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COTA looks to move rail yard to Marysville

A blue Conrail diesel locomotive slowly pulls a long line of cars out of the Buckeye Yard owned by CSX. The rail yard is an expansive facility. At its widest point. More than a dozen sets of tracks wide. Dozens of trains picking up and delivering goods use the facility every day.

Most of those trains have to travel along the same sets of tracks COTA wants to use for light rail. COTA wants CSX to move its west Columbus rail yard to an area north of the city. Moving the yard north would mean freight trains would no longer have to travel down tracks that run parallel to Summit Avenue to get to the rail yard. Freeing up that corridor for light rail trains would save COTA lots of money in its half billion dollar light rail project.

Bradley says the problem is the freight rail corridor that runs from Worthington to downtown Columbus is too narrow to accommodate current rail traffic and light rail. So, COTA would have to widen the 13 mile corridor which will cost tens of millions of dollars. So COTA is willing to pay 30 million dollars to move the CSX rail yard. The $30 million relocation cost would be less than the cost of widening the corridor to accommodate two new light rail lines.

Plan could help local economy

Business leaders say the move would also allow CSX to expand its intermodal rail facility. Intermodal transportation is when containers are passed from ship to train to truck on their way to their destination. The head of the advanced logistics department at the Columbus area chamber of commerce, Leslie Weilbacher the CSX yard is at capacity, hemmed in by another rail yard and development in West Columbus. Right now each year the CSX yard lifts 110 thousand containers from trains and puts them on trucks. CSX could double that with a new facility outside the city. Weilbacher says with a larger yard, central Ohio could position itself well in the very hot intermodal transportation market.

This idea is still in its very early stages. COTA, and CSX have only agreed to study the idea. A CSX spokesman would not comment further on the proposal.

Marysville is preferred location

The target location for a new. Expanded rail yard is along the CSX line south of Marysville. At the corner deli and carryout, near downtown Marysville, most people were like Mike Tussing. Tussing lives south of town. But he would support the yard.

But, not surprisingly as you talk to people who live close to the tracks, opinions differ. The area where the rail yard could be located is a very quiet area with corn fields, soybean fields, and small family farms.

Nine months ago Cindy Heffelfinger and her family built a home on a corner of her father's farm. Her brand new house sits just down the street from the tracks. She does not look favorably on a rail yard. She says it would ruin farm land that goes back generations.

COTA says it is ready to work with Marysville residents rail operations director Mike Bradley says a rail yard would work well in the area, because heavy industry has already set up shop. Cindy Heffelinger disagrees. She does not see farmers selling their land to a rail company. But progress might say otherwise. The road just around the corner from her house, a road that winds cuts across corn and soybean fields, is named Industrial Park Drive.