CSX to abandon rail line

WARREN — The Surface Transportation Board has cleared the way for CSX Transportation to abandon 14 miles of rail line despite objections from a property owner, the Regional Chamber and the Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corporation.

The board issued its decision Friday, but there are stipulations, including that CSX preserve culverts, tunnels and bridges so the rail company could reopen the line in the future if it chooses.

If the abandonment plan goes forward, the line could be converted to a bike trail to help finish the last four-mile Trumbull County leg of the 79-mile Western Reserve Greenway, according to the Surface Transportation Board’s ruling.

One of the objections came from the company attempting to redevelop a brownfield steel mill in Warren hoping to preserve the line for potential future development in an industry-heavy part of the county.

The CSX rail line travels in a semi-circle between Newton Falls and Niles, passing through Weathersfield, Howland, Warren and Warren Township.

CSX and Trumbull County have until Jan. 2 to negotiate an agreement to turn the rail lines into bike trail.

BDM Warren Steel Holdings, which purchased the former RG Steel Mill on Warren’s south side, objected to the abandonment request.

Shea MacMillan, manager of business development for the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber, told commissioners last month the chamber was working with BDM as the company pursued the acquisition.

Charles J. Betters of C.J. Betters Enterprises, who heads BDM, said the company is still in the environmental stages of redeveloping the old RG Steel property for another industrial use. Betters bought it for $17 million in September 2012 after RG Steel declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy and closed. Since then, many structures on the property have been demolished, including the area’s last blast furnace.

The executive director of the Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corporation also sent a letter to the board asking for a six-month delay in proceedings to give them time to develop a plan. CSX objected to the request and the board denied it as moot, according to Friday’s ruling.