Shale play may bring renewed life to rail site

EAST LIVERPOOL – The pending sale of the Columbiana County Port Authority railroad could also mean new life for an Elkrun Township rail siding.

Port Authority CEO Tracy Drake reported at Monday’s meeting the current railroad operator is planning to contract with Buckeye Transfer Realty to operate the railroad siding located off state Route 154 in Signal.

Located in Columbiana, Buckeye Transfer operates a hub for receiving and storing sand used in hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking, a drilling process used to release oil and natural gas from shale formations.

Drake expects Buckeye to use the railroad to have sand shipped to the siding, where it will be unloaded onto trucks for transportation to drilling sites in the area. The company plans to move up to 2,000 rail cars annually through the siding and employ eight workers.

The railroad siding was last used about seven years ago to unload construction and demolition debris for transportation to the now-closed A & L Salvage landfill south of Lisbon. The Port Authority had contributed $200,000 to development of the siding, located on 15 acres.

The Port Authority agreed in September to sell the railroad to Mule Sidetracks LLC for $3 million. Mule Sidetracks is a subsidiary of MarkWest Energy Partners, which operates a natural gas storage, transportation and processing plant in Harrison County that is receiving gas from the collection and processing plant built near Kensington.

The 36-mile former Youngstown & Southern Railroad runs from Boardman through the Columbiana County communities of Columbiana, Rogers and Negley before terminating near Darlington in Beaver County, Pa..

The railroad is operated under an existing lease with the Youngstown & Southern Railroad Co., which will continue to do so under the planned sale to Mule Sidetracks.

Drake said the proposed sale has already been approved by the U.S. Surface and Transportation Board, and the remaining title work will be concluded shortly, clearing the way for the deed to be transferred to Mule Sidetracks. The Port Authority previously paid $6,374 in back property taxes owed on the Beaver County portion of the line.