The summary of an independent study on plans for the Erie Rail Freight Terminal suggests more than just DevelopErie leadership and community resistance played a role in the project’s ultimate demise in May 2014.
The study, commissioned by Erie County, the Regional Chamber and PennDOT, cost nearly $250,000 to complete. It evaluated the operations of several other Pennsylvania transportation terminals, and weighed them against the proposed Erie terminal in Harborcreek.
Harborcreek Township supervisor, Tim May, said Thursday while he understands “doing your due diligence” in investigating why the project failed, he does not believe the study revealed anything new.
“When a developer spends $1,800,000 on a perspective site, I’m not so sure that’s the most effective use of your dollars,” said May. “I think we are over a quarter of a million dollars in this study, which once again, is showing what we kind of assumed all along and tried to promote to DevelopErie – that maybe this isn’t the best idea.”
The summary cited several flaws existed with the project from the start, suggesting a terminal would be appropriate and profitable if:
- greater demand or volume of freight could be identified
- alternate economic conditions existed that provide incentives for truck-to-rail conversions, such things as higher gas prices or reduced truck driver capacity/availability
- an aggressive marketing campaign was developed to seel the terminal’s competitive advantages to area businesses and residents
- a partnership with a railroad company/carrier could be established, to provide consistent service and to own/operate the facility (the study points out that “No such partnership has been developed to date.”)
- the terminal was located within the Port of Erie, and not far away like it is in Harborcreek
“When you are talking a multi-million dollar project, I think you would want to partner with somebody who is directly tied in with the venture,” said May, adding that since the terminal project got the ax in 2014, “we have had over 200 jobs created in the Buffalo Road corridor so we feel that what Buffalo Road is being used for now is the correct uses.”
A meeting on the topic of the rail terminal project is scheduled for some time the week of May 9 involving Erie County, and the Regional Chamber.