MASSENA — The pending sale of roughly 278 miles of railroad track currently owned by CSX — a portion of which passes through the towns of Bombay and Fort Covington — should have no effect on rail service or the businesses that rely on that service, according to documents filed with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board.
The purchase of the so-called Massena line, which runs from near Syracuse to Beauharnois, Quebec, by the Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad — a subsidiary of the Canadian National Railway Co. — “is intended primarily to preserve service on the Massena Lines for existing traffic rather than divert traffic from other routes or generate new traffic,” according to documents filed on CN’s behalf with the Surface Transportation Board.
“If the purchase is approved, our new neighbors in New York should not see much change in freight train volume along this line,” Alexandre Boulé, CN’s senior adviser for media relations and public affairs, said in an email to The Malone Telegram.
However, the change is expected to reduce the number of trains running along the line. CSX currently operates six trains per day along the line between Fort Covington and Massena; the changeover will shrink that number to two, according to the documents. The reduction will be the result of efficiencies put in place under the new ownership, rather than a decrease in shipping volume, according to the documents.
All businesses currently receiving rail service, including those on rail spurs, will continue to be served, the documents state.
There are no existing rail customers on the line between Massena and the Canadian border, the documents note.
The Franklin County Industrial Development Agency has been exploring the creation of a new rail spur to serve the former Gildan clothing factory site in Bombay. IDA CEO Jeremy Evans could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Massena-area officials have expressed concerns that the sale would adversely impact the roughly 50 CSX employees in the region. The documents filed with the Surface Transportation Board indicate three additional jobs will be created along the entire length of the line, but two jobs in Massena will be cut.
“B&LE plans to offer priority hiring consideration to employees currently employed by CSX on the U.S. Massena Lines,” as the company has no current employees in the region, the document state.
B&LE currently operates a rail line running from Pittsburgh to Connaught, Ohio.
The Surface Transportation Board is currently soliciting comments on a request by CN for an exemption to required reviews of its plan to discontinue an agreement it has with CSX for “trackage rights,” which allow the Canadian company to use the CSX tracks. That agreement will be moot once the purchase is complete, since CN will have ownership of the rail line, according to the board.
The transportation board is currently reviewing the purchase. “We hope to have a decision in the coming weeks,” Boulé wrote.
CN announced the planned purchase of the rail line in late August. Terms of the sale were not disclosed, and all financial data related to the transaction is redacted in the Surface Transportation Board documents.
The purchase is supported by a number of local leaders and organizations, including U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, and the North Country Chamber of Commerce.
“CN is excited to be expanding its reach in New York where we will be able to safely and reliably link businesses to markets around the world,” Boulé wrote. “With this acquisition, CN is opening up new opportunities for our existing customers and local businesses who will be able to access new markets through our unique three coasts network. By acquiring the Massena rail line, CN continues to expand our network and foster additional supply chain solutions.”