WATERTOWN — Local economic development officials are seeking feedback from area businesses on whether they would use proposed major upgrades to a rail spur in the town’s industrial park.
The Watertown Local Development Corp., also known as the Watertown Trust, and the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency are investigating whether northern businesses would use a staging area at the railroad spur in the downtown industrial park on South Bellew Street.
About 100 surveys will be sent to businesses in Jefferson and Lewis counties, said Marshall Weir, assistant general manager of Jefferson County Economic Development.
Polls are due February 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.
“It’s underway this month and we’ll see where we go,” Mr Rutherford said.
Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith, chairman of the Watertown Trust, said he knows of companies that transport goods by the more expensive tractor-trailer mode, so rail spur improvements could be beneficial to them.
“It’s good for the northern 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 to their destinations.
Manufacturers within 50 or 75 miles are now trucking their products south to Utica and New York, where they are transported by rail. They would use the staging area to save money on trucking costs.
Businesses would pay a fee to use the new rail staging area.
Economic development officials initially said the staging area would cost around $300,000, but a more accurate cost estimate needs to be made.
The subject came up at the Watertown Trust meeting on Thursday.
The city is also considering whether a second entrance to the industrial park should be built to facilitate truck traffic.
Renzi Foodservice officials said the staging area could lead to increased truck traffic in the industrial park.