The members of the Western Reserve Port Authority (WRPA) agree with the sentiments expressed in the April 30 editorial "Rail Would Boost OCC's Benefits."
We have long recognized that rail is vital to our region's continued economic growth and is, along with outstanding highway access and the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, a key component of the transportation infrastructure that makes the Valley a desirable location for new and expanding businesses.
As you correctly note, the impending oil and natural gas boom has injected a sense of urgency into the effort to ensure that we can meet the rail transport needs of the companies involved in every facet of energy exploration, extraction and processing, as well as the wide array of non-energy-related industries that depend on rail to receive raw materials and distribute finished products. That is why we are pleased to report that the WRPA, in conjunction with All Aboard Ohio's RESTORE program, has commissioned a study that will analyze freight rail needs in Mahoning and Trumbull counties.
Our discussions with railroads, shippers, the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce, Mahoning River Corridor Initiative, Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, the Ohio Rail Development Commission and a number of other groups provided the impetus for the study. Among its many objectives, the study will identify shovel-ready sites that will benefit from connecting to major rail lines, connections needed to improve access to Lake Erie and the Ohio River, and connections that can be constructed relatively quickly using readily available funding. We believe a final report will be issued sometime in June and we eagerly anticipate sharing the results with the media and the public.
It's important to note, however, that we're not waiting for the study to be completed to act. We regularly meet with other stakeholders and potential state and federal funders to discuss our region's strategic rail needs and the steps we can take to meet them. We're pleased to play a leading role in the effort to enhance rail service in the Mahoning Valley and we look forward to working with business, labor, political, and civic leaders to to ensure that our community and its people have the resources needed to grow and prosper in the 21st Century.