They’ll be working on the rail spur at EPCAL

Local, state and federal elected leaders help mark the start of work on the Calverton rail spur Friday.

Construction on the long-dormant railroad spur leading to the Enterprise Park at Calverton should start within days, officials said this week. The project, which has been years in the making, should take about six to seven months to complete, with freight trains expected to begin running by 2011.

But first, break out the gold shovels and blue hard hats.

Government leaders gathered at the site Friday for the ceremonial groundbreaking event on the $5.5 million job, the bulk of which is being paid for with federal stimulus funds.

The event was held at the Metro Biofuel company’s property in the park. It was attended by Riverhead Town officials, state representatives such as Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Marc Alessi (D-Shoreham), and federal representatives such Senator Charles Schumer (D-Brooklyn) and Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and others.

Peter Fleming, the vice president of Railroad Construction Company of Paterson, N.J., which was hired to do the job, told the News-Review that clearing work at the site would start sometime this week or next. Trees and brush have grown through the entire length of the tracks, he noted.

“The first thing we need to do is clear the site and right after that, we’re going to start surveying it in order to do the final design,” Mr. Fleming said. The clearing and surveying is expected to take three to four weeks, as is the design work, he said.

“All in all, we’re looking to finish the job in the better part of a six to seven month time frame,” Mr. Fleming said.

The railroad spur, which once carried materials to the Grumman Corporation’s naval weapons plant, which ceased operations there in 1994, has been abandoned for many years. It branches off the Long Island Rail Road’s Main Line, runs north along Connecticut Avenue, crosses River Road and then heads into the EPCAL industrial park adjacent to Eastern Wholesale Fence and Metro Biofuel.

The rail spur project received a $4.8 million grant from the federal American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (commonly called the stimulus money), along with a $650,000 Empire State Development grant and a $75,000 state sustainable transportation grant, for a total of $5.5 million in grants.

“This project would not have happened without the Recovery Act money,” Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) said Friday.

The contract awarded to Railroad Construction Company was for $3.4 million.

Mr. Fleming, whose company has done rail spur projects leading into industrial developments in New York City and New Jersey, as well as the rail link to Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands, said the addition of a rail spur in industrial complexes often show immediate benefits.

“The capacity for two facilities we did in New Jersey got so inundated, they’ve already expanded one facility, and they’re looking at expanding the second one,” Mr. Fleming said.

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