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Economic developers to survey NNY companies about rail spur improvements at Watertown

WATERTOWN — Local economic development officials want to get input from companies in the region to see if they would use proposed major upgrades to a railroad spur at the city’s industrial park.

The Watertown Local Development Corp., also known as the Watertown Trust, and the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency, are conducting a survey to determine whether north country companies would use a staging area at the rail spur in the City Center Industrial Park on South Bellew Avenue.

About 100 surveys will go out to companies in Jefferson and Lewis counties, said Marshall Weir, deputy CEO of Jefferson County Economic Development.

The surveys are due back Feb. 15.

Donald W. Rutherford, CEO of the Watertown Trust, also plans to contact some of the companies personally to gauge interest in the rail spur.

“That’s ongoing this month and we’ll see where we go with it,” Mr. Rutherford said.

Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith, the Watertown Trust’s board chair, said he knows of companies that transport goods by the more expensive mode of tractor-trailers, so the rail spur improvements could benefit them.

“It’s good for the north country,” he said.

Under the project, the staging area would allow companies to bring their products to the industrial park and ship them by rail rather than truck them to their destinations.

Manufacturers in a 50- or 75-mile radius are now trucking their products south to Utica and New York City, where they are transported by rail. They would use the staging area to save money on trucking costs.

Companies would pay a fee to use the new rail staging area.

Economic development officials initially said the staging area would cost about $300,000, but a more accurate cost estimate needs to be done.

The subject came up during the Watertown Trust meeting on Thursday.

The city is also looking into whether a second entrance into the industrial park should be built to ease truck traffic.

Renzi Foodservice officials have said that the staging area could cause more truck traffic in the industrial park.

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