By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer
NAUGATUCK — Whether the pending sale of Pan Am Railways, Inc., ultimately impacts the borough’s plan to develop an intermodal transportation hub remains to be seen, but for now officials are proceeding as planned.
“We’ve been aware of the sale for a long time and we’re working with several entities to get the best outcome for the borough of Naugatuck,” Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said.
The project, dubbed the “Port of Naugatuck,” is a proposed inland port and intermodal transportation hub on the mostly-vacant 86.5 acre parcel of land along Elm Street that is owned by Lanxess, the successor of Chemtura Corp. The hub would be used to transport goods to and from trucks and trains for warehousing and distribution. It would also allow international goods to go through customs in the borough.
The site sits along the Pan Am Railways line that stretches from southern Connecticut to Canada. The freight line is a critical component of the project. Local officials have had discussions with Nestle Waters, the bottled water division of the Nestle Group, and other Maine businesses about being a part of the project. The companies would use the line to ship their goods, which would be stored at and distributed from the proposed hub in Naugatuck.
CSX Corp., a Florida-based transportation company that provides rail, intermodal and rail-to-truck transload services, announced Nov. 30 that it signed a definitive agreement to acquire Pan Am Railways, Inc. Pan Am, which is based in Massachusetts, owns and operates a nearly 1,200-mile rail network and has a partial interest in the more than 600-mile Pan Am Southern system, a news release stated.
The transaction would expand CSX’s reach in Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts while adding Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine to its existing 23-state network, a news release stated.
The terms of the agreement have not been disclosed. The sale is subject to regulatory review and approval by the Surface Transportation Board.
Hess said he has talked with officials from Pan Am Railways but declined to go into details about the conversations. He said communications between borough and CSX officials have so far been through Pan Am, but he planned to meet with CSX representatives soon.
In an emailed response to questions about the port project and the sale, Sheriee S. Bowman, a spokeswoman for CSX Transportation, did not address the proposed Port of Naugatuck specifically, saying CSX is evaluating all of its opportunities and options to grow the business.
“We look forward to integrating Pan Am and the rail-served industries of the northeast into CSX and to working in partnership with connecting railroads to provide exceptional supply chain solutions to New England and beyond,” the company said in a statement.
For now, borough officials are moving forward with the project. The borough has an agreement in place with Lanxess to buy the land for a $1 and plans to move ahead with getting land use approvals for the project in the new year.
“At this time, we’re still proceeding with the Port of Naugatuck,” Hess said.
The borough is also pursuing federal and state funds, to no avail so far, to build a rail spur off the freight line that runs through the site. The spur is a key component for the project.
“We work on this project every day,” Hess said. “One way or another, we’re going to acquire and develop the land so that the property will be a significant taxpayer and not remain a desolate parking lot.”