mile high-speed freight-rail route between Mechanicville and Ayer, Mass. The corridor will include 281 miles of PAR's secondary and branch lines, including trackage rights, in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.

In July, NS and PAR announced plans to build a $40 million intermodal and automotive rail logistics center on the site of a former rail yard in Halfmoon, Mechanicville and Stillwater, N.Y., to serve as the corridor's primary distribution hub for consumer products and finished vehicles. Construction is expected to begin in first-quarter 2009 and conclude in April 2010.


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